Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Life is a just a nursery rhyme ... until the plot starts to develop in your own back yard. Or in this case, in the home of someone that pops in and out of our home on a daily basis.

Unbeknownst to me (at the time) our saga (as far back as we know it) began on July 17th. One of my daycare charges had a whole bunch of 'mosquito bites'. They were in clusters. They concentrated on his exposed limbs on one side of his body but there were a few under his shirt and on the other side of him. 

As I investigated more closely, I thought it looked more like a rash than mosquito bites and immediately wondered what had happened in my care to make this happen. I religiously put sunscreen on the kids when we go outside. I use mosquito spray only as needed. I think that I had used the sunscreen/mosquito spray combo the day prior so when this mysterious rash appeared I designated it an inside day (until I could figure out what happened or the rash went away).

I went to my trusty Dr. Google. I keyed in the word 'rash' and consulted Google images. I was met with an array of skin conditions that made the rash that I was concerned about seem pretty minor. But I did see many pictures that resembled the rash that had enveloped my little boy. Each and every time I clicked on the image to find out what it was, the answer was the same. Bed bugs.

By the time my daycare charge was picked up, his rash had faded substantially and all that was left was just the faded, mysterious tell-tale signs of the rash that had been inflamed earlier in the day. I told the mom that I had googled her son's symptoms and that the image that most resembled what I had seen was bed bugs. I tossed the ball into her court. And that was that.

There were no more rashes that followed. Days went by. I went on holidays. Another week went by. He didn't come to daycare on Monday. And when he arrived on Tuesday, I heard the rest of their story.

There are bed bugs in their suite.

Both her and her son woke up on the weekend, completely covered with a rash. They went to the doctor. They were told that they had hives. She went home and lifted the sheets on her bed and found them. Bed bugs (insert visible shudder here).

They have infested her bed and she rarely sleeps there. She sleeps on her couch. But that night, they had both slept in her bed. So she is inclined to believe that they have not infested the whole living area. But she is/has been going through the entire cleansing process to rid their home of this nasty bug. 

I had the heebie jeebies after she left. She had assured me that everything that she had brought to daycare was clean. But I couldn't risk it. I enclosed the pull-ups in a zip-lock bag. I washed the entire contents of his bag (and what he was wearing) in hot water. I tossed his bag into the dryer on high for an hour. 

I then consulted Google once again to arm myself with information.  Don't go to Google if you are not prepared to be over-informed. I read case after case after case of people unable to get rid of bed bugs once they had them. In most of these cases they were trying to solve the problem without added costs or professionals or trying to be 'green'. But in many of the cases, they also talked of their distrust of the professionals out there and how this was a big money-making gimmick.

Apparently, it is not unusual for bed bug bites to be misdiagnosed by a doctor. There is no test that they can take to confirm that it is bed bugs. So they are often diagnosed as scabies. Or in my daycare family's case, hives. This made me feel very old and wise as I had correctly discerned that there was a possibility that his rash was indeed bed bugs. Of course I didn't want to be right and when all was well in the days that followed, I assumed I was wrong (I was just fine with that).

But the part of this story is what really and truly makes my skin crawl. In this family's desire to find out how this infestation began she recalled the events of (almost) a year ago. She was in contact with someone whose dad had bed bugs in his home. Could the bed bugs have entered her home at that time and gone unnoticed until they were this bad?? A year ago!??!

I checked our home for signs of infestation. I saw nothing. I didn't want to see anything. So I looked again this morning. Still nothing. 

I alerted the household to be aware of the possibility that bed bugs could be in our midst. Everyone else sleeps downstairs. I know bed bugs travel. They are attracted to heat and carbon dioxide. So one floor isn't immune from the next. 

You can bet that I will be calling a few exterminators today to find out some more information about how long it takes before these bugs leave evidence of their presence. But I find that I feel a little sceptical about the answers I may hear if they have the potential to profit from their response. 

I do not want to believe that our home could be infected. This is not the kind of surprise that I enjoy finding. 

In my years of daycare, I thought I had seen it all. Or certainly all I had wanted to see. Head lice, worms, fleas (on a stray cat that I babysat for a parent while they returned to work to go to a meeting) ... then there are all of the infectious diseases that have walked through our doors.

In almost every case (except for perhaps the fleas, when our cat caught fleas years and years after our home's exposure) these nasty little bugs didn't pass from one daycare child to another. It made me feel like I was doing something right (not sharing head gear, enforcing the washing-hands rule). 

Let me tell you ... I am seriously considering all non-fabric options at the moment. I have never been inclined to want a leather couch or hardwood floors. But suddenly I am looking around the house and all I see is 'hiding spots'. 

I wonder if there is a grant that could subsidize the cost of transitioning our household to a cold, sterile and highly scrub-able surface. Plus I would like to hire someone to do all of that scrubbing.

"Night, night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite. If they do, take your shoe [(s) ... put them on ... and run for the hills!!] " It simply doesn't have the right ring to it. I'll work on it. 

I will stand by my previous conviction. No matter what happens in life, one can usually find a bright spot. After our flea infestation many years ago, this is the Christmas poem that I came up with which encapsulated a-very-bad-year:

Because Our Little Cat Scratched
You may not believe it,
but here's how it happened ...
One cold winters day,
our little cat scratched.
Because of that scratch,
we went to the vet.
Because of that vet,
we found our cat had fleas (we assume our dog too).
Because of those fleas,
I vacuumed every nook and cranny.
Because of that vacuuming,
I found black mold in my room.
Because of that mold,
I called the inspector.
Because the inspector got called,
he noticed our windows.
Because he checked out our windows,
he recommended replacement.
Because of his recommendation,
Our new windows got approved.
Because of our new windows,
I started painting.
Because I started painting,
I just couldn't stop.
Because I couldn't stop,
I painted everything outside, on our lot.
Because everything looked so new,
I started inviting.
Because I started inviting
we had many friends and family gather.
Because of those gatherings,
my heart swelled with joy.
And that started something I'll never forget
and as far as I know, it is going on yet.
And that's how it happened,
that's how it all hatched.
Because, just because ...
our little cat scratched.
(P.S. The 'inspector' mentioned is part of a wonderful, wonderful program which has
allowed us to get a lot of water drainage issues (our driveway, for one!), among other things

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