Monday, October 12, 2009

A disturbing discovery

*** Sorry for the long-winded post. I really needed to unload!***

We have been dealing with some pretty extreme rashes in our house for the last several months. It started late last July when Jonathan and I both woke up with an incredibly itchy rash from head to toe. It was initially diagnosed as poison oak (Jonathan had been on a cub scout nature hike a couple days before) and then finally diagnosed at strep. Jonathan and I both went on antibiotics and even though we finished them in 10 days, it took almost a month to completely get rid of the rash. During this time Elizabeth had some bright red itchy spots show up on her abdomen. I immediately took her to the pediatrician and she also tested positive for strep though the doctor said her spots looked more like bites to him, but he dismissed the thought because strep rashes can present themselves in unusual ways.

About the time Elizabeth was finishing up with her antibiotics, Jonathan's rash came back with a vengeance. Back to the doctor, another positive strep test, more antibiotics, another month before the rash cleared itself up. Then Gustin woke up covered in red, inflamed, extremely itchy spots. After another trip to the doctor, Gustin was not diagnosed with strep (his test came back negative), but with a virus. The doctor said it was most likely a common cold bug and the rash resulted as a side effect from how Gustin's body was fighting off the virus. The doctor also pointed out how the rash was very characteristically presenting itself as a viral rash with dime-sized red welts surrounded by a lighter colored ring. We would just have to wait it out.

Around this same time I noticed a few spots on myself with the exact same characteristics as Gustin's. I must have the same virus. So, we waited and itched and waited for it to go away. After almost three weeks, the rash was still going strong and I was now noticing spots on both Jonathan and Elizabeth and Eric complained about a few as well. I decided to take Gustin back to the doctor (he really did look bad with big red spots all over his body as well as scabs from all the scratching) and the doctor said it could be a recurring virus, strep that just wasn't showing up in the tests, a microplasmic infection (whatever that is!) or some kind of allergic reaction. He really didn't know what it was but he prescribed antibiotics because that would eliminate strep or the microsplasmic infection if they were the cause. I really don't like just throwing prescription drugs at things to see if they might work, but I didn't really see any other choice.

Two days after Gustin started the antibiotics (last Thursday), we made a discovery that finally solved the rash mystery. While getting the kids ready for bed, I noticed some funny black spots on the bed skirt of Elizabeth's bed. The more closely I looked, the more I found. Clusters of black stuff and the occasional little black bug were hidden in between the pleats of her bed skirt. I called Eric in and showed him. He investigated more and then went to the boys room. He checked the crib - nothing. But next to the crib is an extra mattress that will go on the boys' bunk beds once we get them set up. He pulled the crib away from the mattress and we saw dozens of black bugs scuttling all over trying to get away from the light that they were suddenly exposed to. It was the most creepy and disgusting thing I have ever seen!

I ran downstairs to my computer and googled "bedbugs". Sure enough, the picture that came up in wikipedia looked exactly like the bugs in the kids' rooms. We would go on to find evidence of the bugs in all of the mattresses in the entire house and in the couch and the recliner. We had a massive infestation and began the process of purging the house of bedbugs immediately. Over the next three days we threw away two mattresses, a box spring, the crib mattress and some pillows. We washed everything that would fit in the washing machine and dryer on the hot cycles (the heat kills the bugs); bed linens, pillows, stuffed animals (you don't realize how many stuffed animals your kids have until you have to wash them all!), curtains, etc. We used a steamer to kill the bugs and the larvae and eggs on bed frames, in the carpet, in mattresses and box springs, in the couch and recliner. Nobody was allowed to touch anything until it had gone through a thorough de-bugging. Even though I don't like insecticides, we used bedbug killing foggers in every room as well. The couple mattresses we didn't throw away we covered in special mattress covers that seal and don't let any bed bugs in or out.

And what about our "rashes"? Gone. The only things left are a few scabs on Gustin. I have to admit that when we discovered the bed bugs part of me was so relieved to finally have found the cause of these unending rashes. The other part of me was disgusted more deeply that I have ever felt. I have never been so on edge. The thought of those bugs so thoroughly creeped me out that I didn't want to touch anything in the house or sit on anything and certainly not sleep on anything until we knew they were gone. I didn't sleep well for days and even Eric admitted waking up at night and pulling out his flashlight to see if he could find see any bugs out for a midnight snack.

We're not quite done with the scouring process (my washer and dryer have been running nonstop!), but we are getting there. Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of and I'm afraid we will have to repeat these procedures possibly more than once before we are completely rid of them. My senses are on high alert and I notice every little black speck in the house and investigate it immediately upon discovery. We will have to remain vigilant for months.

But, where did they come from? I wish I knew! We have a few theories. They could have been in the house when we moved in in July. (Remember the doctor thought he saw bug bites on Elizabeth back in August!). Eric thinks they were transferred from the blankets that the moving company used to cover all the furniture in the moving truck. They also could have come home with us from our vacation in July when we stayed in cabins by a lake. We'll never know.

By the way, Eric set the old mattresses that we wanted to throw away out on the curb last night so they would get picked up with the trash today as Monday is a trash day. Early this morning, long before the trash trucks come, Eric went outside to do something and noticed that the mattresses were gone. Someone took our bedbug infested mattresses home with them! Oh no! It never occurred to me that someone would actually want them and take them. I wished we had somehow marked them as hazardous waste or something! Gross!

One more thing and then I promise I'll be done.

Just before leaving for school this morning, Jonathan called to us from upstairs.

"Daddy! There's a bedbug crawling down the hallway!"

And, he was right! Ugh! I think it's time to stop writing and get back to running the washing machine and you can bet I'll be pulling out the steamer shortly!


Shannon said...

OH NO Colleen! I've heard horrible things about bedbugs! My friend's boyfriend spent a TON of money getting rid of them. Ugh!!

Who's the patron saint of bedbugs? hehe...

Blair said...

Ughh. We had a flea infestation about a year ago and it was horrible! Bites all over the baby especially. We had to fog the house 2 or 3 times. I'm so glad you found the culprit and hope that you get them once and for all!

And don't forget to tell the doctor what the real issue was so he can help others in the future!

Colleen said...

Eric said the same thing, that I need to tell the doctor about it. I really would have thought that he would have at least thought of budbugs as a possibility and then we could have checked sooner and the kids (especially Gustin) could have avoided so many weeks of misery.

Christine said...

I keep reading your post and shuddering. That sounds so horrid. I hope you can get rid of them esaily. Prayers!

Jill said...

Oh my gosh. I, too, am totally disturbed by this. So, I can't even imagine how you must feel. Now I feel all itchy and crawly... ahh.
Colleen, you poor thing! What a huge undertaking. I had heard about this on the news- especially being a problem in hotels.

Oh my goodness. Hang in there and I hope your washing machine holds up with all of the laundry. :(

Beth M. said...

Hi Colleen - I just discovered your blog recently and have never commented until now - but I just have to say I feel for you. We haven't battled bed bugs, but currently my three are battling minor sicknesses that seem to come out of nowhere, and I'm currently on a cleaning kick - trying to sanitize everything. I'm sure your problem is from those possible sources you mentioned, so I hope your irradication efforts work quickly for you.

Love your blog - your kids are beautiful - great photography.

Colleen said...

Beth -
Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I hope that you children get well very soon. Sick kids make a mommy's life so much harder! :(

Lillian said...

Oh, Colleen! How horrible! We had a tick infesttaion this summer. EVen baby and two of my kids had a few! I was COMPLETELY freaked out!! At first I was ready to get rid of our dog BUT they were in our front yard, back yard, trees, coming in through all windows, EVERYWHERE!!!

Took us several rounds of poisoning the yards and defogging the house. They are now gone. But poor doggie is still on my doggie list ..... just because.

And anytime my kids have an itch they automatically assume its a tick. I feel like a mommy gorilla going through hair just to declare, "Nope. No ticks. Just your imagination."

TMI??? LOL!!

Praying you have a speedy purging process.

Rikki said...

I just came upon your post while trying to search for answers for my sons sudden rash. I'm going to check out his bedding and pray it's not bedbugs, we also just moved here 2 months ago. ugh!!!