Here & there: Don’t let the bedbugs bite

Composite stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — I’m sort of a germaphobe. It’s not a problem. I like to think of it as constructive paranoia.

I don’t like my boys to wear shoes in the house, and I never allow shoes on the bed, citing gross things on sidewalks like dog poop and spit – and my boys’ inability to avoid them. I’m terrified of lice and have threatened to shave heads if anyone comes home with them. Every time I read David Shannon’s picture book on the subject I itch for hours.

But the thing that scares me the most, the thing that almost keeps me locked at home? Bedbugs.

And bedbugs are exactly what I found in Newport Beach over Presidents Day. Oh, the horror!

These little buggers had the nerve to show up in one of the beds of our Airbnb rental right off the boardwalk. It was a nice place, too. But, as I’ve learned, bedbugs are no respecter of borders, class or proximity to the beach.

I sporadically check mattresses when we travel. I’ve heard stories from other travels, including one tale about a hostel stay in Iceland that involved quarantine before re-entry to the United States.

But I usually only do it when I have a bad vibe in the hotel room or rental. I didn’t have a bad vibe in this place. It was neat and clean.

Our first hint something was wrong were the red welts my little boy found speckling his legs when he awoke our very first morning. Our second was the blood smears on his sheets. A quick Google search strongly suggested we had a problem.

Another search led me to the verge of hysteria. The steam cleaning! The laundering! The head-to-toe inspection to make sure none of them were on our bodies – or on our shoes. It all freaked me out.

My husband called his buddy in the pest control business for practical advice to settle me down. His big tip: “Don’t bring them home with you.”

Bring them home with us?! I nearly fainted.

He also told us that bedbugs are part of the reason he wants to get out of the business. His exact quote: “They drive you crazy. Literally.”

And he isn’t wrong exactly.

Experiencing bedbugs is traumatic. According to The Atlantic, “bed bug infections can leave people with anxiety, depression, and paranoia.” According also to anyone who has encountered them. The Atlantic cites research by a Canadian doctor and researcher. People who have been in the bedbug trenches cite themselves. Me included.

So what I’m about to say next may shock you: The bedbugs didn’t ruin our trip.

Even after my initial and apparently justified psychological frenzy. (Did I mention I started to cry at an indoor go-cart track during all of this?) And even after we lost almost a full day of our “vacation” while our entire wardrobe, including what we were wearing, had to be laundered, our luggage had to be steam cleaned, and we had to relocate.

Why? It really came down to good old fashioned people taking care of people. Namely the owners of the rental property and their staff taking care of us.

They weren’t jerks. They weren’t defensive. They were horrified that their condo had been infested. They were also responsive and genuinely concerned about doing right by us.

They helped us wash our clothes. They helped us steam clean our luggage. They told us what was happening every step of the process. And they were kind.

Somehow that helped. It helped me feel like the world wasn’t coming to an end. It helped me feel like even if we brought the bedbugs home (we didn’t), we would survive. And it made me think that yes, we would travel again.

And we will.

But don’t ever tell me to “sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite” again. I just might get hysterical.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Henry March 5, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Yikes! Sorry for the trauma for you and your family, Kat. Between lodging that might have bedbugs and restaurants that might have unsanitary food handlers, our family has been enjoying our backyard & home cooking much more frequently lately.

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