One kid, two households, many bedbugs
November 8, 2016 11:22 AM   Subscribe

The kiddo, who I have 50% custody of, and who is in elementary school and after school care in the US, has acquired numerous bedbug bites at The Other House. Nothing at my place that I can see. What should I be thinking about here?
posted by life moves pretty fast to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Am googling etc. but it would be good to here about specific experiences and advice. Thanks!
posted by life moves pretty fast at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2016

Ugh, I'm so sorry.

The primary thing you want to be concerned about is stuff. Nothing that comes from the Other House (including clothes) should come to your house. It is very rare for a bedbug to travel on a person, but definitely possible. Don't let child bring backpacks, books, or anything into the house where there isn't an infestation. Take off and put on shoes outside. Things that are small enough to be inspected (cell phone, etc.) are okay. It's probably okay to do less than this, but this is what you should do to be most cautious, outside of having child stay at one house or the other until this is resolved.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:25 AM on November 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Make your place bedbug-resistant: foil around bed legs, seal the mattress in plastic, have a separate set of clothes for him, vacuum frequently, and whatever else you can read about that seems feasible.
posted by flimflam at 11:28 AM on November 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Extreme heat is basically the only reliable way to kill them off. Washing clothing in very hot water and then drying in a very hot dryer should be sufficient to kill off any bedbugs.

But keep in mind you'll have to do this to any other fabric items that have been at the other house as well, like backpacks, etc. Bedbugs are damned persistent.

What you really need to check on going forward is your wooden furniture. When I had an infestation a few years ago, the bugs were mostly living underneath my wooden bed slats. There were hardly any on my mattress at all, they were all in the wood. I wound up just chucking out the frame and sleeping on the floor for a while. But this is an extreme move if you don't have an infestation in your own home yet. Mostly, you should just be monitoring things to be safe.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:30 AM on November 8, 2016

Um, have you informed the proprietor of The Other House? No facts to go on in your post, but isn't that part of what you're asking about here?

Is that individual taking action; denying everything; somehow unable to act; accusing you or someone else or the school of being the source of the bedbugs?

You have this internet stranger's permission to consider keeping the child at your place until the problem is eliminated.

Bonus points and a Decent Co-Parent award to you if you're willing to help The Other House to confirm and treat the bedbug problem, including determining whether or not it's actually at your place.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:49 AM on November 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm terribly sorry. This seems really awful and I'm sorry you have to deal with it.

So, I get the bedbug thing, but I'd try to accept that you might get bedbugs and be willing to make your child's dignity and feeling of belonging in both households top priority. To that end, it might not be a great idea to treat them like they are contaminated or like their things are contaminated (even though they are). And it might not work to limit the possessions they can bring back and forth.

I think the best thing to do, if you can, would be to have a weekend where you and your child's other parent do a big extermination and deep clean in both your homes simultaneously, with prior notice to your child, who perhaps can go out for a special treat day with Grandma or a babysitter.

Physical upheaval can be really upsetting for children who are already split between two homes, so this process might not be as fast or as thorough as you'd otherwise like.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:51 AM on November 8, 2016 [14 favorites]

Blasting clothes in a dryer on high for an hour is sufficient to kill bugs and eggs, laundering in water isn't necessary. When I had them several years ago, my roommates and I got a Pack-Tite for our books, shoes, etc, not sure if those are still available (I think some versions miiight have been recalled as fire hazards...) but you can find information online on the specifics of how to heat-treat your belongings.

Dunno how bad the bedbug situation already is or what your relationship with The Other Parent is like but in your shoes, I'd push to have the kid stay in one place (preferably yours) and offer whatever physical and/or financial assistance you can in getting The Other House fixed up. Bedbugs are treatable, especially if you spot them earlier, but it's a multi-week process to do it right and if you half-ass it and don't follow up or don't address the entire building/house, they'll just hide away and come back later.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:58 AM on November 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have to travel to NYC frequently so I got some heated, bedbug-killing luggage. You could buy one for your kid and decontaminate their stuff in your garage before it enters your house.

(FWIW I found the best deal on these on with a father's day discount)
posted by homodachi at 11:58 AM on November 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

JimN2TAW: the proprietor of The Other House
Sorry, was not clear; it was the proprietor of Other House who informed me (and who has taken kiddo to GP etc.).
Thanks all for amazing quick responses to far!
posted by life moves pretty fast at 12:05 PM on November 8, 2016

oh dear god.

This is a toughie. It is very expensive to get rid of bedbugs and in some cases (shared walls) damn near impossible.

I would get a bedbug killing oven, something like this, and nothing comes into the house before getting treated. Yeah it's a pain but it's a lot less of a pain than a bedbug treatment (ie from an infestation you'll get from them hitchhiking into your house.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:07 PM on November 8, 2016

(1) for you and Other House proprietor.

(2) In case you don't know what they look like, think brown flat insect the size of an apple seed.

(3) Due to kid's age, be sure to address kid's mental wellness -- make sure he/she doesn't feel like it's their fault or that you're shunning them because you're worried about them bringing bugs over. May also want to explain that bugs aren't doing this because they're malicious or evil, it's just the way they biologically are.

(4) Make sure no one fumigates. Some idiots do that, and it just makes the bedbugs travel to non-fumigated areas of the residence, spreading the infestation.
posted by WCityMike at 2:16 PM on November 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Would other parent be willing to let Child stay at your place until bedbugs are defeated?
posted by corb at 2:21 PM on November 8, 2016

Hi again everyone - Other House is planning for child to stay there in a different room for their 50% shift, that may be better and less disruptive. Child is welcome here of course. Thinking about ways to help, e.g. buy a BugZapper. This is a developing situation, but advice here is very good and helps very much with planning and not panicking. Thank you.
posted by life moves pretty fast at 2:36 PM on November 8, 2016

I'd also be ready to talk with kiddo about the bugs - because they like to travel on people's things, they have been found all over, in fancy hotels and mansions and businesses, not just at her Otherparent's house. That this isn't a sign of uncleanliness or less good care (assuming Otherparent is taking steps to fight the bugs). It's easy to think of bedbugs like roaches or other vermin that we culturally correlate to gross, dirty places. But nowadays everyone has the potential to pick them up. Divorce is hard enough for kids without feeling like there's some judgment going on about one home vs the other.
posted by Mchelly at 3:11 PM on November 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

No, definitely don't move the child to another room. Bugs will follow child there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:09 PM on November 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Changing rooms is not going to help, unless by enormous luck there aren't bedbugs in there already AND they do something to bedbug-proof the bed - there are some beds you can do this with, will have some resources on how. But most beds you can't; the bugs will just come to the kid (they smell blood.)

If your ex (I assume that's what we're talking about?) has the means to get the house treated, either with heat or whole-house fumigation, then that's what needs to happen, and it would be best for your kid to not go back there until it's done.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:57 PM on November 8, 2016

« Older Trying to find children's book from late-80's-ish?   |   Cat driving us batty; we have twins--help! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.