A reader in Qatar writes,
I’ve just found your website doing research on my own problem. I live in(Middle East) and have been suffering through what I am convinced is a bed bug infestation. There are some things I don’t
– I don’t get bitten in bed, only when I sit on the couch
– my husband and 2 children don’t have any bites, only me and one other child (I’m sure they are bugs, the pictures of the bites look exactly the same)
We live in a place where external spraying is continual because there are a lot of roaches around – one of the joys of living in a desert. I don’t think the spray they use for that would work on bed bugs if I had them spray inside – would it?
I have small children, so I don’t like the idea of them spraying things I can’t check up on.
Our house is a stand-alone house, not an apartment, and the walls are concrete block, not wood. I don’t think there is any wood in the construction of the house at all. Not even drywall – it’s solid cement, marble or laminate floors.
My husband has sprayed in the house (an American product that says it’s safe for kids and pets and kills bed bugs), paying attention to the places where I’ve been bitten, but I don’t know how effective that will be. We have a maid here and our house is immaculately cleaned and laundered, so cross contamination throughout the house would be minimal. But things like packing everything into ziplock bags is just
not realistic given that I have 3 small kids.
The emotional toll this has is unbelievable, especially when doctors here tell me it isn’t insect bites (because they get a little puss welt sometimes so I’ve even been told I have chicken pox) and no one else is really being affected. And, it’s gorgeous weather here now, and I feel very self-conscious about showing any affected skin – it’s gross! Antihistamenes help a little bit, but it’s nutty to have to be on medication to get rid of this – it’s the bugs, not me!
Thank you so much for your help,
Bedbugged in Qatar
Hi Bedbugged in Qatar,
Sorry you’re dealing with this.
First, have you seen bed bugs? They are very hard to diagnose based on bite appearance alone, and we don’t all get the same reactions. Other conditions like folliculitis and scabies can cause similar marks sometimes. On the other hand, it is very common for only some (or none!) in a household to react to bed bug bites. It is not unusual for one partner to react while the other partner and kids don’t. They may in time, or they may not. Dr. Michael Potter says up to 50% of people do not react to bites. It does not mean they are not being bitten. The bed bugs could also be in their beds or rooms.
Second, the term “bed bug” is a misnomer. They can certainly infest your couch or sofa, or other upholstered chairs. They can even be in cracks and crevices in the concrete structure or in wooden furniture (especially in gaps, where you won’t see them–they love to squeeze into tight spaces and hide). Sofa infestations are often caused when a family member or guest has bed bugs in their clothing or in a bag brought from inside and placed on the sofa. I would personally treat more than just the couch and surrounding area, because you do not know that you and the one child are only being bitten there. Bed bug bites can appear up to 9 days later, though most of us think we get them within a day or so after being bitten. It’s extremely unlikely you feel the bites as they occur, even if you think you do. Therefore, you and the child may also be bitten in bed or other locations. And the husband and other kids can also be bitten anywhere in the home and not react.
You said, “We have a maid here and our house is immaculately cleaned and laundered, so cross contamination throughout the house would be minimal.” Actually, I would not assume this was so. A maid going from room to room cleaning could certainly carry and spread bed bugs around. They can be sucked into a vacuum and crawl out in another room, hide in a rag being carried from one place to the next, and so on. They could even be in your maid’s pocket or cuff and go from your home to hers (or the other way around). I don’t want to single out the maid, though. Any family member could also port bed bugs from place to place in clothing or in a book or bag or other item.
In a stand-alone home, the bed bugs either were there before you moved in (if you moved in the last few months, this is possible–and you may have been bitten for even a few months before reacting to bites) or were brought in. They could have been brought in via someone who traveled to a hotel or visited others in their homes. But they can also come from everyday “travel” via buses, taxis, trains, planes, or even from the workplace, school, or by purchasing something in a shop or bringing home dry cleaning or laundry. You should read our travel FAQs which include advice on how not to spread bed bugs to others, as well as how to avoid picking them up in future.
Now, assuming you have bed bugs, you are right: it’s the bugs, not you, that is the problem. You have to get rid of them, so let’s consider your treatment options. We’re often told that one factor in the resurgence of bed bugs in North America is the abandonment of routine baseboard spraying for roaches (which are often now dealt with via gels rather than sprays). So it is possible that the chemical that’s being sprayed might help against bed bugs, but it might need to be used in a different way. I would suggest you try to find out what they use (the chemical’s name), and one of the professionals here might be able to comment on it.
I am not sure what your “American product that says it’s safe for kids and pets and kills bedbugs” is. If you give us information on that (product name) it may help. It is probably not a pesticide with a residual that keeps killing, but might be a mechanical killer (a dust containing diatomaceous earth, DE, which kills bed bugs that walk through it) or a contact kill spray (which only kills bed bugs you spray directly). Many professionals in the US will use some combination of the three. Used alone, of the three, the third (contact kill spray) is seriously unlikely to solve your problem, because you are not going to be able to find and spray directly anything but a small fraction of your bed bugs.
I know you are concerned about safety, as all of us are, but the best thing, truly, is to get someone in there who has real pesticides and knows how to use them safely. That includes knowing what to use, and where, and also how long to tell you to stay away. They need to understand that you have kids (and pets, if you do). The good news is that many countries outside the US have pesticides available which may be more effective against bed bugs than what is legal here. I value safety, and my understanding is that many substances banned here would be safe if used properly. As much as you may want to avoid pesticides, it is also worth noting that if you don’t treat properly now, the bed bugs may spread and multiply to the point that many more pesticides must be used to eliminate them. Before you ask, moving is generally not a solution.
Since you live in a city, I would assume that someone there–some kind of professional– knows how to get rid of bed bugs. It may take some asking around. (Remember that locals and expats who could afford treatment probably would not expect to have to put up with bed bugs). But you really do need help with this. And maybe not just from the person who sprays outside for roaches, unless you confirm they know about bed bugs and how to treat for them. Trying to fight this on your own with a contact killer will be impossible, and even self-treating with a dust will likely take longer than a method which incorporates pesticide sprays with residuals. Someone there knows what to do, and it’s a matter of finding them.
As far as washing and bagging stuff goes, it may be less crucial if you have a newer infestation (though the longer you live with bed bugs, the more they will spread). If they are in your sofa, they can be picked up in the clothing of those sitting there. Washing and bagging all clothing, linens besides bedclothes, etc. is not always necessary, from what PCOs tell me. If you really are resistant to washing and bagging, I would start getting real bed bug treatment of some kind, and go from there. It’s possible that will be enough, though follow-up treatments may be necessary. And in the meantime, you can declutter and bag washing done in the interim.
If you find out what is being used as a spray, some of the professionals here or on thebedbugresource.com are likely to be able to tell you more about it and its use.
I hope this helps. Let us know if you have questions and definitely let us know how it goes.
Bedbuggers and professionals: got anything to add or correct?