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How to deal with bed bug paranoia?

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  1. paranoidinnyc

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    Posted 10 years ago
    Mon Mar 9 2009 10:18:37
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    Hi everyone,

    I had bed bugs last year in my studio apartment -- I caught them very early on, tossed out my mattress with a huge sign on it that said "BEDBUGS" (I know, you're not supposed to do that, but I panicked), organized my things and washed all my clothes and etc etc...anyway, this was in the winter of 2007 and I haven't had issues since then (knock on wood, of course).

    Here's my issue I do have; it's a mental one -- I recently moved from this studio to a house (no issues so far, knock on wood again!), and I have a friend coming to visit me in my house next month. She doesn't live in NYC, but she recently stayed with another friend who has a bed bug infestation. The friend with the infestation has been dealing with it for about a year, and has been treating it much more responsibly than I did -- she's wrapped her mattress, has had repeated exterminations, and so on -- but she still is seeing occasional bugs and her roommate has had a few bites recently. So it's an ongoing crisis for her.

    The visitor to my house is aware, I think, of the ongoing problems that my other friend is having with the bugs. As far as I know, she hasn't picked up the bugs and brought them to where she lives after staying in my friend's apartment. But I am still paranoid that there is a chance she picked up the bugs from my friend's infested apartment without knowing it, and that she may have them in her luggage or just be tracking them unaware of the issue (since bedbugs are excellent hiders and travelers). And thus when she sleeps in my house she'll bring them here.

    I am so petrified of getting the bugs again, because they are awful in so many ways -- I've gotten off relatively easy so far since I haven't seen a recurrence but I'm very much aware it could happen again. Still, having the bugs, even for a brief period of time, really messed with my mind -- I have this neurosis now where I cannot talk about them to anyone, not even my family (they just think I'm paranoid and crazy). But what I'm afraid of it this -- if the bugs come to my new house, I don't know what I'll do -- I cannot have them in the house, houses are so much more expensive to treat and it'll just be horrible in every single way.

    Am I overreacting? Is the chance that this friend picked up the bugs from my friend with the infested apartment slim-to-none? How do I broach the subject with either friend without offending them?

    Thank you for this forum.

  2. MyWorstFear

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    Posted 10 years ago
    Mon Mar 9 2009 12:26:35
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    Hi Paranoid,
    Wow! I so understand how you must feel because since my brief encounter with them, I am left paranoid too. I don't know if there's a way to broach the subject with either friend without alienating them/offending them, but it's YOUR house and YOUR life, so you have to do whatever makes you feel comfortable. There's the honesty route where you tell both friends that you just can't go through "it" again, and you cancel the visit...or the white lie route where you come up with some reason other than bed bugs that your friend can't stay with you. What amazes me is that your friend stayed in the other person's apartment while they were still seeing bugs and still being bitten. Didn't the one with the bed bugs tell the person before she stayed there?

  3. bitten123

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    Posted 10 years ago
    Mon Mar 9 2009 13:00:32
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    I would take great caution, because your friend (I'll call her friend A) has been visiting friend B, who has bed bugs. It is likely that Friend A has indeed picked up something even if she does not realize it. I would make sure everything she brings in is freshly clean and out of a bag. Have you talked to her about how she kept her belongings clear at Friend B's? Did she ziplock her clothes, thoroughly shower back at her own place and have all dirty clothes in another ziplock to run through wash? Just the precautions she took visiting friend B should give you a real heads up if it is safe. If you see she is not very thorough, I think you might make sure she knows the routine of safely transporting clean clothes in ziplocks, etc before she arrives at your house. Given how long these guys live, she could have a hitchhiker to deposit at your house. You are not paranoid, you are cautious...big difference.

  4. aballen

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    Posted 10 years ago
    Mon Mar 9 2009 16:36:04
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    I share your concerns exactly and feel that I too am paranoid. But maybe that is not the correct word, it is a healthy appreciation for the resiliency of these creatures and an overwhelming need to protect ourselves from going through the infestation again. My husband and I have had this exact concern and conversation, evgen right down to almost cancelling Christmas before we analyzed all of our family members and decided there was no known risk. You, however, have a KNOWN risk. I would never allow anyone in my home if I knew they had any contact with BB. That included people who travel on high risk public transportation or live in apartments. I pretect my office the same way, which is reallllly hard to do as I work with the public. You are being totally rational to be concerned and should not expose youself again.

  5. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 10 years ago
    Mon Mar 9 2009 23:18:39
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    The travel FAQS have a section on how not to spread bed bugs to others when you travel. I would have an honest chat with your friend, asking her to take the listed precautions, just in case she has been exposed and does not know yet.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  6. ohbugger

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    Posted 10 years ago
    Tue Mar 10 2009 10:09:36
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    I believe that paranoia is a fear that is unfounded in reality. In your case, there is a realistic basis for the fear - ie - that your friend has recently stayed with someone you know has bedbugs. My opinion (as someone who is going through this as well) is to not let someone you KNOW has had exposure to bb's stay in your apt. It would be different (and yes, paranoid) if you had no reason to believe this person had been exposed to them. But you know he/she has. For that reason, your health and sanity are your primary concern here and your friend should understand that. I think honesty is the best bet here - especially if your friend knows what you've gone through. If he/she is a good enough friend, he/she should understand.

  7. buggyinsocal

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    Posted 10 years ago
    Tue Mar 10 2009 10:26:09
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    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean the bed bugs aren't out to get you.

    And I feel like a tool trying to give advice on dealing with paranoia, since I slept like crap last night because I just came back from the hotel that I think might have been the source of infestation last time and brought the last items that were outside the house during my thermal treatment in a few weeks ago. Having spent the weekend at what is, in my mind, ground central, and coming back to my place for the first time since the DVDs moved back in, I am right back in paranoid central myself.

    So I get the paranoia. I get the desire to take precautions so as to avoid this hell all over again.

    And I do think that being wary with someone who might have been exposed also makes sense.

    Esp. since so many people who haven't fought bed bugs don't understand how expensive and tough to get rid of these bugs can be.

    But I think the trick to talking to this visitor is in how you phrase things and what your tone is when you approach her or him.

    Remember to focus on I statements instead of you statements: (I went through a battle with bed bugs and don't want to again. I am afraid of any of my visitors picking up a hitch hiker and not knowing it. I have first hand experience with how awful they are. = good You have to do this before you come visit. You don't know how awful they are. You have been exposed. = bad) You statements feel like accusations whereas I statements inform others of your pov.

    Remember that you have the right to protect your home, but you'll probably ruffle the least feathers if you do so in a way that doesn't feel accusatory to your visitor (I know A is dealing with the bugs and you've been to visit, so I want to make sure that bugs don't accidentally hitch a ride in, say, luggage = good; You'd better not bring your bugs that you don't know about into my home = bad)

    Following procedures to avoid spreading them should be a habit for pretty much anyone at this point, so phrasing the conversation in terms of sharing what you learned from your battle with the bed bugs might also help.

    Those are all reasonable steps--as are the steps in the FAQs.

    I now check every hotel room I stay in. I either carefully inspect my luggage or isolate it upon return home (sometimes both). I don't think that's paranoia.

    It might verge into paranoia if you don't allow someone who shows no signs to visit you even if he or she follows those protocols. Because what you're worried about--what I'm worried about--is an irrational response to a situation. Taking precautions= rational response. Not ever allowing someone to visit even if that person takes precautions and has no confirmed case= could verge into paranoia. This visitor story still has the potential to go either way. Like you, I'd be cautious and want to have a talk with the visitor. And I'd want to confirm that this person, since there was a known exposure, knows how to inspect and follow the protocols. But I also wouldn't unilaterally exclude anyone in this visitor's category from my home. If the visitor is willing to follow those extra steps, I'd be fine with said visitor. If not, well, I think you're not being paranoid.


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