A letter from a reader in Canada. Krystelle writes,
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?