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Update: oh, the holiday horror

Posted: December 28th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I am sure you are all wondering with baited breath to find out if I got bedbugs from our hotel! I am happy to report that I saw nary a sign of those little suckers. But I did get double charged! We can’t have nice things, obviously. If they don’t reverse the second charge, then I guess I’m going to have to find a bedbug and drop it off for a walkabout.

It really could be an eye-opening experience peeling back the sheets on a hotel bed, but I am happy to say these mattresses were pristine, as were the areas around the beds. Is it ever conceivable that you might spot a mattress that was stained from a past infestation but since heat treated and bedbug free? Is the only acceptable option for a hotel to destroy any mattress that has been implicated in an infestation? I am curious. We shlubs at home can’t always afford to toss a mattress, but a hotel should have a budget for total replacement, no? I would think there should at least be an encasement on the mattress, for added protection.

If you found an encasement on a hotel bed, would you demand another room just to be on the safe side, or would you assume they were aware of the problem and had it under control?



Oh, the holiday horror

Posted: December 23rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

It was bound to happen: I have to stay in a hotel tonight. In a moderately cruddy small town where the Hampton Inn is the premier choice. Yes, bedbugs can lurk at any level of finery, and they do get to go some pretty fancy places, but as a rule I get a little hinky when a luxury brand isn’t available. This trip to the frozen tundra of Maine is not my idea of a good time, and if I return with bedbugs, I’ll be even more irate.

I just instructed my husband that NOTHING is to be set on the bed or floor until I have conducted a thorough white glove inspection. Luggage and the child will be placed on the luggage rack or in the tub. Coats will be hung in the closet. Outlaws will be hanged.

I will strip back the sheets and check the mattress for spots, streaks, bedbug casings, dead bedbugs, or heaven forfend, live bedbugs. Hotel bedspreads are some of the most disgusting pieces of fabric on Earth, so you bet I’ll be removing that as a matter of principle. I may skip the luminol check since it’s Christmas. Peace on earth and glorious ignorance to blood spatter from dead hookers and all.

I’ll also be poking around the night stands and baseboards and under the bed with a flashlight. If I find anything, we will march to the lobby and demand to be moved to another room. I’ll take photos first, because it’s always nice to threaten to put things on Trip Advisor if anyone sasses me with his mouth hole about getting a new room or a refund. I like to plan ahead. I’m not above picking up a sample with packing tape and sealing it in a Ziploc either. And of course if I can snag a live bug, we can finally start our Nix Bedbugs Science Research Colony.

I’ve also disabused my husband of the notion that all we have to do to prevent bringing home bedbugs is to leave the bags in the car in the cold for a day or two. The suitcases are getting bagged, and everything’s going straight into the washer when we get home. And the suitcase will get vacuumed within an inch of its life. If I actually found bedbug signs in the hotel room, I might spring for a PackTite just to be on the safe side. If you follow that link, be sure to use coupon code PT1217 at checkout to get $10 off PackTite Heaters through 12/31/10.

Have a safe and bedbug free holiday, everyone! What do you think the bedbugs will say when the animals talk at midnight on Christmas Eve? I imagine them using rather rough language.



Psychological Reappraisal of Bedbugs

Posted: November 12th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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You Know You Hate Bedbugs When…

Posted: November 6th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

You almost barf after chopping an apple seed in half while slicing up your snack.

Here’s a nifty (or not so nifty, really) visual of the much beloved bedbug vs. apple seed comparison.



But What Would Steve Jobs Say About Traumatic Insemination?

Posted: November 1st, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Well, nerds, now the New York Times tell us there is in fact an app for bedbugs. Wish I’d thought of that one! It’s a Google map using GPS to identify bedbug-riddled areas, informed by media reports, governement agencies, and users of the service.

Will seeing little red pins all over New York make you any more cautious than you already are? I say semper paratus, like a good scout. You don’t need a map to tell you bedbugs are everywhere. Of course they are! You should use the same caution no matter where you go, from the fancy places bedbugs like to go like nice hotels to the dive theater where you take the date you don’t like to take out where real people are.

Am I the only one above carrying a tiny Maglite on my keychain for a quick look-see into the potential habitats of bedbugs? Spend that $1.99 for the app on your poor hideous date instead.



Why Me, Bedbugs?

Posted: October 29th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

You awake, scabby and crusty, swearing to never touch meth again. Oh, you’re itchy too, and you don’t have a personal meth lab set up in the tub? Yeah, probably bedbugs. But wait, your beloved who slumbers beside you doesn’t have any bites at all. What gives? Is your lover sneaking out on you the whole night? Are you sleepwalking and sleeping in someone else’s bed by accident? Do bedbugs just like you better?

Yes, it is possible for one person in a household to be the target of bedbugs while the other inhabitants skate scott free. One answer for such one-sided noshing is that the afflicted party is allergic to the bites while the other is not. The non-bitten party could be bitten, but if there is no allergic reaction, he or she will not end up with swollen, itchy bites.

Another possibility has to do with bedbug behavior. They like to hang out together and tend to cluster during feeding behavior, so you may be the unlucky soul on the “bedbug side of the bed.” Once they’ve found a host, they tend to feed several times from the same host, especially in the classic “breakfast-lunch-dinner” bite pattern with three bites clustered closely together or in a line. They are unlikely to stop for a bite on your arm and then cross an entire bed to sample your blanket buddy.

At this time we are only offering advice on treatment, not on how to redirect the bedbugs to your partner. However, you could probably try switching sides of the bed without telling the other person why, just sayin’.



Luca Brasi sleeps with the bedbugs

Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Hey, do you have about an hour to kill and a need to ruin what’s left of your already tenuous grasp of the ability to sleep?

day 108 - I have nightmares

by mivox on Flickr

This 2008 podcast from This American Life, entitled Fear of Sleep, discusses conditions like night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, and sleep attempted murder. Yours truly has been known to suffer from sleep paralysis, which is damn creepy. Your eyes open, but you can’t move or even scream because the brain juice that keeps the body still during REM sleep hasn’t left your system yet. You have awareness of your surroundings, but it’s dim and possibly accompanied by hallucinations. Now what could be creepier than lying there, confused and paralyzed? Add bedbugs!

Skip to about 21:45 for the segment “Sleep’s Tiniest Enemies.” First up: roaches. Oh yeah. You’ll be twitching and slapping yourself and digging frantically with q-tips after this one. I won’t spoil it.

If you want to get right to the bedbuggery, hit 25:25. Anyone who has suffered through bedbugs will recognize the mental anguish. A woman using the name “Stephanie” repeated all-too-familiar tales of not having guests over to her family’s apartment for years. Her sleep is interrupted all the time by bedbugs, and she has upped her coffee intake to function during the day.  It’s “so hard to sleep in a bed where you feel like the sheets are crawling.”

“There’s a lot of adrenalin with these middle of the night bites…like I would wake up in full combat mode…rage, rage, rage!”

She describes a “feeling of being assaulted, and there’s nothing I can do.” She recounts basically living out of plastic bags, vacuuming books, and coating bed legs with vaseline in an attempt to keep bedbugs from climbing. Her husband even reupholstered a beloved piece of furniture to save it.

In a chilling experiment, Stephanie kept two baby bedbugs in a sealed plastic container on her window sill. Months passed, and instead of dying, they bred.  She eventually threw the whole container out. At the end of the piece, she has just discovered more bug signs in her favorite couch, and she announces it has finally won a trip to the curb. Yet another reason not to pick up furniture you find on the sidewalk! The more polite tend to label their cast-offs, at least. “Bedbugs: Do Not Use.”

There is a happier ending for Stephanie in an update at the end of the piece. Apparently the landlord stepped up extermination efforts, and Stephanie is finally bug free. Not everyone is so lucky. Do you have a story of difficulty getting a landlord to take your bedbug problem seriously? Leave us a comment or use our contact form.

**Hat tip on the podcast to alert reader Amanda, who does not have bedbugs. Just morbid curiosity.



Diagnosis: Delicious – Are you being eaten up by bedbugs?

Posted: October 1st, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A recent commenter on our post about healing bedbug bite scars brought up the difficulty in finding the true source of an insect bite. I asked her to send in a photo, and maybe some of our readers can weigh in on whether or not these look like bedbug bites.

S. B. writes in: “A couple of these, I am sure are mosquito bites.  I often get lots of them.  But these have lasted weirdly long.  The bite on the bottom left of the picture, below my left knee, is brand new.  It is a large red area with a yellowish center.  Like it was instantly kinda infecty.  That happened at work today.”

S.B., I understand the worry. Are they or aren’t they? Many workplaces are infested with bedbugs, including Google and Sirius Radio. It’s not anyone’s fault, exactly. The bedbugs stick out a figurative thumb and ride in on someone who is unlucky enough to have a home infestation, and then they will spread like carnies until systematically eliminated. It’s easy to experience anxiety. Just this morning, I woke up and found an itchy spot on my hip and immediately entertained thoughts of combing over my mattress with a magnifying glass and calling in sniffer beagles. The spot turned out to be a healing cut from a few weeks back. Oops. I am going to sue myself if I develop delusional parasitosis from this gig.

Bedbug bites are tough to distinguish from the bites of mosquitos, fleas, mites, and biting flies. However, they typically feed at night, in the pre-dawn hours, and you would likely see greater distribution over the body, including on the torso and arms. This WebMD slideshow on bedbug bites points out that the bites often occur in a haphazard line (Slide 5). Since the bugs shoot you up with a topical anesthesia when they bite, they often move from spot to spot without you even noticing. They might as well queue up for a tiny conga line: you won’t feel a thing at the time.

Other bite patterns may present, though. It depends on the individual situation to some degree. Another common pattern is known as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” or b-l-d. This refers to a cluster of 3 bites close together. You can find gallery after gallery of bedbug bite photos on Flickr, and you will notice they all look somewhat different. It’s tempting to agonize over the appearance of bites, but searching the environment is more productive. Even dermatologists and entomologists can have trouble determining the source of bites.

Given that your bites occurred during daylight and are confined to one area of the body with seemingly random distribution, I’d wager that those are not bedbug bites, or at least not the product of you bringing them in from home. Mosquitos are a possibility. Fleas go for the ankles and lower legs. The poor little creatures can’t jump much higher!  If you feel an actual sting/bite sensation, I’d be even more inclined to think of another insect besides bedbugs.

Of course you’ll want to check your chair, desk, other furniture, and your general work area for bedbug signs: shed casings, dead bedbugs, dark black or rusty spots (feces), or very rarely you might see a live bedbug. You should perform this same inspection in your own bedroom, paying special attention to mattress creases and cracks and crevices in headboards and night stands, including recessed holes for screws.

Are others in your office also suffering from bites? It’s worth reporting that you are being bitten to an office manager or building services just so they can keep track in the event that others have the same issue. It is certainly embarrassing to even entertain the speculation, but if more people are forthcoming, workplace situations might be sooner taken in hand.

So pending the finding of actual bedbug signs besides bites, I’m going to guess you are in the clear, but you should maintain diligence with inspecting your surroundings. If you find nothing but are still concerned, there are commercial bedbug detector products on the market, which we will be discussing soon. What think you, gentle readers?



Bedbug Suicide?

Posted: September 21st, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Bedbugs are the new 21st century urban touchstone for anxiety: what could be scarier than The Thing Under the Bed That Actually Eats You?  Forget rats, forget roaches. They really prefer to keep to themselves. You only wish you had mice. Spiders? Haha! Amateur.

Bedbug infestation in a home, apartment, or even car is the fastest way to plummet to the ranks of the Unclean. Bedbug populations nationwide are on a rapid rise. They are seemingly indestructible, and one can pick them up in numerous innocent ways, from sitting in a movie theater to having dinner at a friend’s place.

Can a combination of maddening itching, unsightly welts, OCD-stoking cleaning protocols, social ostracism, often huge financial loss, and frustration at lack of concern from landlords and government officials and insurance companies actually lead someone to take her own life?

So far, there are no officially confirmed US reports of suicide due to bed bug infestation, but some believe it’s only a matter of time. Online forums for bed bug sufferers are full of proclamations of feeling “close to the edge” or “near suicide.” In August 2009, New York Magazine explored the perils of real estate in the age of bedbugs and made a “prediction for next August: the first bedbug-caused suicide.” Luckily August 2010 has come and gone, but the bedbug problem is still accelerating.

In this sad post on a popular forum, an apartment dweller wonders if a neighbor’s suicide was more than coincidental to the rampant bedbug problem in their building.

But worse, that they mentioned that Apt. 702 was “showing signs of activity again”. Apt 702??!! That apartment is currently vacant, as the tenant committed suicide on June 30th. One morning, at around 6:00 a.m., she threw herself off the balcony. It was horrible. I remember at the time thinking that it was strange that it occurred early in the morning, and that perhaps she just couldn’t face one more day. I felt so terrible for her.

So I asked the PCO “How long have you been treating the apartment?”

And they replied “Four months”.

Which means the woman battled bedbugs for 2 months and then killed herself.

The motive for the neighbor’s suicide is not directly known, but under few circumstances could one imagine that bedbugs are helpful to mental health. Was it the last straw or just an unrelated stress? Other commenters report feeling pushed to the edge and seeking therapy as a means to cope with the anxiety and depression cause by a seemingly unwinnable battle.

Typical suicide warning sign checklists include conditions such as loss of health or home and emotional changes like feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Feelings of shame are often mentioned, as well as alteration of social habits and sleeping patterns. Victims of bedbugs will recognize all of these situations as direct or indirect results of their infestation. This is not to say that all victims will go as far as suicidal thinking, but anyone who is already prone to depression and anxiety may experience the negative results on a more severe and serious level.

One thing is certain: tiny bedbugs can be a real threat to psychological health, and they do not discriminate. In the coming weeks, we’ll keep on eye on bedbugs in the news and ways you can protect yourself or free yourself from the bedbug trap. Have you felt driven to thoughts of harming yourself (or others) due to your bedbug problem? Contact us to share your story.

ALERT: Please note we are unable to provide counseling. In the event of suicidal feelings in yourself or a friend, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline web site or contact your therapist or get to the nearest emergency room. Those are good things to do. Listening to Morrissey and drinking while obsessively Googling photos of bedbug bites: not so much.