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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.

How Dare You!

Posted: November 18th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Today we came across the account of a beleagured reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, whose encounter with bedbugs in a New York hotel left him much harrassed.

When I was in New York to interview Isabelle Huppert, I set the clock for 7:30, but I woke at around 5:45 and planned to go back to sleep, when I noticed a little red bug walking on the top of comforter. I was half asleep and didn’t think much about it . . . and then I thought, wait.

Fortunately, the hotel had wifi, and so I looked up bedbugs on the Internet and lo and behold, I realized I was in the presence of a celebrity. His picture was RIGHT THERE.

The poor man, cognizant of the wrath he would incur if he brought home any stowaways, begins a torturous journey through the streets of New York, jacketless, to the dry cleaners, his things taped and bagged.  We highly recommend the article.  He is nothing if not thorough, after recognizing his initial error, in not giving the hotel room a thorough enough check upon arrival.  Following these steps when travelling, it is possible to avert this kind of trouble.

We, too, would be afraid of the wife’s wrath.  But what about Isabelle Huppert?!?  She can probably sense something as distasteful as  bedbug from 50 yards.  It is bad enough she must endure your impertinent intrusion, do not take bedbugs to you interview with Isabelle Huppert.  She will have you killed.

Celebrity skin

Posted: October 5th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

By now we’ve all heard that Howard Stern fell victim to bedbugs at work in the Sirius offices and in his own limo. Stern is not one to shy away from discussions of the vile and unseemly, bless his heart. It ain’t no thing, and he’s got people to take care of those things, although we hope the chemical fumigation of the limo managed to kill any lingering nymphs and instars as well as the mature bedbugs.

Allegedly, Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper recently had to ditch a swanky mattress over bedbugs, but the source on this one seems a little shaky. But it is certainly plausible. Celebrities frequently travel for work, and these days it seems like only a matter of time until a bedbug clings on to the bottom of your Louboutins and follows you home. You should always perform visual inspections when you travel, even in first class.

Back in 2006, Saturday Night Live star Maya Rudolph and her husband, director Paul Anderson, were forced to flee a $13,000 per month luxury rental loft in SoHo. They sued the property and owner for $450,000, claiming they were bitten within days of moving in. When an exterminator arrived, he apparently told them to clear out for a bit to keep their baby safe, and that was enough for them. One might expect a pest-free apartment for $13,000 per month.

Opera singer Alison Trainer was a bedbug victim during a hotel stay, and she filed a lawsuit for $6 million against Hilton Hotels. “She looks like a piece of wood that has been attacked by termites,” said Trainer’s attorney, Kenneth J. Glassman.

But let’s get to what we really want to talk about: which celebrities look like they should be harboring bedbugs already? Sure, bedbugs are equal opportunity little pests, but let’s say you were on Family Feud, and you had to spit out the first suspect luminary that popped into your head or risk the wrath of your grandmother, who is played by Betty White in this delusion? Would your list go a little like this?


Lindsay Lohan

Pete Doherty

Courtney Love

Joaquin Phoenix’s beard, tied with Britney’s weave

Spencer Pratt

Tila Tequila

Russell Brand

Insane Clown Posse

Weekly Bedbug Link Rodeo

Posted: October 2nd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Bookies Pick the Four Seasons as Next Bedbug Strike [via the Village Voice]

Someone had to do it. “Unfortunately, what they didn’t anticipate was how easily this bet could be fixed….” Yikes.

Barack says WHAT?Bedbugs Found in Federal Government Building in D.C.
[via Fox News]

Yup, bedbugs have infiltrated yet another workplace: the US Agency for International Development at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Employees have been notified, skeeved out. Perplexingly, Fox News somehow managed to omit the fact that Barack Obama himself brought back the bedbugs from his Kenyan birthplace.

Woman Sleeps on Balcony to Escape Bedbugs [via Toronto Sun]

Now that sucks for Lori Howard. “Despite showering several times a night, changing clothes in her bathtub after neighbours warned they could see her disrobing outside, plus bug killer building staff applied, “they’re still there.””

It’s Not You, It’s Your Bedbugs [via WSJ.com]

Paranoia, the destroyer. It’s true, WebMD can get anyone feeling itchy. Though the article is satire, we at Nix Bedbugs still fear it’s only a matter of time before national news relays an unfortunate serious mental health incident, such as a bedbug-caused suicide or self injury.

9 Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs [via Cracked.com]

“…while waking up with tiny little bites is very trendy, it is also possibly the single most distressing non-Ke$ha-related-thing ever.” Hear, hear! Another funny. If we don’t laugh, we’d be crying.

Riled bedbugs hinder effort to fight house fire [via Denverpost.com]

File under: you know you have problems when… “The pesky bedbugs, animated by the fire, sought refuge on firefighters, latching onto equipment and gear. Firefighters had to guard against bringing the bugs back to their firehouse.”

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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.

Hotel Illness: Bedbugs in Your Bag

Posted: September 23rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Chris Robinson, best known as the illustrious hirsute poet of the 90’s and ex-husband to A-Rod’s girlfriend, sang the troubling lyric “This room smells like hotel illness/The scars I hide are now your business.”  How prescient, given the newfound horror of hotel rooms infested with bedbugs.

Frankly, the entire track listing for the album bearing this ditty is akin to a “Nostradamus Wuz Here: Bedbugs Ahoy” scrawl on an alley wall: “Sting Me,” “Remedy,” “Thorn in My Pride,” “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye,” “Time Will Tell?”  Anyone who travels far and wide for pleasure or business, or even just books the occasional local room for whipping tired businessmen or stringing up truckers, needs to be vigilant to avoid her own bad luck. Time will indeed tell if you’ve brought back a little stowaway  in your valise. Worst case scenario depicted below:

What can we do to protect ourself and our extensive Vuitton collections when we travel?

Before you travel: check hotel reviews online if possible. Our go-to source is TripAdvisor.com. People are vocal about any negative situations, including bedbugs or other pest or cleanliness issues. Pack a flashlight for room inspection purposes. Pack gallon-size Ziploc bags and even a trash bag with twist tie, in the event that you need to quarantine any contaminated clothing or personal items prior to returning home. Double-sided tape may also come in handy.

1. Set your luggage and other belongings down on the luggage rack or on top of a dresser as soon as you enter the room, after giving those places a once-over, of course. Some folks favor the tub for containment.  Consider skipping the carpet-floored luggage carts you may find in larger hotels. Consider not letting the staff touch anything you own and perhaps screaming “Ahhh! Get away!” depending on the establishment you’ve chosen.

2. Immediately inspect the mattress, box spring, and bedding on the bed. Check behind the headboard and on the floor under the bed. You are looking for little, flat reddish-brown bugs. Think the size of an apple seed or smaller. Want pictures? Here, we warned you. You are also looking for any unusual reddish or black pinprick-sized spots or streaks, which are bedbug feces. The seams of the mattress are especially a good catching ground for these pests and their droppings.

You should apply your normal black light inspection to comforters, as bedbugs are only a part of your worries. Luminol optional. OK, just take the comforter off completely. It’s disgusting on many levels. You do travel with your own linens and power steamer, right? Kidding. Sort of.

3. Check the rest of the furniture and textiles in the room. Curtains, sofas, chairs, and carpets are also harboring places. This is where the flashlight may come in handy. Between the wall and carpet edge is a good place to check. Remove chair and couch cushions and pillows and really check the crevices for bedbugs or bedbug signs.

4. If you discover any signs of bedbug life on initial inspection or wake up with bites or an unfortunate later find, toss your stuff in a trash bag and get thee to the front desk. A good manager will move you to a new room or refund your money, no questions asked. If you feel the need, you can snap photos of the insect defects in the room and any bites or use your sticky tape to pick up any visible bug for evidence in the event of resistance.

If you meet with resistance on your first request, try to escalate by asking for a supervisor, a manager, even the owner. Mention you can dispute any charges via your credit card company and report your experience on numerous hotel review sites. Remain calm but firm and persistent. Note the name of everyone you must talk to in the process. If all that fails, get the hell out of there and dispute any amount billed to your card. Any evidence may come in handy.

5. While you are happily snuggled in the room, keep clothing and possessions off the floors and furniture when possible. Keep suitcases, purses, and laptop and camera bags zipped shut when not in use. For added peace of mind, keep those items sealed within a trash bag while in the room. Some people swear by putting sticky tape around the legs of the bed to trap anything attempting to climb, but bear in mind bugs may already be deep in the mattress and have been known to drop from the ceiling. Your best bet is vigilance in advance, in terms of reading reviews and your own inspections.

6. When you return home, thoroughly vacuum your suitcase and other bags, paying special attention to creases. Do not mix clothing with your regular laundry. Bag it up until it can be washed, or at least throw it in the dryer on medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes if it has already been laundered on your trip. If you can’t use the dryer on your suitcase, considering sunning it outside or leaving it in sub-freezing temps or a hot car for a few days.

Ahhhhh!!! What else can I do?

Check out this list of the 15 Most Bedbug Infested US Cities from CBS News, and keep that in mind as you make travel plans. Don’t avoid any particular area, just up your vigilance as needed. Realistically, the majority of hotel rooms you’ll visit will likely be bedbug free, but it never hurts to be vigilant, and the relative status or cleanliness of the hotel is not necessarily an indicator on its own without eyewitness reviews of actual infestation.

Yours truly encountered bedbugs in a hotel in Baltimore (shocking, right?) about 5 years ago before the problem was widely discussed, but I had no idea what the bites were until I read other reviews of the hotel later. I was storing my luggage on the rack and my clothes in the dresser, so perhaps this was the deciding factor in being lucky enough not to carry any of the little Paris Hiltons home with me. There but for the grace of Baltimore went I.