A Bed Bug Nightmare

This story begins in October 2016. Sarah Daniels woke up one morning with several itchy lumps on her right leg. It didn’t concern her too much at the time, and she went about her normal day, dropping her daughter, Maggie, off to kindergarten and then making her way to the office.


Next morning, more itchy bumps appeared, this time on both legs, and a few on her arm. She noticed her husband Tom, who had recently returned from a business trip to Cleveland, was also scratching his legs. So she went in to check on her daughter, and sure enough a trail of red raised lumps marked both Maggie’s legs too.


Sarah proceeded to do what most worried mothers do in this day and age – she Googled the symptoms in search for answers. One of the first pages she found was an article about bed bugs. But Sarah thought there was no way she could have bed bugs. She kept her home clean and tidy, and changed the bed sheets regularly. Instead, she convinced herself that the marks must be an allergic reaction or virus.


But over the next few days, the itchy spots continued to appear in different parts of her body. Tom and Maggie were scratching constantly. They tried every ointment and cream in the medicine cupboard, but nothing brought relief. By this stage, they were having difficulty sleeping through the night. As Halloween approached, bedtime became a nightmare. The itching was driving them insane.


Then, on Halloween night, Maggie screamed in the middle of the night and ran into Sarah’s bedroom. “Mum, I’m so itchy, I can feel something crawling over my skin!”


Sarah turned on the lights and examined her daughter. There they were. Dozens of little insects crawling over Maggie’s legs and arms. Just thinking about the creeping parasites made Sarah’s skin crawl. She looked down, and sure enough the bugs were on her own skin too. By this stage Tom was also awake, and he too noticed several on his arms and on the bed sheets.


Sarah’s heart sank, because she recognized the insects from the Internet article she had researched several days before. She knew immediately what they were. Bed bugs.


It was a horrible feeling. She stood there, holding her daughter, wondering what to do. Was any room in the house safe? She felt like a terrible mother. Could she have prevented this? How could she fix it? Her family was suffering and she felt helpless. She worried that if they slept somewhere else in the house, then they would just spread the infestation further.


Sarah logged back on to the Internet and spent the rest of the night researching bed bugs. In the morning, she called an exterminator. The company said they were so busy dealing with bed bug infestations that they couldn’t send anyone out until the following week. There was no way Sarah could suffer another week of itching, so she contacted one exterminator after another until she eventually found one who could visit that day.


When he arrived, he discovered a large number of bed bugs in Sarah’s mattress, and a smaller infestation in Maggie’s mattress. There was also evidence of bed bugs in the carpet, wardrobe, and bed frames. The quote for eradication was high, but Sarah had no choice but to pay the money.


The pest controller suspected Tom had brought the bed bugs home from his trip to Cleveland, one of the worst bed bug affected cities in the USA. He said the bugs can easily travel in clothing and luggage, and can survive for long periods without a meal. It was likely that the bugs first established themselves in Sarah and Tom’s bedroom, and then gradually started spreading to other parts of the house. He said bed bugs don’t only infest dirty homes – they can thrive even in the cleanest houses and hotels.


For the next month, Sarah followed his instructions carefully. She washed every piece of clothing and bedding in the house. She even had to throw some belongings away. The exterminator carried out three treatments over the month, spraying chemicals around the house and steaming the beds. At the end of the month, he confirmed that the bed bugs had been eradicated.


But two weeks later, Sarah noticed a bug scurrying across the bed. Her heart sank again. She called the pest controller, but he said it must be a new infestation. And it was true that Tom had been on another trip to Cleveland – to the same hotel as last time.


Sarah couldn’t afford to hire another exterminator, but she had carefully observed everything the pest controller did during his course of treatments, and she had been reading every piece of research she could find on bed bugs. She scoured blogs and forums for bed bug discussions and chatted online to numerous experts.


After a great deal of trial and error, hard work and persistence, she finally managed to end the bed bug nightmare for good. And next time Tom went on a business trip, he made sure to use a different hotel and seal his dirty clothes in airtight bags immediately after wearing them. He also stored his luggage on a table, because he knew that bed bugs have trouble climbing smooth surfaces.


Nevertheless, it was several months before Sarah and her family stopped sleeping with the lights on, and stopped checking their beds for bugs every night. Eventually they felt safe and comfortable in their home again, but they knew they would need to remain eternally vigilant, because bed bugs are present in public places all around the world, and the family now realized just how easy it is for an infestation to take hold.

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