Got Bed Bugs? Bedbugger Forums » Psychological and Health problems caused by bed bugs (besides bites)
depression, anxiety, severe possibly life-threatening reactions(12 posts)
Ironically, I'm a scientist that received my doctoral training in insect immunology. I am really interested in how insects can serve as vectors of disease and how we might be able to use the insect immune response to help fight disease. My point in mentioning all of this is because when it comes to bed bugs, I already knew the seriousness of the issue and the details of the life cycle. Many times I'm a rational thinker, but this thing has me at my wits end. I don't really know why I'm posting. I guess it's because I need to hear something positive from people who can relate to this situation, and I'm scared because my negative thoughts are getting a little dangerous.
Three years ago I moved to North Carolina and discovered that I have fibromyalgia. In California, the weather is constant and I didn't present with the symptoms. Associated with this disease are anxiety and insomnia, both of which have affected me greatly in the past three years. I didn't even know what anxiety was, and while I had some problems with sleep, it was nothing like this. I went over a year getting less than 1 hour of sleep a night.
I was just starting to make a little progress in terms of getting more than 2 hours of sleep a night when after a long drawn out process, my boyfriend moved back in with me. He had all these bites, but we thought they were mosquito bites. I suggested bed bugs, and asked him to look for fecal matter, debris, etc. He didn't find any. I wanted to stress how bad a bed bug infection can be, but he convinced me that I was overreacting and being paranoid.
He was wrong.
It's been less than two weeks, and I have been bitten over100 times. I am severely allergic to most insects, and this is no exception. I've had to use my eppi pen and get steroid injections (an immunosuppressant with many, many side effects.) To give you any idea, even on steroids, my whole arm will swell up and it's not only itching, but burning and tingling. I know that this is a serious and dangerous reaction, but I can't keep using my eppi pen or staying on steroids.
The bed bugs came with my boyfriends furniture and laundry and are now occupying the second floor of my apartment. I had a dog come over and it only alerted to the two rooms upstairs. The guy was very impressed that I suspected bed bugs and called so quickly. He told me that he was confident that I could probably get rid of the infestation in one or two treatments. I had the exterminator come out to give an estimate, and he said the same thing. He told me that in reality, with my scientific and biological knowledge of containment, I was doing all the right things (killing the bed bugs with heat, securing in plastic bags, and leaving them downstairs). I've been sleeping on the couch the last two nights because the dog did not alert to any of the first floor.
The strange thing about my bite reactions is that they occur 24-48 hours later. I'll see a small red spot (or string of spots), 12 hours later it will be itchy, and 24 hours later it'll swell to 5-6 inches in diameter. 48 hours later it's a bit smaller but still very inflamed. I have some blood vessels bursting in the area because of the edema.
I mention all of this because I can't figure out when or where the bed bugs are biting me. I've been trying to stay positive, power through all this cleaning, and wait until Monday when the exterminator comes. But today I got a string of bed bug bites along my back and a few between my toes. I'm panicking because I think we may have gotten a few bed bugs downstairs, and that means there will not be a place for me to sleep safely in my own home. I know that if you change sleeping locations, you risk forcing the bed bugs to move to a new location and infesting that. My boyfriend still wants to sleep in the bed though, so by all rights they should be staying upstairs and feeding on him. My current round of bites suggest otherwise.
If anyone out there has severe reactions like me and has managed to get through this, I'd be really comforted to hear your input. I know that the anxiety and depression that I'm feeling is out of proportion to the problem, but it doesn't stop me from feeling any more terrified or trapped. If I could just move to a new apartment, I would, but I *know* that won't solve the problem. For other reasons, my doctors have been wanting me to take medical leave (my boss won't let me), and now I don't even have a place where I can feel safe, recover, and sleep.
Thanks for reading a long vent. I hope that at some point I can post a success story too. Right now it all feels insurmountable though.
I feel for you. I'm going through a similar experience right now. I;m 95% sure I have bedbugs, but a part of brain is still in denial due to the additional anxiety this is causing and the fact that so far I have not seen any.
In my case, I think I might be getting a delayed reaction to the bites, as I start seeing them and feeling the tingling sensation when I'm no longer in bed.
It's hard to say.
How old are you? I know about fibromyalgia but your insomnia might be due to something else. In fact, no need to respond here. Insomnia is a big feature of menopause. FWIW.
nycyn, not sure how inquiring about the OP's age does anything to advance the narrative or offer her the support that she has asked for.
Anaphylactic, I understand how dealing with these issues can throw our lives into a tailspin. I'm not an entomologist, in fact, I've always had some anxiety about bugs. At least you have the scientific training to analyze the evidence presented in a bedbug infestation. FWIW, that does minimize your learning curve compared to most of us here.
I can tell you that after obtaining advanced scientific degrees and launching and building successful companies, I always had the idea that because of my proficiency handling difficult tasks, that there was nothing in life I couldn't handle.
I'm currently reevaluating that sentiment.
Dealing with this infestation has seriously disrupted my life. My work productivity has suffered, my emotional availability to my loved ones has suffered. My highly analytical and somewhat detached methods of working through problems, which has made me a successful businessperson, have failed me here. Feeling like the guinea pig in an experiment designed by the devil has a way of messing with your level of objectivity.
Interestingly, attempting to understand and deal with my infestation by following a scientific approach has been the only way for me to regain a level of control. First, I have spent many hours researching bedbugs (behavior, treatments, reading scientific studies, etc.) and developing a set of best practices. Whenever I get frustrated with all of the precautions (bagging, laundry, inspections, etc.), I remember that what I'm doing is actually mitigating risk. Basically, this is a real life version of analyzing the risk of getting (or not eradicating) bedbugs times the probability that one will get them (p=1, once you have them, of course). The outcome of this basic calculation using the empirical and anecdotal evidence that I have available to me, tells me that this is a risk that I MUST mitigate. As weird as this may sound, removing some of the emotion from the process has allowed me to handle it more effectively. Dunno, perhaps it can work for you.
So far, I have not found a bug, but we did have fecal stains on our pillows (discovered by KQ). We commenced professional treatment (two treatments now by landlord's PCO), and I'm hoping that we are on the road to swift eradication. I'm sleeping on the sofa and my DH is sleeping in the bed, in an effort to draw them out to their deaths. Unfortunately, my reactions are mild and my DH is so pimply (bless his heart) :?, that we don't know if he's still getting bites or not.
My protocol is this: I cover the sofa with white sheets every night before bed and I use a pillow with a white encasement and white pillow cases. Each night before going to sleep (what little I get), I make notes of any presumptive fecal stains and their locations on the pillow. For some reason, they seem to be localized there. Upon awaking during the night and in the morning, I perform the same analysis. Analyzing the deltas is the only way for me to know if the treatments are working. When I'm pretty sure that the infestation in the living room is handled, I'll move back to the bedroom and follow the same process. At least DH is there as the bait for now.
Anaphylatic, I hope that sharing my experiences can help you in some way. Keep fighting. You will succeed. Best of luck to you.
Thank you for your perspective. Similar to you, I am reevaluating my decision to pursue a scientific degree, but that's a discussion for another day.
I'm only 30, so the insomnia is not due to menopause. It's anxiety and fibromyalgia- related and I've been trying to get it treated for 3 years.
The frustrating thing about all of this is that I know what bed bugs should look like. My mattress is completely encased due to dust mite allergies (0.2 micron holes which prevent dust mite fecal matter from getting through which is *much* smaller than bed bugs). My sheets are white, the back of the head board is white, the encasements are white, and I haven't seen a bed bug yet. I know that they're in there because the dog alerted and I'm still getting bites. I could handle an irrational fear of bugs is fine, but this when it's confirmed and I'm having such a strong reaction, I don't know how to regain that sense of control that allows me to live my life normally.
My exterminator came yesterday and sprayed all of the upstairs portion of the house. I asked him, and similar to me, neither of us can find fecal matter, larval casings, adult bed bugs, or any other associated signs. That is part of my frustration. I *know* they're not in the mattress because it's completely encased and there's not even bed bugs on the headboard. So the suckers are crawling all the way from the wall to bite me at night and disappearing.
It's been 24 hours since they treated the top of the apartment (and I suspect they're downstairs because I was bitten even on the couch) and I found one dead bed bug.
I've had to go to the doctor constantly because now I"m experiencing blistering as well from my bites. My allergist has never seen a reaction for it and I've had to go back on steroids.
Work has come down on me as well in all sorts of anticipated ways and I can't get any sleep.
Please, please, anyone out there who is having life-threatening allergic reactions and have managed to get through clearing a bed bug infestation would be much appreciated. Right now I can't see how to get through the months of treatment that this is going to require, manage to keep my job, and prevent anaphylactic shock from continuing to happen. I know that unlike most people, even 1 bed bug in the house is dangerous for me.
Thanks for listening.
I suggested bed bugs, and asked him to look for fecal matter, debris, etc. He didn't find any...and I haven't seen a bed bug yet. I know that they're in there because the dog alerted and I'm still getting bites. I
First, I'm very sorry you're going through both a physical and psychological trauma -- but with perseverance things will get better.
Maybe I missed something, but my understanding is that you haven't found any direct evidence of bed bugs, i.e. bugs, cast skins or fecal matter -- just bites which you probably know can come from any number of insects?
As to the dog alert, we have had a number of threads on this, but the experts here seem to agree that a positive dog alert without a visual verification does not mean you have bed bugs. Just too many false positives.
So what I'm getting at is if it's solely bites and a dog alert, you really should focus energies back on square one which is determining whether or not you actually have bed bugs, or something else which is causing you all this trouble. The experts here seem to agree that if you have bed bugs a good pro will find signs such as live bugs, cast skins or fecal smears.
I think in my panic, sleep-deprivation, and general anxiety, I'm not writing as clearly as I would like.
The dog trainer and the exterminator could not find fecal matter or debris and neither could I. However, because of the nature of my bites, (little clusters), I'm fairly certain that it was the sort of mite or biting insect with a proboscis that didn't have bristles on its legs, so the critter takes a bite, I move in my sleep, and then it latches a slightly different patch of skin.
After extermination yesterday with bedlam, I *did* find a fully developed DEAD adult bed bug, so I know that they're in my home somewhere. I just can't figure out the source of the infestation other than the fact that it's generally upstairs. In my panic to try to limit the infestation, I didn't follow precise containment technique and I'm concerned that there are bed bugs in my couch now.
So a lot of my anxiety is due to the fact that I now have no where safe that I can sleep, and I'm tired of using my epi pen, going to urgent care, and being on steroids. It's the knowledge that even a few bed bugs seem to be attracted to me and then I get a huge reaction. On top of that, my boss isn't understanding at all (what's the big deal? I see the bites, but you just have to hire an exterminator, right?) and keeps piling work on me. I was already supposed to take medical leave this month, but there's no end in sight.
Literally, my only comfort is that I know that my cat cannot be a carrier for bed bugs.
Sorry about that. Given your reactions you might consider one of these until the situation is under control: http://www.slumberjack.com/Product.aspx?ProductID=58
It's very easy to isolate with ClimbUps (or other devices) and since there is no mattress, as long as you throw you sheets and pillows in the dryer you should be as bite free as you can get at night. And for added insurance, it folds up small enough to fit into a Pak Tite unit should you have one. Not at all uncomfortable btw and depending on where you live I might just sell you mine. Contact me via PM if interested.
First, I want to say that I am shocked at your boss's handling of this situation. He/she sounds completely ignorant of bedbugs, and of allergies. It's terrifying that your reaction is so severe that you've had to use your epi-pen. I'm allergic to milk but have never gone into anaphylactic shock. It's so scary.
Is it possible to:
a. Get a letter from your doctor stating the severity of your condition.
b. Print out information from this website or other articles that highlights the difficulties of exterminating bedbugs.
Is your boss so dense that neither of those steps would cause him/her to ease up on you?
I would also like to sympathize with how frustrating it must be that your boyfriend claimed you were overreacting, only for you to be proven correct in such a horrible way. In my experience men often don't take my concerns (about all sorts of things) seriously until I'm proven right, and by then it's too late. It's incredibly frustrating and there's nothing we can do about it except try to be more sure of ourselves and headstrong in the first place.
I only suggest this because your reaction is so severe, but have you considered moving, and taking only treated clothing with you? A near complete fresh start. Your bf could come along, but his furniture goes in the trash. It can take a year to completely rid yourself of an infestation, and if this is an apartment building, they can come back at any time if they've spread to another apartment. You literally can't live like this.
I was bitten one time, when I slept at someone else's apartment for one night. The bites didn't show up until two days later. The delayed reaction is common with bedbug bites. I also had a severe reaction, but nowhere near as bad as yours. My bites became infected. There were some on my eyelid, so my eye swelled shut. The little bites on my arms turned into one huge welt, and some of my fingers were so swollen that I couldn't bend them. When the lymph nodes under my arm pits swelled up I went to the Dr. and was given antibiotics.
I really feel for you. I hope you find a way to sort this out.
I just find it difficult to read through posts of people suffering on such emotional - and physical levels when meanwhile they say there is no 'health risk' and therefore it is not high priority.
I may not have an advanced degree, but I do have a degree in psychology and of course I had to take entry level statistics and such... the probability that you speak of is clearly evident and it is what I am trying to relay to everyone I know. I worry that people truly are writing me off as paranoid and unstable... it is truly a comfort to know that people who are highly educated agree that the preventative measures are a 'must'.
It's true that bed bugs for most people are not nuisance (trust me, an EXTREME nuisance), but not a health risk. Because of the lack of salivary glands and the nature of the proboscis (the thing that pierces your epidermis to suck blood), bed bugs have not been shown to vector diseases. In other words, they can't transmit HIV, dengue fever, malaria, or other parasites or bacteria between humans. That's the reason they are not considered to be a health risk. It's the same way that fleas aren't really a health risk, but ticks and mosquitoes ARE.
Please dont' get me wrong. I'm allergic to fleas as well (and just about anything else that can bite). I understand how much stress this puts on one's life, the anxiety you feel, the hopelessness and frustration, and the crazy amounts of anger that something so simple should alter your life so much.
But I've never had a reaction that is this life-threatening. I went to my allergist yesterday and he was shocked to see the welts and blisters that have now formed on my latest bed bug bites. Just as you can immunize someone, repeated stimulation with an allergen can cause increased sensitivity. I had to go back on prednislone (a immunosuppressant steroid), and I'm hoping that we got rid of the problem. As far as I know, neither my partner or I have gotten new bites sleeping in the bed. They may be in our livingroom, but we're hoping that by using lambda-cyhalthrin we'll be able to kill the fewer number of bugs that we suspect may be present downstairs.
My boss has been completely uncooperative to understanding that this is not just a pest problem, but one that can't simply be eliminated with a single treatment, and that my reactions are severe, unusual, and warrant medical attention. She was mad I didn't write up a end year summary because I was in the ER last night. I need to go through official government channels to initiate a formal medical leave, but with her piling more work on me, multiple doctors appointments, trying to put my life in order, etc, I haven't even had the time.
Honestly, I'm terrified that my "just get it done and you'll be able to slow down at some point" is dangerous to me. I'm prioritizing my job pressures over a biological reaction that I know to be serious. But what do you do when no one really understands, believes you, or empathizes with how difficult it is to get rid or even control these infestations?
I would consider throwing away everything and moving, but emotionally, I can't handle that right now. I just moved out here 3 years ago, i love my home, I finished grad school completely broke, saved up some money, and finally bought a few things. I know they're just things, but these are costumes and designs I've created for various Burning Man events. I've never had a home in my life before, and this is the first place that feels like it. I'm reluctant to leave, guilty to tell my landlord because he is the nicest guy you could ever meet and I don't want him to be stuck with the problem, and frankly, don't have that much money to get rid of it all and start anew. In reality, I know I could cobble something together to afford it, but I know I don't have the emotional energy either.
I'm just hoping that because my bed is completely clean and encased, and now I know to keep it away from the walls, maybe the bed bugs will have no where to go and will die. I know that's irrational, but it's the only thing I can tell myself to get through this moment.
I swear. Every single day for the past 24 hours has been exponentially worse than the previous one. I'm afraid to even go into work today because I can't handle another lashing. I'm also facing legal charges because I took toner cartridges from the recycling bin (you can donate them for credit for local schools), and I work for the government and they claim I stole government property. It was in the recycling bin. I had no idea they didn't consider it trash, and any legal action taken at the government is considered a felony. I know that in reality once they speak with me, we should be able to sort it out. I'm trying my hardest to take things one step at a time. But it's so difficult right now and feels so overwhelming.
I really appreciate your responses. It helps to know that someone is listening that can understand my point of view just a little bit.
1. It sucks that you're boss is giving you so little support on this issue. It's little comfort, I'm sure, but it sounds to me like his cavalier "just hire a pest control firm" attitude is the result of his privilege as a (likely temporarily) able-bodied person and his own denial mechanism. Let's face it, bed bugs are a hard to treat pest, and a lot of people--even rational ones--respond to the horror by minimizing how horrific it is lest they have to think through how much it would suck for them. Whatever the reason, it sucks that you're having to deal with it. It sucks a lot.
2. I know you don't want to cause a burden on the landlord, but talking to him might be a good option. There is the possibility that if your apartment is at all attached to others that the bugs are in the walls between units and/or in an adjacent unit. If that's the case, then those units will need to be treated. Often when we can't find the hiding place of the bugs, it's because they are migrating from an adjacent unit. Especially given the severity of your response, I would think that ruling that out would be really important.
3. Insomnia and bed bugs is a bad mix. I know; I have insomnia. I can usually manage it just fine, but feeling like the bed is a place of attack does not help matters. It took me a long time to get past that point and resume normal for me sleeping, so you definitely have my sympathies on that front.
4. I also wanted to say that I get how much it sucks to be on those meds. I've seen the effects of steroids, and while the drugs are often necessary, that doesn't mean they're easy.
All of which is just a long way of saying that I'm hearing your frustration. You're right that you're in a tough spot. You're doing everything you can to take care of you, and eventually it's going to pay off. Hang in there in the meantime.
You must log in to post.