A disgusting hypothetical involving bedbugs and a broken leg
February 16, 2016 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Hypothetical: Let's say you have a broken leg, with a cast dealy-job like so. But wait! You also have a bedbug infestation that, for various horrible reasons, is really bad and not being remedied. How would you convince the bedbugs to not inhabit the cast?

I'm looking for remedies such as, 'spray cast with hand sanitizer each night' to 'pick carapaces off the velcro' to 'inspect cast daily.'

But I've lived with bedbugs, AKA proof of an Angry God, and I know they will go anywhere that is close to delicious FLESH.

Are there any ideas out there? Any unfortunate souls have to deal with this level of bullshit?

Also: this is a hypothetical, so fear not for the fate of any real person involved
posted by angrycat to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think I would use one of the cast covers that you use in the shower, plus some sort of tape or sealant while I was in the house, to limit bedbug cast exposure.

My first guess would be to treat the house, get a new cast put on, and not go back until fixed, but I am assuming that is not a hypothetical option since you say that the infestation is not being remedied.

However, I haven't ever had a cast or bedbugs!
posted by needlegrrl at 6:48 AM on February 16, 2016

Mod note: Angrycat, your link wasn't working, so I (think I) fixed it. Just let us know if it's not correct!
posted by taz (staff) at 7:01 AM on February 16, 2016

Response by poster: thanks taz!
posted by angrycat at 7:04 AM on February 16, 2016

Bedbugs die at over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you aim a hair dryer at all the nooks and crannies on the cast on a nightly basis, it seems like it would discourage them from setting up shop?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:16 AM on February 16, 2016

In this hypothetical situation, can you take off the boot, or is it stuck on your leg for 6 more weeks of healing? If you take off the boot to sleep, I'd bake the liner in the oven overnight. If you can take it off for 5 minutes, I'd buy 2 casts and swap them out, wearing one (perhaps with the shower-cover, I like that idea) while you sterilize the other. If you can't take it off at all, then you can't use heat without cooking yourself, so you're stuck with chemical remedies... But you can't really get a spray or liquid all the way into the boot either, so you can't use anything that's a contact-kill (nor would i want that trapped in contact with my leg). So we're talking about the "bugs don't like the smell" repellent type products, and I'm not well enough acquainted with with bedbugs to recommend anything.
posted by aimedwander at 8:02 AM on February 16, 2016

I have had bedbugs before. This would be my limit. Those fracture boots have about a trilllion nooks and crannies. Additionally, you need to get it really hot for a long time before you kill bedbugs. Don't fuck around putting a fracture boot in an oven or under a air dryer for an hour.

I'd tell the poor hypothetical soul to find alternate arrangements while the bedbug situation is being addressed.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Pyrethrin is a very common pet and livestock insecticide made from chrysanthemums. I think it or its manufactured cousins like permethrin are also used as the active ingredient in lice shampoos. I soak the horse and goats down with it in the summer every couple days. I get more on myself by accident in that practice than you'd probably use if you sprayed it on/around the cast material.
posted by Lou Stuells at 8:36 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, pyrethrin. I've had a boot like that before, when I broke my leg in 20+ places. pintapicasso is right: They're already dust and dirt vectors (and lint and skin flakes and god knows what else) without adding bedbugs into the equation. I'd spray that boot with the strongest insecticide known to man.

Actually, in actual fact, I'd move the hell out of that place and pay someone to nuke the bugs, because it's bad enough having a broken leg and being on mind-altering painkillers all the time. Not to mention having to use a shower chair to clean yourself. When my leg was broken, I was terrorized by a stinkbug infestation, and they didn't even bite. They just fell on my pillow and bedspread all day and all night. A couple hundred, at least. That was quite enough for me, thanks. I literally would not deal with bedbugs on top of a broken leg. The way I'd keep them from getting onto/into my boot is to remove the boot from the situation, with my leg in it.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:12 AM on February 16, 2016

So glad this is hypothetical because that is an entirely untenable situation. If it were me, I would move out asap. Without the cast (and I'd find out some way to get a replacement or get that thing autoclaved). If only because PARANOIA at every little itch I'd feel under that bughut making me wonder if they were setting up shop and all-you-can-eat buffet in my cozy mobile leg shelter. And that's best case scenario. Anything beyond that? NOOOOOPE.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:34 AM on February 16, 2016

Response by poster: thanks everybody for the great ideas. the person in this situation [hypothetical, fictional] is at a loss for alternative housing arrangements, hence the horrible cast/bedbug problem.

Really, I want to make it as horrific as possible while being realistic, so your answers are helping me feel solid that this situation would be, indeed, horrible
posted by angrycat at 9:37 AM on February 16, 2016

No to any heat-based solutions, nthing you don't want to mess around with cast integrity.

Is there a health inspection dealy in your area that you could call? Maybe ask your doctor about that? Because OMFGWTF you do NOT want bugs in your cast around broken bones and very possibly broken skin (did they make any incisions? was there some sort of surgery?) which could lead to infection which could lead to total effing nightmare. Call your doctor and ask them.

If you go the insecticide route, put it on top of the cast, not next to the skin. Again: risk of infection. This is skin that's not being cleaned or getting much air. And it's protecting a broken bone.
posted by fraula at 10:12 AM on February 16, 2016

Carbon dioxide will suffocate bedbugs and kill them. I would find a way to wrap up the cast in something that will hold most of the air inside, and then put a piece of dry ice to melt. Be careful about the temperature, though, since you wouldn't want to give yourself frostbite. However, you can probably do a pretty large garbage bag sort of thing, and it would work.

This is generally how we killed our bed bugs: We set up traps so that they would all congregate under the bed. Then we closed off the plastic wrapping we had around the bed, with duct tape, and a few pounds of dry ice underneath. Worked like a charm. (Though the luring of the bedbugs took several weeks, especially since you need to wait for any potential eggs to hatch, or you won't get rid of the bedbugs. You can theoretically do multiple treatments, but the timing is quite precise then.)
posted by ethidda at 10:39 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

My first thought would be to wrap the whole leg in plastic, but I have a feeling that doing that for extended periods of time would be bad for your body. Like, in the real world, I'd be worried about doing it even for one night, although I am not a doctor. If it were night time and I was in this situation, I might try to wrap it in a plastic bag / saran wrap, and poke pine holes in it to let air in/out. Bedbugs can slip into tiny cracks, but my understanding is that's because they make themselves flat (ie 2 dimensional).

Setting up co2 emitters somewhere else in the apartment might be good. No idea how feasible that would be, and it sounds like it would take an expert in something. Bedbugs are attracted to your bed at night because that's where the delicious flesh is. And they know that (in part) because of CO2 emissions.
posted by Phredward at 10:51 AM on February 16, 2016

You could also sprinkle some diatomaceous earth in the cast every morning (like baby powder). That stuff will cut the exoskeletons of the bugs causing them to die, die, die, die!!!!!
posted by brookeb at 11:18 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding needlegrrl's suggestion of the cast cover, or as I referred to it during the most annoying 6 weeks of my life, the "cast condom." Seems like it'd be the easiest and most effective way to go... No need to suffocate them inside the plastic if they can never get in in the first place!

Unlike Phredward I wouldn't be worried about any ill effects on the arm from the 6–8 hours per night of use, but perhaps the fictional subject of this hypothetical would keep an eye out for signs of trouble there.

If you're looking more for quantity of ideas than quality, and we really don't care about this person's safety, maybe they could rig an industrial-sized microwave to work with the door open, then nuke the leg + cast for a few minutes each day. (Do not do this.)
posted by dondiego87 at 3:57 PM on February 16, 2016

Response by poster: omg the cast condom is what i needed.

thanks everybody!
posted by angrycat at 2:10 PM on February 17, 2016

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