(Editor’s Note: APilot wrote on the “Where do I start?” page, and I am reposting it here so it will get more readers.)

APilot writes:

This is from a letter I’m writing for my union publication. Any feedback?

What do wheals and papules have to do with my career in Aviation? “Nothing,” I thought until I came for from a trip with an overnight in my “home away from home” layover hotel in Orlando with three strange red spots on my body. The next day I went to the doctor. My computer savvy husband headed off to the Internet.

My doctor (in Colorado) identified them a “some kind of insect” bites. Puzzled as to why I was bitten more than once, he subscribed an antibiotic and wished me luck. My husband had a more successful afternoon. He discovered that there is a pandemic of bed bugs in hotels in NY and most Border States. My marks resembled the bites and later two of those became aggravated into very worse form- an infected papule.
A wheal is simply a term for a raised up mark on the sick, a papule is described as “a small inflamed elevation of skin that is nonsuppurative as in chicken pox.” Nonsuppurative means not filled with fluid (i.e. pus). This development occurs to those who are allergic-, allergies that can develop if a person is bitten on a regular basis.

One of the first sets of bites, which were treated with only antibiotics, grew to the size of a half dollar and was about a half an inch thick. The center turned dark black and grew to the size of a match head; finally it oozed a little clear pus before starting to heal. It was three full weeks before the swelling was gone and a large scar remains.

One month later I was back in the Orlando hotel (management had “assured” me the problem was handled and my room was clean). Unfortunately I had not really searched a hotel room thoroughly before. Unsure whither the 12 or so specks of black and brown stuff I picked out of the mattress pad and box spring were normal, I slept there again. This time I wore full pajamas, tucked in at my socks and waist. I was rewarded for my experimentation with a bite just under my armpit that showed up the very next day. (The bugs probably crawled in through the neck hole.)

For those who are squeamish- skip on ahead, because the following paragraph may contain more than you really want to read. Over the next two weeks, ten much smaller bites could be identified. The prominent bite swelled up painfully. In spite of treatment with ice and over the counter pain medicine, it grew to the point were I couldn’t sleep and needed to call off a trip to see the doctor. This time I took with me an Internet recommended treatment- the steroid cream Mizaondoec, which purportedly helps by constricting capillaries and reducing the spreading of the toxins. The cream on the papule caused it to flow about teaspoons of yellow puss, beginning its recovery. However its effect on the lesser bites was to seal off the bites from the surface of the skin. A week later, two of these had swollen to a very painful half dollar size. Ultimately they had to be treated with both antibiotics and lancing. Surgical scissors were needed to break up the congealed areas for drainage. Then they were packed with sterile tape to keep them from closing off before the infection could be healed.

But my nightmare didn’t end there. A ten-day stretch of time off confirmed my worse fears. I was now getting bitten on a regular basis in my own bed. These bites were small and not very numerous but consistent, leading me to suspect may a lone hitch hiking egg had hatched. The eggs of a bed bug are the size of a dust mote, white and sticky, and the female lays about three a night. Although it would be possible to inadvertently trap a beg in some early show predawn packing, it is more likely end up carrying an egg

To get rid of our new houseguest we laundered all the bedding in hot water. We sealed the box spring and mattress in covers. And purchased a new comforter and pillows. We put bed bug powder poison on the frame and around the foot of the bed. This took two tries but finally the nibbling stopped.

During this time my husband never noticed any bites. Although the Internet said that bed bugs are equal opportunity bitters, our personal experience didn’t reflex this. Even if you believe you are not allergic or at risk there are few simple things you can do to protect your family. I now shut my suitcase at night never put any of my things between the hotel walls and the beds. Also I wash my layover clothing separately, and store my flight bag in the laundry when not in use.

On the road I check the bed by lifting up the bottom sheet and any box spring cover. I collect any black specks found on white paper. Thanks to another bed bug experience in the Tampa, if there are more than four specks, a new room is requested. The majority of the beds will not have a single speck. Lately, if there are more than two specks I use Off insecticide on my clothes and exposed skin, which seems to be working.

1 deb March 21, 2007 at 9:20 am

A fellow bedbugger victim went to a symposium back in Oct. of 2006 in DC. It was brought to the attention of the attendees that hotel rooms that were occupied by airline personnel were the most likely to have infestations, due to the travel frequency to many different destinations. It is so unfortunate that people must resort to having to take medications and use dangerous steroids. This bed bug epidemic is insidious. I can only hope that the travel/tourism industry recognizes the urgent need for a death/cure for this monster bug. Deb

2 Dan March 21, 2007 at 3:45 pm

How about a pill for humans to take before bed time, so that when thety do get bitten, somethign in the pill will be non toxic to humans but deadly for bedbugs.

MMmm sounds delightful already.

3 nobugsonme March 24, 2007 at 5:14 am

That would be great, Dan!

4 nobugsonme March 24, 2007 at 5:19 am

APilot, I’ve been so busy I did not have time to respond. I do hope you got my email and that you see this.

I think your story is probably being repeated amongst flight crew members — and many business travelers too. But flight crews have it the worst. So many hotel nights, and you probably can’t choose where you stay.

I am glad you’re writing about this for your colleagues.

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