Prepare To Itch

I've become obsessed with bedbugs. I blithely followed a link on Twitter the other day (thanks a lot, METALIA) that led me to this horrifying article---honestly, try reading that without itching for three days afterwards---and now I can't stop thinking about them. There are far more pleasant things to think about, I know, and yet I cannot train my brain to think about them (cupcakes, sparkles, Jordan Catalano in a plaid shirt, COME ON BRAIN DO IT). Instead, all I can think about is bedbugs.

New York is in the middle of some sort of bedbug infestation, did you know that? I didn't. I find it kind of fascinating. Apparently it's rather a serious issue; ask any New Yorker about bedbugs and she'll know someone who knows someone who had them. Do you know someone who knows someone who had them? Tell me the story! I'm intrigued!

Up until recently, I'd been entertaining the idea of buying a sofabed on Craigslist---who knew sofa beds were sofa king expensive, huh?---but now I'm not sure if I can do it, because what if you bought a sofa bed on Craigslist and it turned out it had bedbugs? What hell would you have brought on yourself just by trying to get something cheaper than you can get it at Ikea? I even had a terrible milisecond of panic the other day where I worried that the sellers of the house we're buying are selling it BECAUSE IT HAS BEDBUGS. Like, what if they came to the end of their rope and said "you know what? These bedbugs aren't going anywhere. Screw it, let's just sell the house. Ah, these eager young newlyweds look nice..."

I'm sorry that I followed up a post about salted caramels with a post about bedbugs, by the way; that seems like kind of a mean thing to do. But bedbugs are just on my mind at the moment. Better than being on my sheets, but only slightly.

1
Camels & Chocolate
May 11, 2010

I had this psycho roommate in NYC and she used to bring home furniture from the streets daily and think it was the best! thing! ever! And there was this period of time where I itched for like weeks straight and was CONVINCED we had bedbugs from the chair she had picked up on the side of the street in Hell's Kitchen. In fact, I had read up on the story so much that I even fabricated in my own mind that I was seeing the blood on the mattress every morning from when I was crushing the bed bugs in my sleep! Needless to say, I could not have been more jazzed to flee that hellhole and move to SF.

(Oh, and I should note, it turns out we never actually had bed bugs at all! The mind, it's a tricky bastard.)

2
AnnabelVita
May 12, 2010

We (london houseshare) had bedbugs, don't know how we got them (I too have a housemate who brings home furniture from the street and i love freecycle, but the bedbugs turned up in a totally different room).
We actually found the chemicals the council used to get rid of them were worse than the bedbugs themselves (we were all allergic).
If you craigslist, just steam clean everything before putting it in your house.

3
shan
May 12, 2010

OMG, I hear ya on this one! As a budget backpacker, I tend to stay in cheaper places and I had an episode recently where I had a lot of bites. They didn't seem like regular ol' mosquito bites, so I was pretty sure it had to be bedbugs. Ugh. As it turns out, it was just mosquitoes, but yes. Felt very itchy and bedbug-y for days.

4
Alison
May 12, 2010

I had a friend in college who had bedbugs. She lived off campus with her boyfriend (SO happy I never visited), and I remember her talking about how they took the futon off the frame and saw the bugs underneath - shudder - and how they basically had to get rid of all their furniture. Gross!

5
Shilo Byrd
May 12, 2010

Being a New Yorker, yes I know tons of people who have suffered from the scourge of bedbugs.

For years I lived in fear until I learned a simple way to detect if you have them: white sheets.

If you have white sheets, you'll see the tiny spots of (your) blood when the bugs arrive and it wont take it getting to infestation levels for you to notice and take action as it does with most people.

Obviously, having white sheets doesn't make the possibility go away, but it certainly does make them seem a touch less all-powerful and allowed me to sleep at night.

I still wouldn't take furniture off the street though.

6
Windy
May 12, 2010

I too am terrified of bedbugs. Did you know that they can hide in wooden furniture and electronics too? It has certainly made me think twice about buying thrift items! I am also trying to figure out a suitcase solution that would allow me to wash it after travel. Hotels can be the worst offenders.

7
Daisy
May 12, 2010

My freshman dorm had a bed bug infestation. I try not to think about it or the dry cleaning bill for our duvets & all of our clothes.

8
amber, theAmberShow
May 12, 2010

Ooo goodness. Bedbugs scare me as much as a housefire would!

9
Inspiration Files
May 12, 2010

My sister got them in her apartment after bringing home a vintage afghan from a thrift store. Two exterminators, many itchy sores and one new mattress later, they're gone, but it was very expensive. Definitely a good justification for splurging on the new sofa!

10
Krysta
May 12, 2010

Oh man, living in NYC and hering bed bug horror stories has made me highly neurotic. However, I still buy things off of craigslist.

11

I once had an apartment with bed bugs. I had to replace all of my furniture and deal with monthly visits from an exterminator that made my dog sick everytime. Six months into dealing with that mess, I found out from a neighbor that the apartment leasing company knew about the problem before I moved in and was under no obligation to inform me.

Once they're in, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. Buyer beware.

12
abbersnail
May 12, 2010

I know of a house here in San Francisco that wound up with an all-out infestation because someone brought in curb furniture. I'm a HUGE fan of used stuff, but my rule is: no soft upholstery. If it has cushions, I'm not buying it (unless I know the source REALLY REALLY REALLY well).

13
Ris
May 12, 2010

Oh god I don't even want to think about it. I often buy stuff used/off craigslist. I'm just going to sit over here in the corner with my hands over my ears so I can't hear you LA LA LA

14
Gwen
May 12, 2010

I know an exterminator who told me to ALWAYS check my hotel room before I settle in. I travel for work and so now the first thing I do is look between the mattress, behind the headboard, and under seat cushions to see if there are clusters of the little devils. If you do have the misfortune of checking into a room with bedbugs make sure you get a room that is at least two or three removed (if you can stand to stay in that hotel at all!).

15
beyond
May 12, 2010

i live in new york, and i know people and now i'm itchy, yikes!

16
Lisa
May 12, 2010

Sofa king expensive... heh. You made me laugh. It helped distract me from the spontaneous itching at the mention of the word "bedbugs". *shudder*

17
P
May 12, 2010

bed bugs give me such anxiety you don't even know and i live in NYC. last summer my apartment building was rumored to be infested. i had a few nights when i would wake up scratching but i think it was all in my head. i've heard horror stories about spending thousands of dollars to rid your apartment, but in this city it usually means the bugs just went to your neighbors. really, living here is a germaphonbes worst nighmare.

18
leah
May 12, 2010

A friend of mine in Chicago had an infestation in her apartment a few years ago. At the peak of the terror she was sleeping on a plastic air mattress on her living room floor with white sheets that she washed in hot water daily. The worst part, or most genius, I'm not sure, was that every night she would rub Vaseline on the sides of the mattress to make it all slippy so the bugs couldn't crawl up the sides and get her. The horror!

19
Sophie
May 12, 2010

Well, if the previous owners sold their house because of bed bugs, they're stupid. Unless they burn all of their furniture, they'll bring the buggers with them.

We researched the matter extensively when some people in our building had bedbugs. Ugly. Hard to get rid of. Lots of work. Now I wouldn't buy anything on Craigslist that I cannot wash in hot water. Second-hand clothes get thrown into the wash right away. Did you know books can be infested, too? Yup!

20
Kate (and Ben)
May 12, 2010

DUDE. Please do not ever buy a used (upholstered) couch or chairs (or mattress, really--that's pretty gross).
When my friend lived in a furnished apt. in London for graduate school, it took her MONTHS to figure out how she was getting all these crazy-tiny bugbites all over her body. Eventually, she ripped open the mattress and MILLIONS of tiny bedbugs fell out of it.
My skin stil crawls when I think of it.
-K

21
Angela
May 12, 2010

You HAVE to check out the 30 Rock about bedbugs. Hilarious.

22
Nothing But Bonfires
May 12, 2010

Kate, my skin is going to be crawling for the rest of my LIFE now that I've read that.

23
elizabethsheryl
May 12, 2010

There is a whole This American Life about bed bugs and this family that had them infested in their house and most of their neighbors had it as well. It was pretty intense, you should listen to it now that you're already obsessed. :p

24
janis
May 13, 2010

I had bedbugs once! IT WAS HELL! I couldn't sleep, itching all over and having spots that took weeks to recover! I even had to sleep in my living room sofa to escape.

The next day after sleeping on the sofa the night before, I decided to spring clean my whole room, bought a new matress and sprayed Baigon at every single corner of my room.

And the thing is, my family do not pick anything off the streets. I suspect those bugs were from the floor below or up.

25
Isobel
May 13, 2010

That made me itch too, although I did go and have a look at the article and I couldn't take it seriously at all - it made me laugh quite a lot!

26
citywendy
May 13, 2010

I have at least three friends who have had bedbugs in the last year and I'm so obsessed with the matter, I've taken to inspecting my bed frame and pillow seams on a near-weekly basis. So far, I'm in the clear, but I fear I'm slowly losing my mind.

27
Trish
May 13, 2010

Bah! We spent last weekend at a hotel in NYC and I have a mild case of poison ivy that has given me small itchy bumps - not good for the paranoia. The first thing I did after reading that article was put the sheets in the washing machine! Creepy!

28
chirky
May 13, 2010

I'm a little mad at you, Holly, for shattering my sheltered little world with that article. I'm not itching, but I did spend a ridiculous amount of time this morning staring at my sheets to make certain there weren't any bugs crawling around.

(Thankfully, there weren't.)

29
Lizard
May 13, 2010

I smushed one on an airplane once. It was on the seat in front of me. BLECK. Well, actually I made my boss do the smushing. He thought it was a tick but I had just seen a piece on TV about bedbugs.

30
bohemianbailie
May 13, 2010

I lived in a hostel for three months in London and they were always having to clear rooms and fumigate. I hated getting bite because I would pick at the bites without realizing then I would feel like some sort of drug addict with picked bites on me. GROSS!!!

31
jasmine
May 13, 2010

can you imagine how I feel? I'm a pediatrician in training. Winter time is almost like scabies season. and in the spring with all the allergis, we've got tons of people coming in with spring/summer viruses that manifest itself as pityriasis roscea (aka ITCHING and red splotches) which we can do nothing about except give hydrocortisone cream!

32
jennifer in sf
May 14, 2010

My friend's sister in NYC got bed bugs and flipped the heck out. She basically got rid of everything she owned and moved.

Another friend's boyfriend brought them back from SE Asia, and she managed to keep it together and got rid of them fairly easily.

So I think part of it is realizing it quickly, and not just completely. freaking. out.

33
Gemini-Girl
May 14, 2010

A co worker of mine had bedbugs. She stored her furniture in a facility while she was moving apts and when she finally moved into her new apt, she started itching. She found out she had bed bugs and she had to have her new apt cleaned. All her clothes, washed. Towels, rugs thrown out. Damage? $5,500.

That's nyc for you!

34

A friend of mine had bedbugs and they are the worst thing ever. I won't go into the whole story because it will just fuel bedbug anxiety, but know this: you're not the only one terrified of them. I was actually kind of relieved to get a job that no longer required travel because it meant less worrying about picking up hotel bedbugs.

35
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36
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Apr 23, 2011

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