No sleeping tight for me...
June 14, 2011 11:21 AM   Subscribe

If these are bedbugs, can I treat them before I move? Should I?

Hey guys,

So I have read the many other threads on bedbugs, and I've had a false bedbug scare before (as I think many NYCers have, every mosquito or dust mite turns into bedbugs!), so I would like to not panic.
I got back from a trip last Thursday night where the BF and I stayed in a cabin on a campsite. I actually checked the mattress before sleeping on it but couldn't find anything, and we both got plenty of mosquito bites from being outside, so it didn't even occur to me to think about bedbugs.
This morning, however, I woke up to find 3 or 4 little tiny bumps that look more like pimples or a rash across my chest. They don't itch like my mosquito bites or even really hurt, but they're definitely irritated or something. And there is a teeny tiny bloodstain on my sheets. I realize, of course, that neither of these things means I have the bugs. And I haven't SEEN a bug, nor any of its, er, casings or fecal matter. Could be an allergy, some other kind of rash, you name it.
The catch here is that I am moving all of my belongings up to Boston in exactly 2 weeks. I would like to not bring bugs with me into this beautiful new place, if that is what they are. Knowing my building, the exterminator won't even be able to make it over to check it out until I have to move.
The BF of course does not want bedbugs either, but (judging from the past scare) thinks I might be freaking out unnecessarily at this point. He may have a point. (OTOH my sister, who has developed an extreme bedbug phobia, now refuses to come over this evening for dinner like we were planning. Maybe paranoia is genetic.)
So, guys, how should I proceed? The person whose room I'm taking offered to sell me her mattress, but I declined, thinking I'd stick with one I trusted. (Ha!) Should I call her and see if her mattress is still available? Buy a case for my mattress? Put all my clothes and sheets in the dryer? Just throw away all of my belongings and buy new things once I get there? Not panic yet and see what happens? (Hehe.) It's SO difficult to avoid the little beasties these days in this city - I spose it's just dumb luck that I've managed to so far.
Thanks for listening, as always. :)
posted by bookgirl18 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
The first thing you need to do is look closely for the bugs. They like to hang out not just on the mattress, but in the crevices. You know the piping around the edge of the mattress? Peel that back and look there. Look in the seams of your curtains, and your bedding. Bedbugs also like to hang out in cracks in wood, so a wood bed frame or picture frames, or window sills or baseboards -- look at those.

The bug is the size and shape of an appleseed, so quite small. Reddish brown.

Look very closely at your stuff, and you might be able to determine definitively if you do have bedbugs. If you don't see any bugs after really examining things down into the cracks, you might consider other pests, like fleas.

If you do find a bug, or you get more bites that are clear evidence of bedbugs, you will need to wash all your washables in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer. That's the only way to kill the critters, and their eggs.

I haven't had bedbugs myself -- only written about them -- so I can't give you advice on your furniture situation, other than to possibly start fresh if you are moving anyway.
posted by brina at 11:42 AM on June 14, 2011

Have you thought about trained dogs? Here in Chicago we have two of them - they are expensive, but the peace of mind is so worth it.

Here is how it works: You pull everything out, the dog sniffs it and you get a positive or negative.
If the dog is trained properly and certified, you won't get many false positives.

I do it once a quarter at the offices because of the neighborhood and the amount of traffic I have coming in and out.
posted by Tchad at 11:42 AM on June 14, 2011

Three or four tiny bumps that don't itch could be almost anything, and the spot of blood is almost irrelevant since you said you've been getting so many mosquito bites.
posted by hermitosis at 11:43 AM on June 14, 2011

Having recently dealt with a quite serious case of the bedbugs, I feel qualified to offer advice:

Firstly, your level of paranoia is GOOD. Only the paranoid win the battle against these bastards.

Secondly, if as you described you only suspect an infestation due to the recent camping trip, relax. They haven't had time to infest everything in your house. Look closely at your clothes, and all the places you might have slept on. The bugs are attracted to carbon di-oxide (that's how they find you), so they are most likely to be found near the headboards of beds.

Give all your furniture a close look as you move them out of the house. Furniture is generally safe, though. They don't hang out on wood or metal things.

Just to be safe, wash all your clothes and put them through the dryer for 90 minutes, and directly bundle them into a sealed garbage bag and take them to the car/U-Haul.

Pay particular attention to books (they can hide between pages), and any bags and suitcases. Check the linings of all bags for bugs or their residue.

If you feel a bite, look carefully at the bitten spot. If you're fast enough you'll catch the bug if it's really there. The bugs come in all sizes --- the young ones are barely the size of a mustard seed, and are translucent. The older ones are brown with scale-like skin and a belly full of blood.

Good luck :-)
posted by Idle Curiosity at 11:52 AM on June 14, 2011

I think you should definitely have a professional find out. The last thing you want is to bring bedbugs with you (and they could travel with any of your stuff, including the clothes on your back.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:17 PM on June 14, 2011

Pull your bed away from the walls at least 5 inches, and put a line of double-sided tape all around the sides of your bed tonight when you go to sleep- so any bug has to cross the tape in order to get to you. Maybe you'll catch something that you can then evaluate.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:27 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, guys. Still no sign of bugs, but I definitely have what looks like a rash spreading on my chest. Can bedbug bites look like rashes? BF and the couple of friends I have confided in think that I am absolutely bonkers. Which may very well be.
posted by bookgirl18 at 9:30 PM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: ... AAAANd I found a little bug this morning. I took lots of pictures before I squished it (and kept the body as evidence. That sounds creepy). Out came this really weird sweet/rancid smell.
Crap. Well, thanks for the help, guys.
posted by bookgirl18 at 5:55 AM on June 16, 2011

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