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Bed bugs and prep for the battle

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BDurr

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Current
Hi all, I have traveled extensively but on the Camino Frances I experienced bed bugs for the first time. I slept in a decent hotel--the Alfonso IX-- in Sarria and woke up with many extremely itchy and burning bites. It took me some internet research to identify the bites--bed bugs or chinches. When I got to Portmarin I washed all my clothes, pack, etc. Took a scalding hit shower and sprayed my suitcase case with insecticide. Didn't matter. I still woke up with more bites. At next stop in Palas de Rei, I couldn't do much remediation at La Cabana and again woke up with bites. So when I got to Melide, I got a better insecticide and washed and dried all my stuff. Still had bites the next morning! In Arzua, now desperate to get rid of the bugs, I took another scalding shower, soaked my suitcase in the insecticide, and washed all my stuff then put it in an industrial strength dryer--no bites the next morning. However, the dryer fried two hats and melted some zippers on other clothing. Upshot: pilgrims should be prepared for a run in with bedbugs. I used luggage transfer, where I was told by various people along the way was often a way foruggage to be contaminated with chinches. But the hotel was unresponsive to my request for a refund-- clearly their cleaning was inadequate and I suffered for three days and nights with the bites and the battle to get of them. So examine the bedding where you are to sleep. Have serious insecticide for your pack or luggage. Carry a cortisone cream and Benadryl for the bites.
 
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BDurr

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Current

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Didn't matter. I still woke up with more bites
You may or may not have continued to be bitten afresh each day. The reaction to bedbug bites is an allergic reaction (that many people don't have) and the reaction can be delayed or occur over several days.

A scalding hot shower is not necessary, as the bugs will not be clinging to your skin. For treatment, heating the bugs to about 50°C for 30 minutes will kill them. That is a normally hot temperature for a dryer. Do this with your dry clothes to reduce potential damage to delicate fabrics Also be aware that bedbugs are not microscopically small, so you can do a close examination of articles that cannot go into a dryer.

I put my whole backpack into a bug-proof bag at night, and the next day try to isolate items (in tight bags) that were "exposed" the night before. If any bug reactions occur over that day, I know to treat the exposed items as soon as possible.
 

BDurr

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Current
Thanks for that suggestion. I put everything in plastic bags to isolate any problems and examined all my things. I think I was in fact bitten repeatedly because the bites were on a different part of my body and looked the same as the original ones. That said, the most recent bites are not as concentrated and I wondered if in fact the antihistamine was making a difference.
 
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Ianinam

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2013 / CP 2018
So you went from hotel/albergue to hotel/albergue, taking the bedbugs with you, spreading them around? Why didn't you tell the hospitalero or hotelmanager that you have bedbugs so they could take adequate and professional measurements?

In Roncesvalles, when a pilgrim tells us he/she is afraid to have bedbugs we start a procedure, including washing/drying all the washable contents of the backpack at 60 degrees, including the sleepingbag. We ask the pilgrim to take off his/her clothes, take a shower, provide him/her with spare clothes while we wash the clothes and contents of his/her backpack. We desinfect outside and inside of the backpack with a special steamer with bedbugrepellent, especially taking care of seams and zippers. This procedure takes 2 to 3 hours and then the pilgrim is clean (and very grateful!).
When he/she has slept in our albergue, we desinfect the infected bed with the steamer and all the beds next, above or under the infected bed. We desinfect the infected bed and the other beds for five days, before we let new pilgrims use these beds, and then we keep checking this area for at least two weeks.
This is how we deal with bedbugs ..... we are very grateful to pilgrims who tell us about their problem (and we are aware that people are a bit embarrassed to tell us, we try to make them feel a bit comfortable with something to eat and drink) but we are certainly not happy with pilgrims who KNOW they have been bitten by bedbugs but do not tell us!
 

legless

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances March-April 2022.
So you went from hotel/albergue to hotel/albergue, taking the bedbugs with you, spreading them around? Why didn't you tell the hospitalero or hotelmanager that you have bedbugs so they could take adequate and professional measurements?

In Roncesvalles, when a pilgrim tells us he/she is afraid to have bedbugs we start a procedure, including washing/drying all the washable contents of the backpack at 60 degrees, including the sleepingbag. We ask the pilgrim to take off his/her clothes, take a shower, provide him/her with spare clothes while we wash the clothes and contents of his/her backpack. We desinfect outside and inside of the backpack with a special steamer with bedbugrepellent, especially taking care of seams and zippers. This procedure takes 2 to 3 hours and then the pilgrim is clean (and very grateful!).
When he/she has slept in our albergue, we desinfect the infected bed with the steamer and all the beds next, above or under the infected bed. We desinfect the infected bed and the other beds for five days, before we let new pilgrims use these beds, and then we keep checking this area for at least two weeks.
This is how we deal with bedbugs ..... we are very grateful to pilgrims who tell us about their problem (and we are aware that people are a bit embarrassed to tell us, we try to make them feel a bit comfortable with something to eat and drink) but we are certainly not happy with pilgrims who KNOW they have been bitten by bedbugs but do not tell us!
Thank you for the care that you take to protect pilgrims.

@BDurr I think what's being suggested by C Clearly is that bed bug bites can take a few. days to appear so each day new bites could have been appearing following the initial night of exposure rather than you being freshly bitten each day.

I shall not comment further on the movement from place to place as this has been covered above.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
Did you actually see any bed bugs? Find any in your gear and clothing?
No offense, but your post lacks evidence and quite frankly you're putting unnecessary fear and concern to new pilgrims.
 

BDurr

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Current
So you went from hotel/albergue to hotel/albergue, taking the bedbugs with you, spreading them around? Why didn't you tell the hospitalero or hotelmanager that you have bedbugs so they could take adequate and professional measurements?

In Roncesvalles, when a pilgrim tells us he/she is afraid to have bedbugs we start a procedure, including washing/drying all the washable contents of the backpack at 60 degrees, including the sleepingbag. We ask the pilgrim to take off his/her clothes, take a shower, provide him/her with spare clothes while we wash the clothes and contents of his/her backpack. We desinfect outside and inside of the backpack with a special steamer with bedbugrepellent, especially taking care of seams and zippers. This procedure takes 2 to 3 hours and then the pilgrim is clean (and very grateful!).
When he/she has slept in our albergue, we desinfect the infected bed with the steamer and all the beds next, above or under the infected bed. We desinfect the infected bed and the other beds for five days, before we let new pilgrims use these beds, and then we keep checking this area for at least two weeks.
This is how we deal with bedbugs ..... we are very grateful to pilgrims who tell us about their problem (and we are aware that people are a bit embarrassed to tell us, we try to make them feel a bit comfortable with something to eat and drink) but we are certainly not happy with pilgrims who KNOW they have been bitten by bedbugs but do not tell us!
I was not from albergue to hotel etc. Rather I was only at hotels and told each one of the issue. Each one was understanding and I left insecticide for them to use. I was aware that other pilgrims could be affected and wanted to ensure the hosts could deal with the problem.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Did you actually see any bed bugs? Find any in your gear and clothing?
No offense, but your post lacks evidence and quite frankly you're putting unnecessary fear and concern to new pilgrims.
On my first camino I saw bedbugs and the next day I develop itchy welts that were consistent with all authoritative descriptions of bedbug bites. I did not witness a bedbug in the act of biting me. Since that time, I have had similar reactions several times - without having SEEN any bedbugs on the premises - and I have leapt to the conclusion that these were bedbug bites. I apologize to any innocent bedbugs out there who are insulted by my rash conclusions on circumstantial evidence.
 
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Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
2012
I just completed interviews/ vox-pops with a few of our local bugs. They reckon they’re unfairly dissed. Apparently if you’ve got enough Neanderthal genes you won’t even notice they’ve been by. Plus they don’t like advertising their presence ‘cos that usually results in the guy in the plastic suit with the spraygun duffing up the grandkids.
The OP’s assertions make it clear that the issue lies not only in Albergues but in hotels & hostels and that the endless advice shared on this forum on avoidance and appropriate treatment is ignored by most food sources for our oldest companions
 

davebugg

A Pilgrimage is time I spend praying with my feet
Past OR future Camino
2019
Bedbugs: The Myths, the Legends, the Realities

Below is listed current science-based information as of 05/31/2022. Sources are from various public health, medical, and entomological sources. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive text, but directed toward Camino travel. Providing counsel to people and providers dealing with such issues, as well as headlice and other assorted crawlies and parasites, was one of my jobs before retiring from Chelan-Douglas Public Health District.

My coworkers thought it amusing that Dave Bugg was the staff who dealt with bugs.

Insecticides are chemicals which kill insects. Not all consumer-grade insecticides will kill bedbugs, and those that do, (typically a pyrethroid or a synthetic variant), have produced bedbug strains that are now fully resistant in many areas of the world.

There are also categories of insecticides which can act like a repellant for some insects like mosquitoes and ticks, but they will not repel bedbugs. The most commonly cited is Permethrin.

As a pyrethroid, Permethrin can kill non-resistant bedbugs. However, if you are spraying sheets or sleeping bags thinking it will keep non-resistant bedbugs at bay, the bedbug generally will survive their exposure to Permethrin long enough to find you, bite you and feed on you.

Many pilgrims do spray the inside of backpacks or luggage before travel so that any bedbugs attempting to hitch a ride on clothing or sleeping bags may be killed. If it is to work, using separate storage bags, stuff sacks, etc., must also be sprayed on their interiors. Don't forget all exterior pockets or interior dividers.

Repellents are chemicals that keep insects away. They actually work two ways: they repel and deter insects. This means that insects move away from any skin or clothing treated with a repellant, and do not feed if they encounter skin that has been treated. When applied as instructed, repellents act to create a 'vapor barrier' at the skin surface. It keeps mosquitoes, flies, and ticks from landing or crawling on the skin.

Two of the most effective and commonly used repellent chemicals are DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), and Picaridin (1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-methylpropylester). In repellant preparations, the higher the concentration, the more effective the repellant is.

Picaridin does not have some of the drawbacks as DEET. . . At a 20% concentration, Picaridin will have the same general level of effectiveness as an 80+% concentration of DEET. Picaridin has much less odor, and lasts longer. It is also more effective against ticks, though DEET is effective, too.

How to choose a repellant. First: Ignore the marketing names and catchy label graphics when buying a repellant. Look at the ingredient label and look for the active ingredient. (in this case DEET or Picaridin or both.) Next, look for the percentage of the active ingredient. For DEET, I prefer anything over 80%. For Picaridin, choose at least a 20% concentration.

With name brand repellants, if the ingredients listed fall into the effective category, forget the packaging and just purchase the cheapest product.

What will NOT work against bedbugs, but will irritate other pilgrims. There are NO essential or 'natural' oils, scents, goops, or chants that will repel bedbugs effectively. Tea tree oils, Neem oil, cinnamon, Eucalyptus oils, lavender, garlic, lemon, . . . All they do is provide a bedbug with a tasty marinade prior to feasting.

Studies have shown that some insects will avoid certain smells for an extremely abbreviated period, but the effect is very short lived, if it does occur.

Claims of bedbug repellency are made based on subjective 'correlation equals a causation' observations, but the claims don't hold up to scrutiny when studied. Similar, would be my claim that I have never been bitten by a bedbug while drinking Fanta Naranja, so Fanta is a bedbug repellant.

One can slather themselves with a gallon of lavender or lemon oil or garlic, but the only thing that will be repelled are other pilgrims.

Treatment for a bedbug infestation. The standard and best method now to deal with an infestation of bedbugs is with heat. Do not rely on chemical treatments. Thermal treatments of residences, lodgings, and commercial buildings does effectively eliminate wide spread infestations.

As a Pilgrim, what if you suspect, or learn about a bedbug exposure (bites, or seeing evidence of bedbugs) within a communal sleeping area? If possible, try to treat yourself, your gear, and clothing before continuing on to your next destination. You do not want to accidentally drag the critters to your next Albergue or casa rural, hotel, etc.
  1. Try to be discreet with your concerns. Quietly inform the lodging staff about what you suspect.
  2. Contain all your belongings in your backpack.
  3. Locate a dryer which can reach above 130F/55c. Although adult bedbugs, nymphs, and eggs are killed at temperatures above 115f/46.2c., the lower the temperature, the longer the treatment time will take.
  4. You do not need to do a washing cycle. It does not kill off an infestation.
  5. If you have an hour, put all soft gear (backpack, sleeping bag, etc.) and clothing into the dryer and run it for 60 minutes at 115f/46.2c or above. This will be the most gentle on fabrics.
  6. To shorten treatment, run the dryer at 135f/57.22c for 20 minutes.
  7. When your clothing has been treated, you may wish to change out of the clothing you are wearing, bag and seal it up, and then keep that bag sealed until you can dry heat treat those clothes.
After arriving home from any trip, I recommend not taking luggage or gear into the house. Leave it in a garage or on a porch, etc. Empty everything out of the backpack or luggage and use a vacuum to the interior, carefully covering all nooks and crannies. Use heat treatment or use the freezer method described below.

For clothing and fabric gear, follow the heat or freezer treatment guidelines. If you need to wash clothing or gear anyway, a hot dryer will do the job in the shortest time frame.

Treatment alternatives. Instead of a dryer, you can use an oven if there is rack space where the clothing and gear can be spread out. Using a black plastic bag may work, but it is iffy because clothing bunches up and the bedbugs can be insulated from the heat.

At home, keep your if you have deep freezer, you can use below zero temperatures to freeze the critters, but it will take a lot more time to assure a completed kill.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
Hi all, I have traveled extensively but on the Camino Frances I experienced bed bugs for the first time. I slept in a decent hotel--the Alfonso IX-- in Sarria and woke up with many extremely itchy and burning bites. It took me some internet research to identify the bites--bed bugs or chinches. When I got to Portmarin I washed all my clothes, pack, etc. Took a scalding hit shower and sprayed my suitcase case with insecticide. Didn't matter. I still woke up with more bites. At next stop in Palas de Rei, I couldn't do much remediation at La Cabana and again woke up with bites. So when I got to Melide, I got a better insecticide and washed and dried all my stuff. Still had bites the next morning! In Arzua, now desperate to get rid of the bugs, I took another scalding shower, soaked my suitcase in the insecticide, and washed all my stuff then put it in an industrial strength dryer--no bites the next morning. However, the dryer fried two hats and melted some zippers on other clothing. Upshot: pilgrims should be prepared for a run in with bedbugs. I used luggage transfer, where I was told by various people along the way was often a way foruggage to be contaminated with chinches. But the hotel was unresponsive to my request for a refund-- clearly their cleaning was inadequate and I suffered for three days and nights with the bites and the battle to get of them. So examine the bedding where you are to sleep. Have serious insecticide for your pack or luggage. Carry a cortisone cream and Benadryl for the bites.
Yes it isn't any fun being bitten by bedbugs. Some people never experience them, others like me, seem to be a magnet. Ive been bitten on two Caminos, both times in private and nice accommodation.
The first time I was bitten literally all over, even between my toes. Little rows of itchy red bites that looked terrible and were seriously itchy.
Dont be fooled into thinking that nice white sheets are safe. Both times, I let my guard down, and forgot to check for them. For some reason I'm more diligent in albergues.
I was lucky both times, that my pack was far from my bed.
The first time I tried to let the owners know, and they weren't interested, she had no English, and when I showed her my bites, and an image of a bedbug, and pointed to the room, she ran inside her apartment and shut the door. I slipped a piece of paper under her door, with the issue translated into Spanish. (thanks Google translate). I had already put all my stuff through a dryer - but they would have been in the bed. The sheets were covered in little blood spots where I had been bitten.
The second time, I was halfway to Sarria from Samos, before I stopped to see what was so itchy on my shoulder, then saw the offending bites. I sent them a text but heard nothing back. So I went on to thoroughly nuke everything, and had no more bites.
Luckily both times I had access to a dryer, and put everything through, and was already taking antihistamines, so the effect was reduced.
I think albergues might be better equipped for dealing with bedbugs, some of the private places were not helpful.
It is useful before you go to make sure your stuff will survive in a dryer, as insecticide is unlikely to help you.
I do spray my pack, so that over time they will die - I definitely don't want to take them home.. I figure they are unlikely to survive the long trip home inside a sprayed pack.
 

Pathfinder075

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (Villada to SdC) (2016)
Primitivo (Ribadesella to SdC) (2017)
I got them at the municipal albergue at O Castro (Dozon), the place that looks like a holiday camp and is in between Cea and A Laxe, on the VdlP on my second year of walking. I did let the albergue know that they had a bedbug problem, but they didn't seem all that surprised. I suspect that was why the second sleeping wing was sealed off. I used antihistamines, steroid cream and tiger balm to deal with the bites and when I got to my next albergue, I dealt with everything else, by fly spray, by boil washing everything after, then tumble drying it and putting any non clothes/electronics in a black bag and giving it a squirt of fly killer and sealed the bag for an hour. I didn't take anything inside the albergue until I had black bagged everything

As others have mentioned you can get an allergic reaction to the bites. Find a chemist and they can generally give you a steroid cream for the itching.

I think some that walk carry a single sheet soaked in permethrin and put it on the bunk/mattress they are sleeping in before they go to sleep. If they are now getting resistant to it, then YMMV.

I intend to camp next time as I react quite badly to bedbugs.

Before you return home you should really boil wash or hot wash everything. After my problem, I put all my gear in a large bucket filled it with hot water and soap and left it for a day, before putting it through the washer.
 

Mananath

Member
Past OR future Camino
July 2022
Bedbugs: The Myths, the Legends, the Realities

Below is listed current science-based information as of 05/31/2022. Sources are from various public health, medical, and entomological sources. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive text, but directed toward Camino travel. Providing counsel to people and providers dealing with such issues, as well as headlice and other assorted crawlies and parasites, was one of my jobs before retiring from Chelan-Douglas Public Health District.

My coworkers thought it amusing that Dave Bugg was the staff who dealt with bugs.

Insecticides are chemicals which kill insects. Not all consumer-grade insecticides will kill bedbugs, and those that do, (typically a pyrethroid or a synthetic variant), have produced bedbug strains that are now fully resistant in many areas of the world.

There are also categories of insecticides which can act like a repellant for some insects like mosquitoes and ticks, but they will not repel bedbugs. The most commonly cited is Permethrin.

As a pyrethroid, Permethrin can kill non-resistant bedbugs. However, if you are spraying sheets or sleeping bags thinking it will keep non-resistant bedbugs at bay, the bedbug generally will survive their exposure to Permethrin long enough to find you, bite you and feed on you.

Many pilgrims do spray the inside of backpacks or luggage before travel so that any bedbugs attempting to hitch a ride on clothing or sleeping bags may be killed. If it is to work, using separate storage bags, stuff sacks, etc., must also be sprayed on their interiors. Don't forget all exterior pockets or interior dividers.

Repellents are chemicals that keep insects away. They actually work two ways: they repel and deter insects. This means that insects move away from any skin or clothing treated with a repellant, and do not feed if they encounter skin that has been treated. When applied as instructed, repellents act to create a 'vapor barrier' at the skin surface. It keeps mosquitoes, flies, and ticks from landing or crawling on the skin.

Two of the most effective and commonly used repellent chemicals are DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), and Picaridin (1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-methylpropylester). In repellant preparations, the higher the concentration, the more effective the repellant is.

Picaridin does not have some of the drawbacks as DEET. . . At a 20% concentration, Picaridin will have the same general level of effectiveness as an 80+% concentration of DEET. Picaridin has much less odor, and lasts longer. It is also more effective against ticks, though DEET is effective, too.

How to choose a repellant. First: Ignore the marketing names and catchy label graphics when buying a repellant. Look at the ingredient label and look for the active ingredient. (in this case DEET or Picaridin or both.) Next, look for the percentage of the active ingredient. For DEET, I prefer anything over 80%. For Picaridin, choose at least a 20% concentration.

With name brand repellants, if the ingredients listed fall into the effective category, forget the packaging and just purchase the cheapest product.

What will NOT work against bedbugs, but will irritate other pilgrims. There are NO essential or 'natural' oils, scents, goops, or chants that will repel bedbugs effectively. Tea tree oils, Neem oil, cinnamon, Eucalyptus oils, lavender, garlic, lemon, . . . All they do is provide a bedbug with a tasty marinade prior to feasting.

Studies have shown that some insects will avoid certain smells for an extremely abbreviated period, but the effect is very short lived, if it does occur.

Claims of bedbug repellency are made based on subjective 'correlation equals a causation' observations, but the claims don't hold up to scrutiny when studied. Similar, would be my claim that I have never been bitten by a bedbug while drinking Fanta Naranja, so Fanta is a bedbug repellant.

One can slather themselves with a gallon of lavender or lemon oil or garlic, but the only thing that will be repelled are other pilgrims.

Treatment for a bedbug infestation. The standard and best method now to deal with an infestation of bedbugs is with heat. Do not rely on chemical treatments. Thermal treatments of residences, lodgings, and commercial buildings does effectively eliminate wide spread infestations.

As a Pilgrim, what if you suspect, or learn about a bedbug exposure (bites, or seeing evidence of bedbugs) within a communal sleeping area? If possible, try to treat yourself, your gear, and clothing before continuing on to your next destination. You do not want to accidentally drag the critters to your next Albergue or casa rural, hotel, etc.
  1. Try to be discreet with your concerns. Quietly inform the lodging staff about what you suspect.
  2. Contain all your belongings in your backpack.
  3. Locate a dryer which can reach above 130F/55c. Although adult bedbugs, nymphs, and eggs are killed at temperatures above 115f/46.2c., the lower the temperature, the longer the treatment time will take.
  4. You do not need to do a washing cycle. It does not kill off an infestation.
  5. If you have an hour, put all soft gear (backpack, sleeping bag, etc.) and clothing into the dryer and run it for 60 minutes at 115f/46.2c or above. This will be the most gentle on fabrics.
  6. To shorten treatment, run the dryer at 135f/57.22c for 20 minutes.
  7. When your clothing has been treated, you may wish to change out of the clothing you are wearing, bag and seal it up, and then keep that bag sealed until you can dry heat treat those clothes.
After arriving home from any trip, I recommend not taking luggage or gear into the house. Leave it in a garage or on a porch, etc. Empty everything out of the backpack or luggage and use a vacuum to the interior, carefully covering all nooks and crannies. Use heat treatment or use the freezer method described below.

For clothing and fabric gear, follow the heat or freezer treatment guidelines. If you need to wash clothing or gear anyway, a hot dryer will do the job in the shortest time frame.

Treatment alternatives. Instead of a dryer, you can use an oven if there is rack space where the clothing and gear can be spread out. Using a black plastic bag may work, but it is iffy because clothing bunches up and the bedbugs can be insulated from the heat.

At home, keep your if you have deep freezer, you can use below zero temperatures to freeze the critters, but it will take a lot more time to assure a completed kill.
Also a good idea to protect electronics that can't be washed or dried. Years ago I found a nymph crawling out of a crack in my Kindle. I now keep it in a Ziploc bag at all times.
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
On my first camino I saw bedbugs and the next day I develop itchy welts that were consistent with all authoritative descriptions of bedbug bites. I did not witness a bedbug in the act of biting me. Since that time, I have had similar reactions several times - without having SEEN any bedbugs on the premises - and I have leapt to the conclusion that these were bedbug bites. I apologize to any innocent bedbugs out there who are insulted by my rash conclusions on circumstantial evidence.
My comment is more in reference to avoiding needless sky is falling chicken little type reactions. The uninitiated read a dread and panic type comment about anything on here and see it as gospel. After all, why would anyone on this forum embellish? :D
Saint Jean to Roncesvalles sometimes gets described on here as a crawl up Everest. The meseta section becomes death valley or the Sahara and of course the occasional run in with insects of any kind becomes a biblical swarm.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2022 CF
Also a good idea to protect electronics that can't be washed or dried. Years ago I found a nymph crawling out of a crack in my Kindle. I now keep it in a Ziploc bag at all times.
Hi all, I have traveled extensively but on the Camino Frances I experienced bed bugs for the first time. I slept in a decent hotel--the Alfonso IX-- in Sarria and woke up with many extremely itchy and burning bites. It took me some internet research to identify the bites--bed bugs or chinches. When I got to Portmarin I washed all my clothes, pack, etc. Took a scalding hit shower and sprayed my suitcase case with insecticide. Didn't matter. I still woke up with more bites. At next stop in Palas de Rei, I couldn't do much remediation at La Cabana and again woke up with bites. So when I got to Melide, I got a better insecticide and washed and dried all my stuff. Still had bites the next morning! In Arzua, now desperate to get rid of the bugs, I took another scalding shower, soaked my suitcase in the insecticide, and washed all my stuff then put it in an industrial strength dryer--no bites the next morning. However, the dryer fried two hats and melted some zippers on other clothing. Upshot: pilgrims should be prepared for a run in with bedbugs. I used luggage transfer, where I was told by various people along the way was often a way foruggage to be contaminated with chinches. But the hotel was unresponsive to my request for a refund-- clearly their cleaning was inadequate and I suffered for three days and nights with the bites and the battle to get of them. So examine the bedding where you are to sleep. Have serious insecticide for your pack or luggage. Carry a cortisone cream and Benadryl for the bites.
Washing stuff makes no difference, just put everything in a HOT dryer.
 
Last edited:

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
they didn't seem all that surprised
They wouldn't be surprised as it is a regular problem. But they should be interested and be helpful to you.
you can get an allergic reaction to the bites
The reaction IS an allergic reaction. What I 'm not sure of (and would like to know, out of curiosity) is whether every welt corresponds to a bite, or whether welts can sometimes be more systemic like hives.

My comment is more in reference to avoiding needless sky is falling chicken little type reactions. The uninitiated read a dread and panic type comment about anything on here and see it as gospel.
I agree this can be a problem. It is hard to find the right balance between too much information and not enough. People are SO different in how they approach such "challenges." I tend to think that the level and type of information is key - it needs to address both the problem (real) and the various solutions (also real). If people react illogically, I can't help.
 

Sheesh

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2009, 2013, (2022)
My comment is more in reference to avoiding needless sky is falling chicken little type reactions. The uninitiated read a dread and panic type comment about anything on here and see it as gospel....

The forum is all about where past pilgrims share, and future pilgrims learn. It says nothing about downplaying or stifling personal experience for fear that a novice pilgrim will misinterpret or misconstrue. The "uninitiated" are not wet-behind-the-ears babes-in-arms to be protected and coddled. Hopefully they are discerning adults who glean, process and compare information from a variety of sources.

Forum members needn't be reticent in speaking their truth - within forum rules of course. There's plenty of back and forth debate among veteran members to allow for discerning new pilgrims to adjudicate for themselves between opinion and practical information.
 

OZAJ

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Mozarabe/VdlP/Sanabres (2008) Norte (2009) Vezelay/Frances/Salvador/Primitivo (2010) etc.
I have walked lots of caminos on lots of different routes since my first in 2008. have been bugged on several caminos, though not many. Once in France, the rest on the Camino Frances, the worst being in SdC.

A most interesting instance was a fellow pilgrim who was covered in what we thought were bug bites. She went to a doctor in SdC and after blood tests it turned out that she was allergic to ibuprofeno. The bugs were innocent!
 
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Clover

New Member
Past OR future Camino
July 2017
Hi all, I have traveled extensively but on the Camino Frances I experienced bed bugs for the first time. I slept in a decent hotel--the Alfonso IX-- in Sarria and woke up with many extremely itchy and burning bites. It took me some internet research to identify the bites--bed bugs or chinches. When I got to Portmarin I washed all my clothes, pack, etc. Took a scalding hit shower and sprayed my suitcase case with insecticide. Didn't matter. I still woke up with more bites. At next stop in Palas de Rei, I couldn't do much remediation at La Cabana and again woke up with bites. So when I got to Melide, I got a better insecticide and washed and dried all my stuff. Still had bites the next morning! In Arzua, now desperate to get rid of the bugs, I took another scalding shower, soaked my suitcase in the insecticide, and washed all my stuff then put it in an industrial strength dryer--no bites the next morning. However, the dryer fried two hats and melted some zippers on other clothing. Upshot: pilgrims should be prepared for a run in with bedbugs. I used luggage transfer, where I was told by various people along the way was often a way foruggage to be contaminated with chinches. But the hotel was unresponsive to my request for a refund-- clearly their cleaning was inadequate and I suffered for three days and nights with the bites and the battle to get of them. So examine the bedding where you are to sleep. Have serious insecticide for your pack or luggage. Carry a cortisone cream and Benadryl for the bites.
Thanks for the heads-up! Other steps people can take for self-protection from bed bugs—place your transported bag in a large garbage with your iD taped securely to the outside. The bag will protect your bag against contamination during the transfer and storage. Also never put anything in the bed (suitcase, purse etc). Check the mattress and bedding for small reddish or dark spots (pencil lead size). That is a signal that a bed bug squeezed through that spot at some point (could have been several laundries ago, but still a signal). Look for these spots especially in the mattress. Not a good sign. Change rooms if you can. Also the sort of sweet raspberry smell is not a good sign either. Again change rooms. There are sprays for bed bug management (discourages them from getting into your belongings). Keep shoes and other belongings off the floor. Look to see where your bites are…bed bugs are lazy and bite closest to where they live. The bites usually come in small groups of 3. Once home, don’t bring your belongings into your house. Treat them first. Dry clothes in hot drier. If you can’t put your pack or suitcase in a drier (🙃) put it in a black trash bag, seal it well, leave it in a very hot car for several days or invest in a steamer and steam it everywhere. Ok!! Knowledge gained many years ago when we also were exposed to bed bugs in Maine and sad to say, brought them home. Since then, we have followed the above protocols and have been fine. They don’t carry disease…best thing about them, though!!
 

Ronald Boivin

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Thank you for the care that you take to protect pilgrims.

@BDurr I think what's being suggested by C Clearly is that bed bug bites can take a few. days to appear so each day new bites could have been appearing following the initial night of exposure rather than you being freshly bitten each day.

I shall not comment further on the movement from place to place as this has been covered above.
Bed-bug bitten in Avila, Spain, welts continued to appear 3-4 days later along the same axis as the original bite. My body tends to react allergically much later than the original exposure. On both Caminos Frances and Tolosana, I found albergues VERY responsible but public hotel-type accommodations much less.
 

NJohn

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: September 2022
I used luggage transfer, where I was told by various people along the way was often a way foruggage to be contaminated with chinches.
I was wondering if there is luggage that would prevent this? Would hard sided luggage provide more protection?
It is useful before you go to make sure your stuff will survive in a dryer, as insecticide is unlikely to help you.
How do all these special fabrics for hiking like merino wool do with the hot dryer treatment? Do they shrink to an unwearable size?
 

Ianinam

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2013 / CP 2018
@NJohn, yes, merinowool will shrink in the dryer at high temperatures, So it's up to the pilgrim who wants to sleep in our albergue: either you let us take care of your belongings in order to kill the bugs, or you cannot sleep in our albergue. There is no other choice ... but I'd prefer to get rid of the bugs and have to buy some new clothes instead of taking them to other places and even take them home ...
 

NJohn

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: September 2022
@NJohn, yes, merinowool will shrink in the dryer at high temperatures, So it's up to the pilgrim who wants to sleep in our albergue: either you let us take care of your belongings in order to kill the bugs, or you cannot sleep in our albergue. There is no other choice ... but I'd prefer to get rid of the bugs and have to buy some new clothes instead of taking them to other places and even take them home ...
Thank you. Yes, I totally agree. 😊 Buying new clothes and getting rid of the bed bugs is the number 1 priority.
 
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Nanouk

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Future
I read that silk repels bugs including bed bugs. Anyone have any knowledge about that? The site i read said one should use silk liners inside of sleeping bag or sleep in it on top of the bed. Thoughts? I am a newbie going in September so I welcome all information from all of you experienced walkers!
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
How do all these special fabrics for hiking like merino wool do with the hot dryer treatment? Do they shrink to an unwearable size?
The key is to do the heat treatment in a hot dryer on dry clothing and bedding. If you then want to wash them do it according to care instructions after the heat treatment.
I've done it with my merino wool clothing, silk sleep sack and down blanket with no ill effects. I did have a hat made of synthetic material that kind of melted.
I read that silk repels bugs including bed bugs. Anyone have any knowledge about that?
Silk has no special bed bug repellent properties. Like any other tightly woven fabric it provides a physical barrier which is only good if you are thoroughly encased. @Kanga has a sleep system that covers her head and everything.
 

Bartman

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
A Note about hydrocortisone cream. As the OP suggested, be sure to bring some. I needed some 1% hydrocortisone cream and when I went to the pharmacy to get it I was told I needed a prescription. Yes. Really? Yes. So be sure to bring it. I ended up getting something else not nearly as effective but it took the burn out. It was not related to bed bugs. So be sure to bring it..
 

Margaret Butterworth

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2013 (Pamplona to Burgos)
2014 (Burgos to Villafranca del Bierzo)
2015 (Villafranca to Santiago)
2016 (Le Puy to Conques; SJPP To Pamplona)
I stayed in Hotel Alfonso IX recently. I did not see a bedbug. It’s possible that the OP brought it with them from earlier on the trail.
BTW, I have walked on different parts of the Camino for 7 years and I have never been affected by bed bugs, nor seen anyone who has. So, new pilgrims should not be put off by all these accounts.
 
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trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
BTW, I have walked on different parts of the Camino for 7 years and I have never been affected by bed bugs, nor seen anyone who has. So, new pilgrims should not be put off by all these accounts.
Just like Covid, bedbugs are real and do effect pilgrims on the Camino.
I don't think anyone should be put off by these accounts, but for both Covid (or any illness or injury) and bedbugs it's best to have a plan of action if they should occur.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
How do all these special fabrics for hiking like merino wool do with the hot dryer treatment? Do they shrink to an unwearable size?
Yes they did, my socks wouldnt fit a doll afterwards.
Now I only take stuff that can go in a dryer without problem.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
How do all these special fabrics for hiking like merino wool do with the hot dryer treatment? Do they shrink to an unwearable size?
As has been mentioned, DRY fabrics tolerate the heat of a dryer quite well. It is the agitation of a washing machine that causes more shrinkage. A medium-hot dryer is likely hot enough.
 

Purple Backpack

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2012 ViaFrancigena 2016 ViaPodiensis 2022
I used one of these Osprey Transporters on the recent Via Podiensis trip. My 40 liter pack was being transported and I didn't want to deal with tiny hitchhikers. I love the idea but need to find something lighter; Zpacks makes a 3 ounce one but it's way too big. I did use the Osprey bag in the rooms at night to contain the packs but not sure it would have made a difference since the little bugs could have crept in whenever the bag was open. Have never experienced bedbugs and after reading this thread, never want to! https://www.rei.com/product/887945/...VFvCzCh1RWAV4EAQYBCABEgLqZvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Check the mattress and bedding for small reddish or dark spots (pencil lead size). That is a signal that a bed bug squeezed through that spot at some point (could have been several laundries ago, but still a signal)
Your advice to look for the dark spots is good. However, they aren't a sign of a bedbug sqeezing through the fabric! They are excrement or the remains of a squashed bedbug. The bugs are the size of apple seeds and they do not eat/drill/bore their way through reasonably finely woven fabric.
I was wondering if there is luggage that would prevent this?
As mentioned, how about a tightly closed intact plastic garbage bag? The secret is not to have openings, gaps, or seams they can enter through, or crevices and places to hide on the outside.
 
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BDurr

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Current
Did you actually see any bed bugs? Find any in your gear and clothing?
No offense, but your post lacks evidence and quite frankly you're putting unnecessary fear and concern to new pilgrims.
Yes I saw them in bed and on my body. My intention here is to alert people to this possible problem and others have posted very useful info on what to do.
 

BDurr

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Current
Here are some of the bites.
 

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RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
The forum is all about where past pilgrims share, and future pilgrims learn. It says nothing about downplaying or stifling personal experience for fear that a novice pilgrim will misinterpret or misconstrue. The "uninitiated" are not wet-behind-the-ears babes-in-arms to be protected and coddled. Hopefully they are discerning adults who glean, process and compare information from a variety of sources.

Forum members needn't be reticent in speaking their truth - within forum rules of course. There's plenty of back and forth debate among veteran members to allow for discerning new pilgrims to adjudicate for themselves between opinion and practical information.
Don't really know about any of that.
I just know that I've walked over 180 days on different Camino routes and have never experienced or encountered some of the descriptions and experiences I read sometimes on this forum. Sometimes I wonder if I walked a different Camino Frances than the one described. Maybe in an alternate universe?
Not long ago I watched that movie about that famous German pilgrim, based on his hugely popular book. Some of the scenes of him walking the Frances in the movie were so exaggerated it was absurd. Saint Jean to Roncesvalles he's climbing up craggy outcroppings? :D
I understand that's a movie and entertainment and one should expect a BS factor in it, and a movie made showing the truth, reality would be less interesting. Perhaps the same with internet forums. Maybe some members want their descriptions of whatever they did to catch more interest from readers, so a bit of poetic license is stirred in.
I never thought of the uninitiated who ask for advice on this forum as being wet behind the ears children, but when some say they've never worn a backpack in their life before, went on a hike before or experienced communal living I can see where they might be more prone to being fed BS without knowing it. Anybody would.
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
when some say they've never worn a backpack in their life before, went on a hike before or experienced communal living I can see where they might be more prone to being fed BS without knowing it.
Umm, that pretty much describes me before my first Camino. (except I had gone on short hikes before) I never felt like anyone was feeding me BS about the existence of a known pest that can be found in five star hotels.

Just because you've never experienced bedbugs doesn't mean that they don't exist and aren't a problem for pilgrims, albergues, hotels, etc.

I have seen albergues closed for several days for bedbug remediation. They don't close down for an imaginary problem.

Not everyone reacts to the bites. When I was bitten I only knew because I saw the three small bites on my leg after leaving an albergue where the woman in the bunk above me killed a bedbug in her bed, then we saw another one crawling up the wall. If I had been bitten somewhere on my back that I couldn't see I may never have known. But, since I knew that bedbugs were present in the dorm that night I took steps to insure that my gear was bedbug free and I didn't transport the little critters to another albergue.

The possibility of bedbugs would never keep me off the Camino, but they are something to be aware of and prepared for. Like rain in Galicia.
 
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