Bed Bugs and Lice and Nothing Nice

 

I worry about the big issues being addressed here on Ricochet, and I pray for the safety of Judith and Claire, our international pioneers/correspondents. But when I turn away from the computer, I worry about little things, too. Really little.

You know what causes me to lose sleep at least once a month? Bed bugs and lice. And it ain’t because I’m a precious girly-girl grossed out by creepy-crawlies. I’ve battled my share of NYC cockroaches (special breed, trust me) and, more recently, my husband wrestled a NYC rat in our former kitchen.

An arrival of bed bugs or lice into our home would cause us near financial ruin if we actually tried to get rid of them. Really.

Bedbugs are all the rage in NYC, where Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, and Hollister stores all had to close down after recent infestation. I don’t shop at those stores, and we recently left Manhattan for Connecticut. Nevertheless, beg bugs happily travel from place to place on backpacks and clothes, and they are embracing their freedom:

Bedbugs are back, and they’re worse than ever. While pesticides kept them under control for most of the twentieth century, the bloodsucking fiends have had a notable resurgence over the last decade. And, between expensive lawsuits and pricey eradication techniques, the bugs are hitting renters, homeowners and companies where they’re most vulnerable — in their wallets … The cost of treating a single hotel room is estimated at $6,000 to $7,000.

Imagine a home, albeit small, with several rooms! Homeowners are urged to throw away all clothes, bedding, rugs, towels, mattresses, bedsprings, and then have a professional come to deal with the bedbug colonies that nest inside impossible-to-reach places like the baseboards and radiators. Immediate bankruptcy, right there.

Lice are also growing heartier.

… in many cases lice have grown resistant to the active ingredients in these over-the-counter products. You may treat and see no results at all.

If you have money (which we don’t), you go to a salon:

A visit to Hair Fairies, a hair salon dedicated exclusively to lice removal, with locations in Manhattan, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities, costs an average of $300 a head [emphasis mine]. A middle-of-the-night consultation with a technician from the Lice Treatment Center on the Upper East Side can run $500 or more.

FYI, if one kid gets lice, it’s common for the family to get them, too. There are home remedies, such as covering the hair in mayo or olive oil and making a turban of Saran Wrap for overnight. You are to do this for three straight nights and then you spend 2-3 hours – per child – combing out the suffocated bugs and nits.

And what will my other two children do while I meticulously comb their sibling? Probably burn down the house. At least we have insurance for that.

There are 15 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MelFoil

    If you can’t afford to eradicate the bedbugs right away, you can maybe set up a mosquito/bug-resistant camping tent (with new sleeping bags inside) and just camp inside your home. That’s about the only temporary measure I can think of.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Yesterday I awoke with pleasant anticipation of a day off. I sat up and put my foot in my Nike, which was already occupied by a scorpion. Excruciating. Many bad words exclaimed.

    There’s a short passage in one of O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels where Dr. Maturin is able to quell some insubordination by explaing to the crew the distinction between head lice and body lice.

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  3. Profile Photo Contributor
    @DianeEllis

    mesquito: Yesterday I awoke with pleasant anticipation of a day off. I sat up and put my foot in my Nike, which was already occupied by a scorpion. Excruciating. Many bad words exclaimed.

    Oh my gosh! I can’t imagine. I guess I’ll count not finding a scorpion in my shoe one of the blessings of city living.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Contributor
    @UrsulaHennessey
    mesquito: Yesterday I awoke with pleasant anticipation of a day off. I sat up and put my foot in my Nike, which was already occupied by a scorpion. Excruciating. Many bad words exclaimed.

    There’s a short passage in one of O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels where Dr. Maturin is able to quell some insubordination by explaing to the crew the distinction between head lice and body lice. · Jul 28 at 3:55pm

    My mom is a rabid O’Brian fan. She has read all of his books. I need to start …

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  5. Profile Photo Member
    @

    I had to stop reading O’Brian when I found I had read through all 21 novels four times. They’re that good, but that was getting weird.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @

    They’re like Jane Austen, but with guy stuff.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller

    Interestingly, here in the subtropical Gulf Coast, it seems like we have every bug known to man (all of which make it inside the house eventually), but I have never seen a bed bug. I have no idea why. There was a lice outbreak at my elementary school when I was young, but I don’t recall the pains my mother went through.

    Your story reminds me of a Scottish woman in Alabama who removed everything from her apartment to clean and threw out all of her food after finding weevils in a bag of rice. Her neighbors thought she was looney.

    For comparison, a trip to Paris during my early twenties was the first time I had ever been able to lay down in grass without ants, spiders, and other creatures crawling over me. Before that day, I thought it was pure fiction when people did so in movies.

    Thanks to the port of Houston, I see new bugs every single year. But it’s usually the domestic ones that cause trouble. Bed bugs sound like major trouble.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @

    I have three school-age children and they have weekly lice checks at school — more frequent if there is a sighting. The fashion of long unruly hair on boys as well as girls at their hippy Quaker school makes the problem more common. I have in fact paid obscene amounts to the Hair Fairies in fact one time when the critters came home to roost. Truthfully — lice are not the end of the world. Its really the social stigma that makes them so off-putting. Of course last time I swore that the next time anyone brought home head lice from school, only my wife and daughter would go to Hair Fairies (I’m sexist that way.) The boys and I get crew cuts.

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  9. Profile Photo Member
    @

    And… here come the Terminix ads.

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  10. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire

    Aw, thank you for the prayers. We’re praying for your safety, too. And I’ll throw in a prayer that you be delivered from pestilence.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @StickerShock

    Itchy here, too.

    NYC dorms have had bedbug outbreaks & have had to replace the furniture in entire dorms. They use seamless mattresses so the critters have no nooks to hide in. We just moved D into a NYC apartment & I’m really spooked about what vermin await. We were spared head lice despite frequent incidents at the kids’ elementary schools. I got in the habit of checking their heads every day because the school would send home notices long after the outbreak was discovered.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong

    Thanks, Ursula. Since reading this post, I’ve been overcome with itchiness.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Karen

    Well, at least you don’t have chiggers to worry about in CT. We don’t have them in MD, so I wouldn’t think you’d have them up there. Growing up in Middle TN, we’d have our legs covered with clear nail polish by the end of summer trying to suffocate them. Oh, they were itchy.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Contributor
    @MelanieGraham

    Say, I am missing a scorpion. If anyone has seen it, please PM me…

    • #14

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