Bed bugs have been on my mind for the past few months, ever since a friend told me a horror story about her friend in Patterson Park whose home was infested. Then Diane Rehm devoted a show to them and so did Terry Gross. The Sun had a story about a horrible case in Howard County and a $500,000 lawsuit. A recent New Yorker cover featured two apparently post-coital bed bugs.
Then at Back to School night at RFES I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since the spring and she said they’d been out of their house all summer because of bed bugs. Turns out they either got them from a hotel her husband stayed at on a business trip, or from a bag they’d bought for their daughter at a yard sale. The tags were still on and it seemed pristine. (Bed bugs can be found at the finest hotels — not just at “flea-bag” motels. Having them is not a sign of poor housekeeping.)
She woke up one morning with horrible hives and her daughters had them, too, but not as badly. Her husband seemed unaffected. Turns out some people really react while others don’t. Her dermatologist had no idea what was wrong and was on the verge of ordering a biopsy and a whole host of other tests.
As soon as they realized what was going on, they warned their neighbors on either side of them and urged them to have a pest control company come in and do testing. The neighbors on one side did a preventative treatment and all was fine. The neighbors on the other side decided to just monitor things and their house became infested; it’s hard to detect bed bugs in the early stages, although experts can usually spot them much earlier than a layman can.
My friend ended up throwing out her couch and all their headboards. One mattress was tossed but the others they were able to keep by putting encasements on them. (That seals in the bugs who eventually die when they can’t suck your blood. Poor babies.) She and her family are now back home.
She called the Baltimore County Health Department in July and urged them to do a public health campaign to alert people to what was going on. They hemmed and hawed and said they would put something on their website. But they haven’t. Baltimore City, though, has a fairly comprehensive package of info.
Michael Potter of the University of Kentucky is the foremost expert on bed bugs and he has a website with a host of information. My friend said it was the best source for her because it was clear and straightforward. You can find it here.
She also cautioned against trying to eradicate them yourself and instead to hire an expert. They interviewed three pest control firms and went with Ehrlich because they used a three-prong approach.
Baltimore City gives these tips for keeping bed bugs out of your home:
So, that’s the scoop. Sleep tight.