Life During Treatment

When you're in the middle of a bed bug infestation, it can seem like it lasts for an eternity. Most treatments require multiple applications spread across a month or two. Even heat treatment should still have follow ups weeks later to inspect for activity and possibly additional application of dusts or chemicals. And even after activity dies down, you should wait 6 to 8 weeks before officially declaring victory and getting back to normal. So what do you do during all that time while you're waiting?

Living Out of Bags

For the next several weeks, prepare to see a lot of bags. It will be uncomfortable and annoying to have bags of clothes and linens laying everywhere but having your things heat treated and protected will provide peace of mind. I highly encourage you to use clear plastic bags for storing clean treated items. Not having to dig through every bag to find what you're looking for is a big time saver. And seeing a bunch of black bags around is depressing. It makes you feel like you're living in a garbage dump. Use the black bags for dirty or contaminated items only. Then, you never have to wonder whether you already dried those clothes or not. Basic clear trash bags get the job done but for shoes and purses and other bulky items, I recommend buying a set of sturdier clear plastic storage bags like the ones I list under the Products page.

You Might Still See Bugs

If you had heat treatment, seeing a live bug afterward is a bad thing. However, if you had a chemical sprayed treatment, there's no need to panic. Many times, especially in the days right after treatment, the bugs are trying to figure out what hit them. As the pesticides kick in, they may get disoriented and wander around before they die. So expect to see some bugs in unusual places but they will probably be on their last legs if not already dead. Finding dead bugs is a great sign that it's working!


Sleep In Your Bed

As intimidating as it may be, the best thing you can do to help the treatment do its job is to sleep in your own bed. If the bugs don't sense a human breathing nearby, they will not be motivated to come out and walk across the residual chemicals that have been applied to your bed and they won't die. Unfortunately, the best bait for bed bugs is US. It may mean getting bit some more but take solace in knowing that it will probably be their last meal. Moving to another room or sleeping on the sofa will just draw out the bugs to another spot and you'll have multiple battlefronts instead of just the one.

There are some things you can do to make your bed safer though. Install interceptors under the legs if possible. They will catch bugs coming to and from the bed and help to monitor activity. Try to isolate your bed by moving it away from the wall and curtains a few inches and keeping the sheets from hanging down to the floor. However, that's not going to help you with the bugs are on the bed and frame itself, which is where they most often are hiding. Hopefully the treatment will start kicking in and kill those bugs. To further reduce their numbers, it's good to replace your bed sheets every 4 or 5 days, carefully bagging them to be washed and dried.

Additional Self Treating

The reason you hired the professional is because they know best how to get rid of the bugs and have the tools to do it. It's important to not do anything that is going to make the treatments less effective. Using your own sprays on top of what they have applied could reduce the effectiveness of the treatment and cause the bugs to avoid walking on it. Cleaning over top of the treatment with other chemicals or alcohol could weaken the treatment or cause the bugs to move. It's best to let it be for several days after treatment as it does its work.

As it gets close to your next application date, I like to hit the bed and high risk furniture with steam to help kill any newly hatched eggs or bugs that haven't died from the chemicals. Make sure you do it a full day before the next treatment so it has time to dry out completely and won't interfere with the application.

I would also avoid using dusts on surfaces that have been treated for the same reason. Most people apply them too heavily and it makes the bugs avoid the area. I do like to lightly brush some Cimexa silica dust into small cracks and the joints in the bed frame nearby furniture where the bugs would most likely hide. After several days following the last treatment, I would apply a light dusting again to all high risk surfaces and crevices.


Keeping Score

Because it does take a long time and after a fresh bite, it's easy to get disheartened, I think it's important to track your progress. I like to use a calendar to mark down each day that I got a bite or saw bugs and whether they were dead or alive. It's reassuring to be able to look back and realize that although you just saw a bug, a week earlier, you were seeing multiple bugs every day or getting bit every other day. Measure your success in weeks and not days. Give it time for treatments to work. If there is a rare case where after many weeks, you don't see progress, you can reevaluate the situation with the pro and decide if a change in tactics is needed.

To help monitor activity, I highly recommend using interceptor traps (monitors) around the home. Besides on the bed legs, you can also use them near furniture you spend time on during the day. They don't need to be underneath but could be just sitting next to them and the bugs will still climb into them on their way to you if they're on the move. Corners of rooms are also a good location to place them. Monitors will help you see which direction the bugs are generally coming from, where they are most active, and how many are dead compared to alive each day.

Protecting Others

biohazard sign

Bed bugs can cause us to want to put life on hold. But that's the worst thing we can do. I have a whole section under the Mental Health Page that explains why it's so important to keep living life, especially during a traumatic experience like this. We need to have the companionship and support of friends and family to get through it. But how can we safely have visitors or visit others without exposing them to bugs?

Every time you leave your home, you should change into a fresh set of treated clothes straight from the bag. Don't set them down on the bed or anywhere else. The bathroom is usually a safe place for changing but if you have had activity there, you might have to use another location. If you have a purse or another bag that you carry, make sure that it has been completely heat treated in the dryer or with a steamer or at least inspected and then stored in a sealed bag for protection. If not, don't bring the bag. Use a plastic store bag to carry the items you need to bring with you. Shoes should be cleaned and stored in a bag as well and taken out right before leaving home. Right before getting into your vehicle, do one last visual check to make sure you don't see anything on your shoes or clothing and give them a light brushing. And now it's safe to leave! Yep, it's a lot of work and it totally sucks. But imagine how guilty you would feel if you passed this nightmare on to someone you love or even an innocent stranger. If the person before you had done this protocol, you wouldn't be suffering through it right now.

But what if someone wants to visit you? Should you warn them about your issue or pretend like it's not happening? How will you explain all of the bags and traps around your home? Although it's embarrassing to have to admit, you cannot in good conscience allow someone to enter your home during an active infestation without letting them know the risk. And don't be offended if they don't feel comfortable coming over. Would you if you were in their place? Some brave souls may still be willing to take the risk. If so, there are precautions you can take to keep them safe. I have spent many hours in a bed buggy environment and have never brought them home from a place where I knew the risk ahead of time. If your guest never sits down and spends 10 to 20 minutes talking with you in the dining room or another room where there has been no activity, their exposure would be minimal. Sitting at the dining room table would be much safer than hanging out in the living room. If they do sit down in the living room, using a metal folding chair would greatly reduce the risk compared to sitting on the couch or a recliner. They should not bring any purse or bag in with them so that's one less item they'll have to inspect when they leave. After leaving, they should do a visual check on themselves before getting into their vehicle as described above. As soon as they get home, they should put their clothing and jacket or coat into the dryer for 30 minutes. If they take those precautions, they could reduce the risk of transmitting bed bugs to lower than it is for them coming home from work every day. But it definitely is a test of love for someone to go through that just so they can visit. Most of the time, when possible, I'd rather do the rituals myself and visit them, possibly in a public place to make them feel more comfortable.

"It's not me that they're avoiding. It's the risk of these stupid bugs!"

It's hard not to feel like a pariah during this, like you have some contagious disease that everyone is terrified of. But honestly, that's a pretty good comparison to what it is in reality. Just like with a disease, we need to remind ourselves "It's not ME that they're avoiding. It's the risk of these stupid bugs." They may not understand how it makes you feel but as they become more and more common, they might experience it themselves. When we have an opportunity to support someone else who is going through it later on, remember what it was like for you and reach out a hand to them.

Mental Health

The anxiety of bed bugs can take its toll on us during the fight and affect us emotionally long after its over.

How To Cope