It was lucky Micah fell out of bed; in changing the mattress over to the car bed, we realized that he had somehow acquired a million fellow bedmates: bedbugs! Yikes! The last few weeks have been upsetting, difficult, and expensive as we try to get rid of them. Nothing makes you feel quite so terrible as a parent as seeing your child covered with signs that he's been nibbled on in his sleep for weeks.
So that you, my loyal readers, can reap the benefit (and hopefully avoid some of the cost) of getting rid of the critters, here are some of the lessons I've learned so far:
1) Accept no hand-me-downs or yard sale purchases that cannot be washed in the clothes or dishwasher. We think ours arrived in some plastic truck toys given to us by a neighbor (who later told us that they had bedbugs.) Bedbugs die at around 120 degrees F, so tossing things in the dryer on the hottest setting or the dishwasher will kill them, but with thick things like stuffed animals, it is hard to know whether they've reached the right heat inside.
2) Wash everything that comes into your house right away.
3) When arriving home after travelling, wash everything that's been in a hotel room right away.
4) If you do acquire bedbugs, don't go for the most expensive remedy right away. We had an exterminator come in and perform the less-invasive treatment of steam-cleaning one room. We had to take everything out of the room and wash it (a good opportunity for giving away a lot of his outgrown clothes and toys). The more expensive option would have been to bring in generators and fans to heat the ENTIRE HOUSE to 160 degrees..... costs about $1/square foot, at least in our part of the world.
5) Don't assume that one treatment solves the problem. We bought new mattresses and a new bed (threw away the car bed; it was either infested before we got it or got very infested in just a day with us), and new changing pad. However, the next day, we found a well-fed bedbug on the plastic-encased mattress, so we moved Micah out of the room and set up a full booby-trap situation.... heavy-duty chemicals and a carbon-dioxide "lure" to draw out all the remaining baby bed bugs. We've had that set-up for about a week and still are drawing a few babies out of hiding, so can't let Micah back into the room yet. I'm not sure when we'll be able to declare "mission accomplished," but I don't want to do so prematurely.
6) Don't buy expensive products when inexpensive ones will do the job. We bought a $75 "bed bug beacon" (instead of paying the exterminator $100 to rent his detector) only to discover that the active chemical ingredients are sugar and yeast. D'oh! An adequate bed bug lure can be built using common household items for about $10......
We have had some fun adventures while dealing with this unpleasantness, so my next post will be back to our usual happy family fun.