Can I Go to Work If I Have Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs aren’t just irritating. They can be embarrassing, too, especially if you spread them to other people. If that’s something you’re mindful of, you might want to avoid going to work so that you don’t pass them on. But is that necessary, and if not, how can you avoid taking them with you?

You can go to work with bed bugs, although you should try to avoid bringing any to the office, shop, or factory with you. This can be done through quarantine. Keep your work and home clothes separate (store them in a plastic zip-lock bag) to avoid taking any into the workplace.

If you suspect that you have bed bugs, don’t let them rule your life. They’re tough enough to live with as it is, but don’t start shutting yourself away as the situation will feel so much worse. Learn how to control the problem and get on with your normal working life.

Can You Take Bed Bugs to Work?

It is possible to take bed bugs to work. It happens all the time. In the majority of cases, bed bugs are spread from public places.

That could be public transport, for example, where bed bugs hide in the seats and get into people’s bags. Or, it could be that they live in hotel rooms, where bed bug infestations are common.

So, how do bed bugs get to these public places? They have to hitch a ride. While bed bugs don’t live on their hosts, they can still hide in your clothing, bags or even shoes.

When they get the chance—for example when you set your bag down on a bus seat—the bed bug might want to jump out of your bag and hide in a deep crack somewhere, like between the fabric and the plastic of the seat.

In the same way, it’s possible to bring bed bugs to work with you. They will happily hide inside your coat pocket, for example, or inside your bag.

Should I Tell My Boss I Have Bed Bugs?

There’s no legal obligation to inform your employer that you have bed bugs.

You’re not under obligation. Your home life is your home life, and so while it may be good for the employer to know that you have an infestation, you don’t have to tell them.

It would no doubt help them. Your boss might be able to take measures to prevent an infestation before it gets out of hand, for example. They might be able to run a basic training program, teaching people how to avoid spreading the infestation.

But besides that, there’s no good reason to tell them. If you tell your boss, don’t be surprised when suddenly everybody knows.

Even if your boss doesn’t tell, you’ll be treated differently through no fault of your own. You might get fewer shifts, or people might start avoiding you. It all depends on how fair your boss is. Far better is to take measured steps to prevent any bed bugs hitching a ride with you to work.

It’s up to you to decide whether to tell your employer or not. Just be aware that if your boss isn’t a kind or sympathetic person, then telling them might backfire.

should i tell my boss i have bed bugs?

How to Avoid Taking Bed Bugs to Work

To prevent the spread of bed bugs, you should practice basic quarantine. This isn’t as complicated or irritating as it might sound.

It’s surprisingly simple. Below, we’ve detailed step-by-step guidelines that you can use to prevent bringing bed bugs to work with you completely.

1) Purchase a Sealable Plastic Bin

You’re going to need a plastic tub. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one. If you can find one from Walmart or somewhere similar for a few dollars, that’s perfectly fine, so long as it’s big enough to fit your work clothes and bag inside.

Keep your bag, work clothes and outdoor clothes in the sealed bin, and put it somewhere outside of your room, e.g., next to the front door. This prevents them from being able to hitch a ride with you to work.

Not only that, but if you bring any bed bugs home, they won’t be able to infest your room because they’ll be sealed inside the bin.

Make sure to pick a bin where the lid clips down in place. Not one that sits on top. With a proper seal, no bed bug will be able to get out, since they can’t chew through plastic.

2) Prepare for Work

Quarantine works two ways, in that you have to stop bed bugs getting in or out. It’s vital that you respect your place of work enough to try and prevent any bed bugs coming with you.

Before you leave for work, start by taking a shower. Bed bugs don’t live in your hair, your ears, or anywhere else, but this is good practice anyway.

Then, only get changed into your work clothes immediately before you leave. When you’re wearing your work clothes, don’t sit down on your bed or any furniture.

Only put them on as the last thing you do before you head out. This prevents you from spreading any infestation that you might have. It also stops any bed bug that hitched a ride home with you from getting into your room or furniture.

If possible, pick out a new coat, one with zips on the pockets. Zips will stop the bed bugs from being able to get in. Ideally, you should avoid wearing a scarf, hat, and gloves, instead opting for one big coat that will keep you warm all over.

Scarves, hats, and gloves are ideal for bed bugs because you often put them down in places without thinking, e.g., on the seat next to you. Of course, in some climates, you can’t avoid needing them, but don’t use them where possible.

3) Avoid Sitting Down on Public Transport

When you’re on your way to work, don’t sit down or put your bag down if you take public transport.

Bed bugs love to hide in public transport seats, and you might unwittingly spread the infestation around the city if you drop some here. While that’s not strictly speaking your problem, if everybody took the same attitude, bed bugs wouldn’t be a problem anymore.

If you can’t avoid sitting down, you can still take steps to avoid bed bugs. Try to steer clear of fabric seats, instead of sitting on plastic seats if you can. The more cracks and gaps a seat has, the more likely it has bed bugs in it—so avoid sitting there, and pick somewhere else.

Zip up the pockets of your coat to avoid getting any bed bugs in there by accident, and keep your bag on your lap so that they can’t get in there either. Be aware of your surroundings and where bed bugs might come from (although you should avoid panicking).

4) Driving to Work

What about people that don’t take public transport to work, but drive instead? Bed bugs can live in car seats, so it’s essential that you bear that in mind.

You could put your work bag in a sealed plastic bag before you put it in the car, to stop any bed bugs getting in or out. Do the same with your coat, so that no bed bugs get into your pockets.

Bed bugs are hard to get rid of in a car, but you can try repelling them. Use a spray, either a homemade one or a purchased pesticide. Spray around the bottom of each seat, and at any piping along the edges of the fabric.

Using a spray will make your car far less appealing for any bed bug, so they’ll either have to hide somewhere and not come out, or die. Either would be great!

However, if there are bed bugs in your car, don’t worry. They will be less comfortable coming out to feed if you’re driving in the daytime, and moving your arms and legs. Plus, if your quarantine is effective, then you won’t be able to bring them home with you.

5) Returning Home from Work

When you get home from work, change immediately out of your work clothes. Either put your work clothes/outdoor clothes in the sealed bin, or straight into the wash.

If possible, do so in the hall. Failing that, the bathroom is fine, while you should avoid getting changed in your bedroom at all costs.

Once you’re done with your work clothes, give your hair a once-over to make sure there aren’t any bed bugs there.

To be clear, it’s practically impossible for them to hide in or walk through hair, but quarantine is all about closing down every angle of entry or exit. Only once you’re entirely sure you’re bed bug-free should you get changed into your house clothes.

All of this applies to your bag, your shoes, and anything else you had with you at work. If your shoes are muddy or dirty, you can keep them in a separate bin.

You could keep them in the same sealed bin if they won’t get your other clothes messy. Whatever works for you is fine, so long as your work things are strictly quarantined from your home things.

Don’t put your clothes on the floor or your bed at any point. It’s only when you put things down that bed bugs can try to infest them. Put them straight in your sealed plastic bin instead.

6) Clothes Management

If you need to wash your things, there’s more strict protocol to follow. When you get home, put your clothes straight into the bin, as per usual. Follow the rest of your routine.

When it’s time to do a wash, it’s fine if you wash your work things and home things together. Take the bin to the washing machine, and take the clothes from the bin, putting them directly inside. Don’t drag them around, or carry them down the hall, as this would be breaking quarantine.

After you wash and dry your clothes, give them a shake. If there were any bed bugs inside, they would be dead at this point. Put them back in the sealed bin, again separate from the rest of your clothes.

You’re also free to have a sealed bin for your home clothes, too. Keep your home and work clothes separated.

And, above all, that you don’t keep your work clothes in your bedroom. If you were to, then bed bugs would likely hide in any hems and pockets they could find, and come with you to work.

Make your home a contained environment. You have to set up a system whereby no bed bugs can get out, or get in from the outside. Done correctly, you should never get an infestation.

7) Always Be Consistent

Quarantines are only as effective as you are consistent. If you lapse in the steps above at any point and break quarantine, then all of your good work may have been for nothing.

You should follow them every single time you come home from work, even if they do get a little irritating after a while.

If you set up a few traps around the feet of your bed, then that will help catch any bugs that do get through if you break quarantine.

Bed bugs are naturally drawn to you, so if you accidentally brought a bed bug into the hallway, they would try to reach you in your room at night.

The only way for them to do that is by climbing the bed frame. So, with just those four small traps, you should catch them before they establish a harborage.

Can Bed Bugs Be Spread at Work?

Bed bugs can be spread in any public place. Anywhere that there are lots of people passing through is a prime location. Hotels are the best places for bed bugs, because new people are visiting every single day.

An office or workplace isn’t quite the same, since it’s the same people who work there each day. However, it’s still a place they can spread from person to person.

Can bed bugs be spread at work?

To be clear, bed bugs don’t live on their hosts. They live in proximity to their host, somewhere like their bedding or nearby furniture.

You won’t physically catch them from the person you’re sat next to. However, your co-worker might bring them in their bag, from where they’ll get into your coat or bag, and you bring them home.

What Kind of Workplaces Have Bed Bugs?

Not all workplaces can or will have bed bugs. Take a car repair shop, for example. There’s nowhere for the bed bugs to live, and since the people working there don’t find themselves continually sitting down, it’s far less likely that bed bugs would want to hide in the seats there.

But what about an office? Offices are far more likely homes for bed bugs. For starters, there tend to be lots of employees in an office. The more employees there are, the more likely it is that there will be bed bugs.

At least one person will bring them in, and before long, they’ll spread. Not only that, but there are far more places for a bed bug to hide in an office.

If you work somewhere that people frequently sleep, like a hotel or motel, then it’s highly likely that there will be bed bugs where you work. There will be some in the beds, and if you’re unlucky, in the couch in the break room too.

Bed Bugs in Office Chair?

It’s possible for bed bugs to live in an office chair, just as they can live in any furniture. In severe infestations, they can live on a couch or any wooden furniture near your bed.

On public transport, they hide inside seats, spreading from one person to another. It’s possible for them to live inside an office chair.

Just think of what an office chair can offer them. It’s made of fabric with a solid structure underneath, very similar to bedding, like a bed frame, box spring and mattress.

It’s also close to a person’s warmth. And if they’re inside the structure of the chair itself, then it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever be disturbed.

And it’s not just office chairs that bed bugs can hide in. According to Clinical Microbiology Reviews, bed bugs lay their eggs and hide in any place with cracks and crevices, and that offers darkness.

They can hide practically anywhere in the office, just like they can at home, including places like:

  • On the underside of tables and desks
  • Inside desk drawers and cabinets
  • Behind the baseboard, if your office has them
  • Around the edges of carpet, or even underneath the carpet
  • In any crack wide enough to poke a penny into
  • Underneath the couch in the break room

Perform a quick search in any places that meet these descriptions and see what you can find. If there aren’t any bed bugs there, then there aren’t likely to be any anywhere else.

Can You Bring Bed Bugs Home from Work?

It is possible to bring bed bugs home from work, although not in the way you might think. Bed bugs don’t like to get close to you except when they’re feeding, and you can always notice them feeding. They also don’t like to hide in the clothes you’re wearing, or in your hair.

They much prefer hiding inside bags or discarded clothing. While they don’t understand what your bag is for, they do understand that it’s a dark, secluded place for them to hide.

The same applies to a scarf or coat you put down. They can find their way inside a fold of fabric, or inside a pocket, and come home with you.

When you get home, they’ll then want to run and hide somewhere secluded. Remember, bed bugs don’t like bright lights or being too close to a perceived threat.

So, once you bring them home, they’ll want to scuttle away and hide. They might then hide under your mattress or inside your furniture, from where they’ll come to bite you at night.

What to Do If Your Co-Worker Has Bed Bugs

If you think that a co-worker has bed bugs, or if you’ve seen bed bugs in your office, there are a few things you can do to avoid catching them.

Keep your work clothes separate from your house clothes to avoid cross-contamination, and wash when you get home. Here’s how you can avoid bed bugs:

  • Talk to your colleagues about the problem. Say that you’ve noticed bed bugs around the office, and inform management that you’ve seen them. Ask what steps they plan on taking. Share any knowledge you have on treatments and prevention.
  • Don’t treat the co-worker differently. If you’ve ever had a severe infestation, you know just how stressful and annoying bed bugs are. They can make your life hell, and your co-worker doesn’t need to be made to feel worse.
  • Purchase a mattress encasement, whether you have bed bugs or not. A mattress encasement fits around your mattress and stops bed bugs from being able to live there. It also stops any bed bugs still on/in your mattress from being able to come out and feed on you.
  • Buy a lure or a set of traps. If you were to bring a bed bug home, it would be just that—only one. If you could catch it in a trap before it has a chance to find a mate, then you will have effectively nipped the infestation in the bud. And if you’ve never had bed bugs before, take it from us—that’s much better than dealing with a full infestation.

How to Handle Bed Bugs in the Workplace

You should look to treat your part of the office/workplace if you have one. If you have a desk, for example, perform a thorough bed bug search when you have some downtime. Any you find, place in a jar of rubbing alcohol, as this kills them.

You could also try using a non-offensive bed bug spray. We would recommend avoiding a permethrin spray, permethrin being the main ingredient in most pesticides. That’s because some pets, especially cats, are highly allergic to permethrin.

Even a trace amount can severely hurt or even kill them. If one of your co-workers were to come into contact with the spray, and they have a cat at home, then the worst might happen.

Far better is to stick to a DIY spray. You can make your own spray using tea tree oil, which is highly effective at killing bed bugs on direct contact. Otherwise, it makes a decent repellent.

Spray it in the cracks of your desk, desk drawers and under your office chair. If you do plan on using a spray, be sure to get the permission of your boss, and run it by your nearby colleagues too.

Remember that bed bugs in your workplace aren’t your responsibility. It’s management’s responsibility to get rid of them. And even if you were to use a spray on your desk, that wouldn’t get rid of the bed bugs from elsewhere in your workplace.

The best thing for you to do is to adhere to strict quarantine procedures with regards to your work clothes, boots, bag, and coat. That’s what you can control, and that’s how you can avoid bringing them home with you.

Bed Bugs at Work (Legal Rights)

If there are bed bugs in your workplace, they could be grounds for a compensation claim. While a bed bug bite isn’t as dangerous as a slip or fall—it doesn’t give you broken bones, for example—it still counts as a bodily injury. You may be able to file a worker’s compensation claim.

The idea behind a worker’s compensation claim is that it’s supposed to make you whole again, repairing the damage you experienced in full.

So, if you suffered a permanent disability as a result of something that happened at work, worker’s compensation will pay your medical bills, missed paychecks and earnings in the future.

Bed bug bites don’t cause as much physical harm, but can cause genuine PTSD and make your life miserable. According to the American Journal of Medicine, a group of scientists analyzed people’s behavior and emotional responses to bed bugs.

Based on the diagnostic criteria in use today, one person in the study met the threshold for PTSD. Others were assessed to experience ‘moderate-to-severe negative emotional symptoms after infestations.’ This could lead to a compensation claim.

Since this site doesn’t provide legal advice, you should try to find a worker’s compensation lawyer. These lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you don’t have to pay attorney’s fees unless they win. There will be many in your area, as you can find them across the country. Talk to one and see whether your case is worth pursuing.

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Lou Carter

Hi, I'm Lou. I’ve long been fascinated by bed bugs, ever since a friend’s life was turned upside down. That’s why I’ve put together this specialist site. You’ll find detailed answers to all of your questions on how to get rid of a bed bug infestation. I hope you find it useful!

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