Got a Bedbug Bonanza?
Coming soon: the definitive bedbug extermination and prevention eBook!

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’.

Oh, Snooki

Posted: October 28th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments »

Be careful what you ask for, ailment honey girl!

Sleep tight, malady but do NOT let the bedbugs bite. Are those ever a problem on the Shore?

[via Twitter]

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?

Scarred for Life: Healing Embarrassing Bedbug Scars

Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

BedBug bites both arms (24 May 2009)

As if bedbug bites aren’t itchy and uncomfortable enough, they also serve as very public advertisements that you are suffering from an infestation. Although actually being infested says nothing about your health or hygiene status, people still don’t want to take any chances. You may find yourself a victim of social isolation, shunned by friends and romantic partners.

Definitely forget the romance. A recent highly unscientific but probably passably realistic poll stated “56% of responders would leave their date if they noticed bed bug bites on his/her skin.

“They’re just mosquito bites,” you say gamely. “I must have gotten eaten alive in the Catskills.” But people just aren’t having it. Even once you get rid of the bugs in your life, you may find yourself with lingering scars.

People have sued hotels over receiving scarring bites.

“According to DeRoche’s attorney, Steven Igou, the bedbug bites have left DeRoche with approximately 35 permanent scares, mostly on her legs and midsection. He says the scars and damage are so bad that DeRoche no longer wears shorts.”

The scars are a reminder of a very traumatic experience and can forever link you in some people’s minds to a nasty problem. You are even worse off if you work in a profession with emphasis on appearance, such as modeling, acting, magazines, sales, or, oh, hell, most everything you could possibly do. Our face is our fortune!

The catch-22 is that the best way to be free of scars is never to get bitten at all. See our advice about avoiding bedbugs in a hotel. You must keep your eye trained on potential threats, since they can pop up in offices, schools, and even on park benches.

Let’s say you get noshed on one night.  The initial bites may go unnoticed at first because the sneaky little buggers inject an anesthetic as they feed. But you will suffer a:

“localized allergic reaction to antigens/proteins that the bed bug releases into the skin. This is mediated through IgE antibody pathway, causing a wheal-flare response. The bites vary greatly between people, as there are differences in the immune status in individuals. The more bed bug bites you get through your life, the stronger the reaction/redness of the bite.”

That wheal-flare response accounts for the unsightly swelling and redness. That part about reactions getting stronger is bad news, and it underscores the importance of preventing or rapidly treating an infestation.

Audrey Kunin, M.D., points out that “Scratching can easily be complicated by a secondary bacterial infection, particularly in less than sanitary environments.” Cut nails short and frequently wash hands to prevent damage during scratching. Some people wear gloves to bed to avoid scratching unconsciously. Keep any open sores clean to avoid infection.

Most bites can be initially treated by:

  • Washing the area with soap & water, then applying ice
  • Internal itch relief products like Zyrtec
  • External relief products like Caladryl, Aveeno, and baking soda baths
  • Prescription medications in severe cases, including topical steroids and antihistamines, oral antihistamines, and very rarely, systemic steroids
  • See your doctor if you feel a bite is infected. Further treatment may be required

Properly cleaning and treating the bite’s itch is your best chance to prevent scarring. There are a number of natural bite treatments out there as well. While they may not reduce scarring that has already occurred, they may be able to prevent it by treating the bite so you don’t claw yourself to pieces.

If you have suffered scars already, your options include:

  • Scar treatment ointment or cream such as Mederma, which can be purchased at a drugstore
  • Vitamin E application can be helpful
  • Silicone scar treatment sheets, which can be purchased at a drugstore
  • Massage the scar with a circular motion several times a day to promote healing

In extreme cases, seeing a dermatologist may be in order. A dermatologist can supervise methods like

  • Skin bleaching
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser treatments

Obviously some of these methods are potentially painful and very costly. One scar-specific natural treatment involves applying a paste of turmeric and coconut oil to a cleaned area, then letting the paste sit for 8 hours.

Phew. I think I’ll just start wearing a full body suit. That looks comfy.

Disclaimer: always consult your own doctor as part of your health decision-making process. The authors of this site are not doctors, although they sometimes play one with the consent of an informed partner.