Letter from a reader: 4 months after exposure and two treatments, bites persist

by nobugsonme on June 5, 2008 · 21 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs and travel, canada

A letter from a reader in Canada. Krystelle writes,

Hi,

I have a number of questions for you. Brief background is this, on my way back from Australia to Canada in Feb 2008, I stopped in Bangkok for two nights. Around 5 pm both days, I noticed a massive amount of bites on my arms and upper legs. I assumed they were mosquito bites, but when I got back to Canada in February, the bites continued (but I was getting fewer: between 2-4 day). I went to a doctor who told me she was sure that I had bed bugs. I went back to the friends house, tore everything apart and found what I thought were two bed bugs. I contacted a PCO, who looked at the samples, and agreed. He did two treatments, and I still was getting bites. The friend who I was staying with has not received any bites and the person who has moved into my room has not had any problems (about 2 months ago).

Before moving to my sister’s place, I took all precautions – washing and drying all clothing, coats, shoes, handbags and placing them in large ziplock bags. My luggage was vacuumed and anything I wasn’t sure how to clean (electronic picture frames, books) has been sealed and stored. I am still getting bites, and am at a complete loss as to how I could be bringing them with me. I also have had to stay out of town a few times, each time I follow the above procedure, and still get bites no matter where I go. No one else has had them, even people who have slept right next to my luggage for more than a week. For almost all my bites, they do not show up until late afternoon, evening. As far as I can recall I have never woken up with new bites, they don’t appear until later. Since finding the initial bugs, I have not been able to find any bugs, eggs or casts.

It is quite common for bites received during the night to appear in late afternoon (or at any other time during the day). Many people notice them first after showering (there’s a theory that the heat “brings them out”). Not finding bed bugs, eggs, or cast skins is not unusual, but I would expect signs of some kind, especially after four months. Have there been any fecal stains?

So my questions are:

Is there anything you can think of that I might be doing to transmit the bugs with me?

Sure: what about that luggage? You vacuumed it, but they could still be in there. Is it still around?

Do you have a workplace you could have infested? A car? Any other locations they may have spread?

I am not sure where you are in Canada, but it’s worth noting that this is a widespread problem, all over your country. It is not unthinkable that someone there might have bed bugs and you’re being exposed to them without even having brought them in.

I have a laptop which has never been in any of my bedrooms – when I move I vacuum the case but how do I clean the actually laptop?

This is not an easy question to answer. Others may have recommendations, but it is hard to do anything without potentially damaging the electronic item.

You need a Pest Control Operator who knows bed bugs to will treat your home (or wherever you’re laying your hat) thoroughly, not just twice, but until bed bugs and bed bug bites are long gone. The FAQS on Pest Control will be of some help. One describes how intrepid Bedbuggers have found samples of bed bugs. Another suggests questions to ask a potential PCO.

Get the PCO to advise you on the laptop. Bed bugs will not live in there indefinitely. If they are in the laptop, they will come out to bite you. Having the PCO make sure there’s a pesticide between you and the laptop might be a good bet. (That way, they come out to feed, cross poison, and die.) I advise against self-treatment both for issues of safety and effectiveness.

But remember that electronics are not always infested. And my money’s on your luggage.

Is it possible for previous bites to keep coming back? My bites always seem to be located in the same spots, and are almost always under my clothing.

Are they in the same spots, or are they the same bites?

Some people believe bites can sometimes kind of hang around and keep flaring up. I have never heard anyone claiming this was happening in the same spots for four months.

I think it is more likely that you are being bitten and that they favor certain areas of your body. (Under clothing? Sure. The idea they don’t go there is a myth.)

Are you aware of anything else that could be causing these? My friends think that I am paranoid but my bites are quite specific and do not look at all like a stress rash.

Sorry for the long email, I appreciate any help you can give me.

Sorry for your trouble, Krystelle.

Actually, lots of things can cause similar problems. Scabies should be ruled out (though it is unlikely in your case–I would expect it to get worse and worse over four months, and spread around the body). Folliculitis has been the cause of at least one Bedbugger’s scare. See a doctor to rule it out.

Try not to itch. If a bite reaction is “coming back” then leaving it alone to heal might help. Again, I don’t think this is the case.

Doctors can’t diagnose bed bug bites definitively. However, I understand that they can verify in some cases whether an insect caused an apparent bite. You might follow up on that.

Good luck– please do not give up. If your PCO was treating a known infestation, s/he should not have stopped after two visits if the bed bugs and bed bug bites had not abated fully. We hear the average treatment takes 3 or more visits spaced two weeks apart.

Finally, readers, I am answering Krystelle’s letter here and not via email precisely so that you can weigh in with your wisdom. That’s your cue! What do you have to say to Krystelle?

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1 Doug Summers MS June 5, 2008 at 7:22 pm

You might try using a digital camera to keep track of the bite marks.

A Bed Bug Dog assisted inspection might be a good choice to confirm or rule out bed bugs. Obviously, an experienced PCO will be an invaluable asset.

Are you being bitten under your night clothes rather than on exposed areas of skin?

Did you save the bed bug specimens that your PCO identified? Sending the specimens out for a second opinion might be helpful?

Consider treating or tossing your suitcase. Hard sided luggage with good weather seals is a good choice for travel.

Keep an open mind about other biting pests. There are aspects of your narrative that remind me of posts that I have seen on the Morgellons disease website.

I would start with trying to confirm the presence of bed bugs at your sister’s residence.

2 fightorflight June 5, 2008 at 11:40 pm

> Some people believe bites can sometimes kind of hang around and keep flaring up. I have never heard anyone claiming this was happening in the same spots for four months.

Actually, I claim this phenomenon, more than 4 months later.

This is in *no way* meant to contradict the more informed opinions of others here that you probably still have bedbugs.

I just want to point out that – due to peculiarities of my skin? or reactive mechanisms? sudden exposures to sunlight and exercise? what? – I STILL get flare-ups from old bites in the exact same places the original bites were, now more than 6 months down the road. To try and be clear about this, what I mean is that, a patch of skin will look relatively clear (lots of freckles and other gunk) and then a day later one, or two or three, little red raised bumps will show up right where the original bites were. I know now that these are old bites flaring up (even though they still freak me out a little), but when this first starting happening months ago, it really messed me up.

Anyway, good luck Krystelle. You can beat them.

3 Cody June 6, 2008 at 12:54 am

I’m surprised you said that bed bugs are particularly bad all over the country. At this stage it seems like they’re all over the world. Are there any areas not affected? Antarctica maybe?

4 nobugsonme June 6, 2008 at 1:00 am

Yes– bed bugs are widespread everywhere there are people. My point for Krystelle was that it is entirely possible to encounter domestic bed bugs as to have brought them home with her from exotic destinations. We still hear, from people all over the world, that “no one has bed bugs where they are.” It’s generally not accurate.

This is where our readers have come from in the last three days.

An archived map of the previous 12 months suggests we have readers where there are people on the internet who can read English. And more readers where more people are on the internet who can read English.

5 Cody June 6, 2008 at 1:29 am

Holy moly.

6 cantbelieveit June 11, 2008 at 9:15 pm

I know we tend to become paranoid and delusional, but I really suspect that a bug or two has hidden in my hair and crept out to do face and neck bites when I’m traveling. From everything I’ve read, shampoo would not necessarily kill or remove them.

And those old bites that flare up. Has anyone talked to a doctor about how to get rid of those bite traces that remain after months? Some anti-scar substance?

7 nobugsonme June 12, 2008 at 9:19 am

cantbelieveit,

If the problem is bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) then washing thoroughly in a normal shower with soap or shampoo, and putting on clean clothes (which have been washed and dried on hot and stored securely in a sealed bag) should certainly remove them.

At least one person has gotten help from a doctor with scarring once bed bugs are gone, however, I hope you are getting good professional help to deal with the bed bug problem.

8 Buda-BedBugs June 13, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I had recently been getting several bites every couple of nights, nasty red swelling & itchy the following day. I have a stick of witch-hazel (made by witch-stick i think) its amazing at soothing the itch. Try not to scratch too much when you discover the bites, & rub lots of the witch hazel in… then very little scarring. Also dont let the sun get onto any of the bites. The skin stretches & gets more of a tan when the bite-site is swollen.. then when the swelling goes away – you have a darker brown spot on your skin. I have just realised this week that my bites were not mosquitos as I felt one bedbug tickling on the back of my head, found it (and squished it in the process) & just found a second one scuttling across my pillow nearly an hour ago,, he has also been “taken care of” hence I’m up researching how to “nuke” the buggers… no sleep for me tonight. I have already wrapped the legs of my bed in double sided sticky tape – moved the bed away from the wall, & will give a good vacuum in the morning.. am thinking about dismantling my bed to look for them – any more advice?

9 nobugsonme June 15, 2008 at 12:03 am

I would strongly encourage you to get a professional to treat your home for bed bugs. You will not be able to kill all the bed bugs (probably not even most of them) manually. They are designed to hide well.

They are probably hiding in the mattress and bed frame but also in the room itself and other furniture (chairs, sofas, dressers, desks, and so on).

If you want to discuss this further, please click the “forums” button above and post in our forums where you will get more responses.

10 Nathan July 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

fightorflight,
if you read this, please send me an email at nay3k@hotmail.com, I would like to discuss a similar situation.

11 nobugsonme July 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Nathan,

fightorflight participates in the forum, and others there may also have similar experiences to you.

I suggest you post a message there, and consider PMing fightorflight (PM = Private Message system in the forums):

http://bedbugger.com/forum/

12 fran September 3, 2008 at 4:21 pm

infestion of bed bugs from Sleepy’s mattress and box springs, of course they are denying that infestion was from their merchandise. Any suggestions. House has been fumigation and have been told that bed bugs were liimited to the mattress and box spring

13 nobugsonme September 4, 2008 at 2:13 am

fran,

Please post your message in the forums:

http://bedbugger.com/forum/

You will get more responses there.

14 FreeAtLast June 27, 2009 at 6:19 am

Once I realized we had this horrid nightmare problem, I became an AVID researcher. I was dismayed not to find more “this is how I got rid of them” posts. Well, I got rid of them and I am going to add my experience for what it’s worth.

First, we cleaned, removed ALL carpeting, treated with Bayer SC and IGR and the DE clay/dust. Don’t waste your time or money on the DE. It does NOT work and is a health hazzard, despite what they say. Also, Delta Dust has limited effectiveness. We threw away the bed frame, removed all of the books to air tight containers. Vacuumed every other day and then sealed with wood putty and caulk. Why wood putty, you may wonder—well, our home has wood floors and ceilings with millions of places for the insects from hades to hide. We also ACTIVELY sought and found and destroyed them, one by one. The interesting place they were hidden was under torchiere floor lamps, so all of those were thrown out. By the by, you must KILL them when you find them, not simply throw out the infested item. THEY CAN COME BACK INTO YOUR HOME IF YOU SIMPLY THROW OUT INFESTED ITEMS.

Now, the delightful thing to note is that, after all of that, I WAS STILL GETTING BITTEN.

Obviously, modern techniques do not work.

I began to research more folk and 19th century exterminators techniques. What finally worked was KEROSENE as a carrier for the Bayer SC. Please do not ninny and whine that it’s flammable….yes, it is. That is why one must either possess sufficient intelligence to use this liquid with care or avoid using it altogether. Water is now used as a carrier for insecticides. In the 19th century and in India to this day it is kerosene.

15 FreeAtLast June 27, 2009 at 6:28 am

Also, the notion that cleanliness has nothing to do with bed bugs is a bit over-stated. I understand the temptation to want to “soften the blow” to those who are infested. It is the most filthy, degrading feeling in the world to not be able to sleep without being used as food for these vermin–why let anyone feel worse than they already do, i.e. guilty about how this infestation is somehow their fault? However, I think it is more kind to help them get rid of them than to pat them on the head. Therefore, I would refine the notion to state that cleanliness has nothing to do with getting a bed bug infestation but has EVERYTHING to do with getting rid of one [versus not].

16 FreeAtLast June 27, 2009 at 6:31 am

I forgot to mention that we also daily laundered every piece of cloth and clothing in the home in scalding hot water with borax and dried them in a hellishly hot dryer. Also, the infestation lasted for 2 hellish months, which, from what I have read, is a short time, relatively to most.

17 Still being bitten May 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

We have lived in the same house since 1997. Last October 2009 I started getting welts on my wrists, ankles & hands. Come to find out, my mattress was infested with bedbugs. So was my daughters. Since our bedding was old anyway, I threw out both our beds and bought new stuff. I cleaned & vacuumed many times. Now, it’s May 2010 and I’m starting to get bit again. I’ve seen a couple of live bugs in the middle of the night on my bed. However, I have searched high, low, near & far and can’t find any sign of bedbugs anyplace! How am I supposed to get rid of something I can’t find??

18 ann schultz May 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

have you had an inspection from a pest control company?

19 nobugsonme May 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

Still being bitten,

ann’s advice is good.

You may find additional advice on how to detect if you currently have bed bugs in our detection FAQ.

Please come to the forums if you want more feedback. You will probably get more responses more quickly.

20 Ursa June 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I moved into my apartment March 20, 2010 I hadn’t moved my bed yet and had made a nice pallet on the floor. Almost immediately I started noticing red bumbs and I started itching terribly. I told my landlord, she said I was exaggerating. This continued, some days worse than others. I thought they were mouse mites and called the health department. Sure enough the exterminator diagnosed bedbugs. I was livid with my landlord. Anyway he is coming with the first treatment Saturday. I don’t have very much furniture in this place since I was having so much trouble since I moved there, I wasn’t sure I would stay.

Anyway, from what I understand it could take a couple of months for this treatment to take effect. The landlord has had this problems for years of and on from my understanding. I really think she needs to be sued. Not only does she have bedbugs, she has a rodent problem that the exterminator is taking care of (I am itching right now terribly). I have decided to move what precautions should I take before I move my stuff? Also do you think you can sue a landlord for this problem. I allready have scarring. Thanks for your help.

21 nobugsonme June 1, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Ursa,

Please repost your comment on the Bedbugger Forums, where you will have many more responses. Few people read the comments on old posts.

The best way to escape one home for another, without taking bed bugs, seems to be to have your moving truck treated with Vikane gas, or thermal heat. Books, furniture, most household items (but not all) can be debugged in this way. In the forums, we can help you locate this in your area. If you’re on a budget and have only smaller items, a Packtite might be a good substitute.

You may well have grounds for a lawsuit. I am not a lawyer, and you’d need to contact one about your options. We do have a page which collects many articles about bed bug lawsuits, and it may be of interest. (See the last FAQ listed on this page.)

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