How to be a good friend to someone with bed bugs(9 posts)
Hi, I have a dilemma. I have a friend through church, "Tracy," who has had bedbugs in her apartment for about a year now. This friend is quite poor and someone I help out on a regular basis. I give her a ride to church every Sunday and give her rides to appointments sometimes. She is also having a baby within the next few weeks and will need help with her newborn.
I found out she had bedbugs last summer when she asked me if I knew how to get rid of them. I had just read an article in the NYTimes about them, so I knew they were very easily spread and difficult to get rid of without professional help. I directed her to talk to her landlord about it, which she has avoided because of fear of eviction (although I'm guessing this problem is not limited to her apartment). She has talked to the apartment pest control people about spraying for bed bugs (they spray for roaches regularly), but she says the pest control person said he couldn't help her with the problem. Since finding out about her problem a year ago, I have been extremely paranoid about getting bedbugs from her. I have come home from her apartment at times and put my clothes straight into the dryer. I also try to sit only on hard chairs while I'm in her apartment (her husband's homeless/impoverished friends frequently move in and out and sleep on the couches), and, if possible, we sit outside the complex to talk instead of inside. My husband told me I was being too paranoid, but I've recently found out that some other people who once visited her nearly every day now have a bedbug problem, and I'm guessing they picked up the bedbugs from her. Tracy is distressed (and probably embarrassed) about her bedbug problem, but, like I said, she is very poor and doesn't have the capacity to get rid of them on her own.
Since Tracy is having a baby this month and she and her baby will not both fit in my car with my family, I won't be giving her a ride to church and other places for much longer. However, she will likely need help with her baby (she will probably find a ride with someone who has more room in their car), and she may even ask me or other people at church to babysit periodically. I would really like to decline babysitting because of my fear of getting bedbugs, but I fear that that is too shallow of a reason to refuse to help someone -- especially someone in her situation. Part of me also feels like I should warn people at church about her bedbug problem so they can take precautions if they choose to spend time in her apartment or give her a ride, but another part of me feels like it's none of my business and could keep her from getting the help she needs. What do you think?
Also, how worried should I be about my car? I understand that bedbugs usually hide away during the day, and we have afternoon church. The ride to church is about 20 minutes and she sits in the back seat next to my daughter, who is in a car seat. Would the hot summer sun kill any bugs in the car? I have not noticed any bedbug problems on my daughter or in our home, by the way. Thank you for your thoughts.
oh...oh...i'd be worried alright...
Since a church is involved..this is perfect...talk to the pastor tell him/her that you would like to give a little talk after service about something that is affecting the community and church members. Tell your friend you'll give such a talk and don't divulge her name. Just encourage everything who has bugs to do everything not to spead them. You can print out some informational pages about it and have them as hand outs.
You have a duty to keep yourself safe and healthy so that you can take care of your family.
I don't think you have a duty to sacrificed your own health and safety for someone else, especiallly if they continuously put themselves in harm's way by having homeless people sleep on their sofa... It's nice to help people, but if she's going to run a shelter for the homeless -- even informally -- she should take every precaution and treatment. Your friend needs to think about her little newborn that's on the way. Nobody wants to see that child covered with bites and scarred before they even get a chance to grow. To me, it sounds like child neglect to bring a newborn into that situation without first doing all she can do to rid the place of infestation and people bringing more bugs...
Why can't apartment pest control help her with the problem? Is it an authority by the landlord issue? If so, can the church help in approaching the landlord about dealing with this in his building? Or help find her another place (but there is the issue of the husband's friends) and take the right steps in not bringing them with. If the landlord gets cute with her, she could put in a complaint to the health department. He has no right to evict her for a pest control issue. That poor baby, being brought into the world to get eaten alive every night! This is sad. It's a sensitive subject, but there has to be something done and soon as the problem is going to get way out of control. They have got to stop having company on their sofa. I have to agree with what Deedle said. It's nice to help people but not if it's standing in the way of a health and safety issue. What if that baby has bad reactions to the bites and ends up in hospital? It's terrible when babies and children are involved. They don't really understand.
Jenn28, I'm assuming the pest control person is not trained in bedbug extermination and/or isn't authorized to do it unless the landlord gives the okay. I will talk to someone at church about getting her some help with approaching her landlord. The problem is it isn't technically her apartment... she and her husband are living with his mother. His mother is petrified of getting evicted. These are pretty slummy apartments, so I don't know how much the landlord would do. I feel really bad for her, though, because she expressed concern to me a few days ago about the bedbugs biting the baby. And about the "homeless people," I guess I should've been more specific... basically, Tracy is very young and so is her husband (think 19/20 years old). They have friends who are also very young and sometimes lose their job/get kicked out of their houses (deadbeats), and they have been known to let those friends stay over until they can get on their feet. I would hope this practice will stop once the baby is born and their desire for privacy is heightened, but who knows?
and not only bugs are the problem. You just can not have strange people (especially men) around a baby in this day and age.
Your friend is at risk of giving you bedbugs unless she is taking a lot of precautions. And you can read here about precautions you could be taking around visiting her.
Do what you can to help your friend get over her embarrassment. If she learns about bedbugs, it will help her.
The idea of getting the church to help is a good one. She's terribly vulnerable right now with an unemployed spouse and a baby on the way. His mom needs help too.
They need bedbug treatment from a professional, and then they will need a good clothes dryer, a good vacuum cleaner and a steamer if possible.
If this doesn't get stopped, it will keep spreading and soon your whole congregation and the church will be infested.
You need to be the most important person in this situation. If you stay involved with this friend and she's in your car or home, you are at risk. Way too many people need to change their behavior in order for you to be safe with her.
BB prefer to come out when it's dark and still, but will come out other times if hungry or disturbed.
You can visit her home if you take the utmost precautions to not bring the bugs to your home or car. Ditto your church. Assume others in your community have BB and that there are some to be found in church (or anywhere you go). But, you can control your behavior and take personal precautions. But you'll have a hard time getting everyone to take appropriate precautions before entering your home or your car.
You can anonymously call the State Board of Health and they will legally go and inspect the entire building. If the landlord does not exterminate then the State will take over and foot the bill to the landlord. At least that is the way it is in my State. No names need to be devulged.
I am disgusted by people's posts about the friends this woman allows to stay with her. Having been homeless before (and a shelter is where I got bedbugs), I have to say it is morally unethical to speculate as to the caliber of people that for one reason or another, especially at 19, find themselves in need of a friend to stay with.
That said, I wouldn't help her babysit. I have a friend with a horrible infestation who has a newborn and I won't step into that place (especially with a newborn you will be holding someone whose clothes may be infested). You don't want these. It would be masochistic. Yes, call the health department. A baby could become anemic very quickly.
good luck to your friend-
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