We asked: Is it gross to put luggage on your bed?

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You might not get a flesh-eating infection, but doctors do have one big concern for unpacking your bag where you sleep

Traveling has always come with complications. Our By The Way Concierge column will take your travel dilemmas to the experts to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see your question answered? Submit it here.

Is it actually a health risk to put your suitcase on your bed after you travel, or is it just gross? It’s a question our By The Way team has debated for years — and our editor’s No. 1 pet peeve. After the issue came up again in a recent article, we decided to take a longer look at the topic.

I’m guilty of this “red-flag behavior” myself. Before and after every trip, I flop my duffle bag on my bed to pack and unpack. It’s the easiest way to access both my closet and my laundry basket. It’s also a disgusting concept to many, many people.

When I posed the question of this week’s column on Instagram earlier this week, dozens of people replied with their rage.

“This is a crime!” one person wrote.

“I just threw up a little in my mouth,” said another.

Other replies included varying degrees of profanity.

Their argument: Think about where your luggage has been. We roll suitcases across sidewalks where rats were smooshed; drag them over soiled hotel carpets; and set them on airport bathrooms where … I’ll stop.

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But “gross” is different than bad for you. Is there any reason my dirtbag behavior is actually risky?

Right out of the gate, Lin H. Chen, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Travel Medicine Center at Mount Auburn Hospital, sided with my online haters.

“My common sense says I would not want to put my suitcase on the bed that I’m going to sleep in because of where the suitcases have traveled,” she said.

Mark Gendreau, a physician and the chief medical officer of Beverly and Addison Gilbert hospitals in Massachusetts, said about the same: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to come home and put your suitcase on your bed.”

Even so, Gendreau doesn’t recommend going for a “Bubble Boy” approach to travel.

“You probably already have a ton of bacteria that you picked up from hotels or travels or school or work that are just part of your natural flora,” he said.

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“The possibility of flesh-eating bacteria” coming home on your bag “would be extremely rare,” Gendreau said. Our bodies are used to fighting off or working with the many microorganisms we encounter on our suitcase and elsewhere. So “if you’re healthy and your immune system is intact for the most part, it shouldn’t be an issue whatsoever,” he added.

Instead of MRSA, Gendreau and Chen both said their chief concern for on-bed packing is bedbugs. (Yes, even if you’re not in Paris.)

Bedbugs are known to hang out in travel hot spots such as hotels, trains and cruise ships, as well as their usual haunts, such as apartments. Should they end up in your suitcase on a trip, you don’t want to deliver them straight to your own bed.

So where should you park your luggage? Chen opts for the top of a cabinet or dresser, a suitcase rack or even the floor. Gendreau recommends simply unloading where you do your laundry. And after you roll through puddles or buses or train stations, both recommend cleaning off your bag with a disinfecting wipe.

After our call, Chen continued investigating the topic and looked to see whether there has been any recent research. She couldn’t find anything with respect to microbes or infectious agents on suitcases, but her advice still stood: Keep your suitcase off your bed.

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More travel tips

Vacation planning: Start with a strategy to maximize days off by taking PTO around holidays. Experts recommend taking multiple short trips for peak happiness. Want to take an ambitious trip? Here are 12 destinations to try this year — without crowds.

Cheap flights: Follow our best advice for scoring low airfare, including setting flight price alerts and subscribing to deal newsletters. If you’re set on an expensive getaway, here’s a plan to save up without straining your credit limit.

Airport chaos: We’ve got advice for every scenario, from canceled flights to lost luggage. Stuck at the rental car counter? These tips can speed up the process. And following these 52 rules of flying should make the experience better for everyone.

Expert advice: Our By The Way Concierge solves readers’ dilemmas, including whether it’s okay to ditch a partner at security, or what happens if you get caught flying with weed. Submit your question here. Or you could look to the gurus: Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.

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