How to Vanquish Bedbug-Borne Phobias?
March 25, 2006 2:35 PM Subscribe
I was heavily bitten by bedbugs over the summer of 2005, and although they're gone, I've grown very anxious about the thought of ever becoming reinfested.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
In August 2005, my doctor identified bites on my arms as bedbug bites. My landlord and I found my bed and boxspring had numerous bedbugs crawling along it. They had been biting me for about four months' time; I had chalked it up to mosquitos.
My landlady wanted to exterminate using an ineffective technique, but my research made clear that the method she suggested wouldn't work. I offered to split the cost of an exterminating service that has been around over a century. They performed two treatments, and after the second, I never saw a live bedbug in that apartment again. When I learned she was not going to inspect, let alone preventatively treat, the other apartments for bedbugs, I asked her if she would consent to letting me out of my lease early. She did, and I moved at the end of last October.
I've been at my new apartment for nearly five months with no bedbugs spotted. Although bedbugs can last without food for up to eighteen months, they're not going to voluntarily pass up food for that long. Thus, if I've not been bitten in the past five months, I hopefully most likely did not bring them with me to my new home. (Knock on wood.)
My perusal of blogs suggests to me it's not unusual for people who have dealt with bedbugs to have a good deal of residual anxiety even following the resolution of their infestations. My own anxieties no longer focus over the possibility that I've remained infested. I initially was casting a hard eye at every dark speck that happened to catch my eye. But the anxiety that remains from that experience focuses around the thought of reinfestation; of this occuring again.
It would help if I knew where my infestation originated. With no way of knowing for sure, I seem to subconsciously attribute it to one of two causes. Either I was infested while on public transit, which I ride daily; or I was infested when I stayed in a hotel in late February 2005. I don't remember noticing bites until late April 2005, and it would be odd for bedbugs to not feed for two months, but hotels are known to be the transmission vectors for bedbug infestations nowadays, and this hotel is even a regular home to crews for a particular international airline. And so I find myself checking subway seats before sitting down (not obsessively, but casting a hard eye at the cracks between the seats and the subway car side). And I am extremely anxious about the day in my future in which I will find myself needing to stay at a hotel overnight again. I'm honestly afraid that even if the experience doesn't cause reinfestation, it'll nevertheless turn me into a nervous wreck for the weeks preceding and following the experience.
So, you guys have the honest-to-God ability, through your answers, to make a substantial difference in my anxiety level, and I'm hoping you can offer advice in two arenas.
The first is from a practical perspective. (1) If one were to pay attention to the news media, you would think that every hotel and motel in America has a bedbug problem. I am wondering what the true likelihood of contracting a bedbug infestation from an overnight hotel stay is. One in five? One in a hundred? One in three thousand? In short, can anyone tell me what kind of odds I am running? The more the odds are in my favor, the more mental ammo I can provide myself. (Note that bedbugs infest both ritzy and poor hotels alike: they aren't attracted to filth, they're attracted to CO2 and live off blood. Think tick-like, not roach-like.) (2) Can you recommend ways in which someone could determine prior to arrival whether a hotel has bedbugs? With million-dollar awards from juries for bedbug bites (seriously), hotels will now very happily lie through their teeth. (3) Once you arrive in your room, what things can you look for in that room to determine whether it suffers from infestation?
The second is from an emotional perspective. I imagine few, if any, of you have had to deal with bedbugs. But I'm sure some of you have had moments in your life that have caused you great anxiety and influenced your long-term behavior following the experience. What did you do to help yourself get over it? I have gotten better; I will continue to get better, hopefully. I am a strong man in many different ways, and I do not focus over this anxiety 24-7. I'm not, in short, an insane, tremoring basket case. But it is enough of a recurring and strong presence in my mind that I want to decrease its power over me. I am in therapy, but my therapist has recognized in the past the value of group input that Ask MeFi offers; I'm hoping you guys can dish up some life-changing advice for me this time around.
(A postscript: I realize this is nothing compared to the anxiety that an Iraq War veteran or a Hurricane Katrina survivor might have to deal with. My intellect understands that sense of scale. But that intellectual sense is not hooked up very well to the parts of me that are generating this anxiety.)