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Welcome to My New Paranoia: Bed Bugs

Welcome to My Nightmare

I have various phobias that like to camp out in my brain, and now I’m unlucky enough to add a new worry onto my list of concerns. I didn’t really need another one; I have enough on my plate of paranoias already.

I’m allergic to shellfish and have been very diligent about not letting any creepy crawly sea creatures enter my mouth.

I insist on frequent hand washing while counting to twenty (the idea of SARS still freaks me out).

Oh, then there’s my whole irrational fear of merge lanes on the highway thing.

And now I’ve joined a new club, the “I’m going to strip down the motel bed before laying one limb on the potentially skeevy mattress” club.

How did this newest paranoia get inserted into my worry list? Bed bugs, that’s how.

We were on a long drive to the “Happiest Place on Earth” from San Francisco. We opted to stop and spend the night mid-way to break up our seven-hour car ride. It had been years since I’d done a road trip and I managed to let go of any reservations I had and instead just totally rolled with it, on the road and in our decision making. Taco Bell for dinner? Sure! Another piece of candy? Okey dokey. A roadside motel that smelled vaguely of gasoline mixed with Lysol? Why not!

It all seemed perfectly appointed when we entered our room. The gasoline and cleaning product aroma had been replaced by the smell of an air freshener that seemed to be masking a sneaky smoker. And the hotel staff got bonus points for having sanitized their TV remote controls, which came wrapped in a condom-like protective package. I’m not a full on germophobe, but this did give me peace of mind. I crawled into bed with my 6-year-old daughter by my side while my husband took the other mattress. I slept okay, even with the constant din of cars whooshing by our motel door. But the rest I had during the night was quickly erased by full-on panic in the morning.

After I woke up I pulled back the blankets and there it was, staring straight at me. A bed bug. As he (or she) crawled along the sheets I could pick up a sense of entitlement, like they owned the place, almost saying, “yeah, I so got you lady.” I grabbed a Kleenex, pinched the bug, and blood, my blood, spurted out. I totally had the heebie-jeebies and wanted to shower off any and all traces that insects had been crawling over my body and sucking my blood. When I turned on the shower, a trail of blood flowed down with the water,as it had bitten me on the leg so deeply that I actually had a wound.

I examined every inch of my daughter to see if she had been bitten and thankfully she was fine, although my husband had one big bite on his forehead. We then wrapped all our clothing tightly in plastic bags, looked everything over, packed up, and headed to the front desk.

I stomped in there and informed them of their infestation. And did I get a “My god, we’re like so sorry for having creatures suck your blood while you slept,” an “Is your daughter okay?” or a “The room is on us, we apologize for the inconvenience” from them? Nope. We got nothing. Nada. Nil. Instead we got a “oh, we’ll let housekeeping know.” As we sat in the lobby drinking their complimentary coffee and eating a couple of danishes before we hit the road, the woman at the front desk averted her eyes, seemingly trying to ignore us and our “how dare we complain about their bed bugs” ways. We didn’t even get the standard issue “have a nice day!” or “safe travels” that other guests got when we left. Perhaps in her mind we had become the pests, not just the bed bugs in room 1012.

Encountering bed bugs when checking into motels and hotels is nothing new, and is becoming increasingly common. These pesky creatures make homes in roadside motels to high-end four-star hotels. Bed bugs do not discriminate. On our trip we had two more hotels to stay in. During our ride to our next destination, I googled bed bugs like a fiend, finding out as much as my iPhone searches would tell me. There was some good news and some bad news. The good news is that there are no known diseases associated with bed bugs and that the damage is far more psychological than physical (which in our case was very true). The bad news is that if you bring the bed bugs home, you could end up with your very own infestation which can be costly and challenging to get rid of.

But I did learn some things to do:


  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat 1 of 5
    Wash, Rinse, Repeat
    When you get home wash everything that is dirty immediately and for clean clothes, put those the dryer on hot for at least 20 minutes. And you might invest in a bed bug spray. We bought a non-toxic spray from a Army Navy store we searched out in Los Angeles, just to make sure we took care of any risk of infestation.
    Source: CBS News
  • Check Around 2 of 5
    Check Around
    As MSNBC suggests, when you check into a hotel you should do a thorough look over, "Include checking the bedding (especially near any attached type of bed headboard), the luggage holding rack, night stands by any bed (remember to check underneath and inside drawers if possible), closet shelves, dresser drawers, and along carpet edges under and near (e.g., within about 5 feet of) any bed." Look for blood spots, bed bug droppings, and the bed bugs themselves.
    Source: MSNBC
  • Use the Luggage Rack 3 of 5
    Use the Luggage Rack
    Use the luggage rack. I have to admit, I have never used a luggage rack. Wait, scratch that. We did a couple months ago. But it was when my daughter turned it into a bed for her American Girl doll. But now I'm going to start using it for reals. Apparently you should not put your suitcase on the bed and in a CBS News piece they suggest not putting your suitcase on the floor either. They also note that some travelers kept their suitcases in the bathtub.
    Source: CBS News
  • Bag It 4 of 5
    Bag It
    If you do get bitten by the bed bug like me, make sure to put all your dirty clothing that may have had contact with the floor, bed or linens in a plastic bag and seal it tight for the rest of the trip. (I should note, that is not me in the photo. I was not, and I repeat, not, smiling.)
    Source: CBS News
  • Go Online 5 of 5
    Go Online
    Check to see if the hotel or motel you are checking into has had multiple complaints of bed bugs. You can go to The Bedbug Registry and Bedbugger.com to see if there have been complaints about infestations.
    Photo Source: Bed Bug Registry
.

Images: iStockPhoto unless otherwise noted

Read more Sunny Chanel on Famecrawler right here.

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