My friend is understandably upset. Her landlord stopped by this weekend. Bed bugs have been found in one of the units in her apartment complex. Not in her building, thank heavens, but close enough to cause concern.
Of course, my friend is worried about getting bed bugs in her home, but she is more concerned about how this might affect her job. She works as an aide to hospice patients. Should bed bugs spread to her apartment building, she is extremely worried about spreading them to her patients. Skin breakdown is a serious problem for people who are bedridden. For her patients, bed bug bites could cause not only extreme discomfort, but bed sores, which are both painful and very slow to heal.
My friend is afraid that if she tells her employer, she won’t be scheduled to work. Since she supports a four-year-old son, she can’t afford to lose any income. But she wants to be fair to her employer and patients. My friend went round and round all weekend trying to decide how best to handle the situation. This is what she decided to do:
- Be proactive. She bought bed bug-proof mattress covers for the two beds in her apartment and encased both her mattresses and box springs. (Click the post title to find out more about mattress encasements.) Since my friend has a limited budget, this will protect her mattress from bed bugs by sealing them out. It will also make it easier to spot and kill bed bugs if they invade her apartment. Not only will the little buggers show up against the cover where they can be vacuumed up or smashed, but they won’t be able to hide in her bed.
- Minimize socialization. She made the decision to minimize social contact with other people in her apartment complex. Not an easy decision for a 26-year-old single mom, but a wise one. Bed bugs are easily spread on clothing and an infected friend could unwittingly bring them into her apartment. Or she could become infected visiting a friend in an infested apartment. Since bed bug activity may be hard to spot in the early stages of an infestation, my friend made a wise, if difficult, choice.
- Daily inspections. She carefully inspects her body (and her son’s) for welts and her bed for dark smears — both evidence of bed bug activity — every day.
- Tell your employer. She did tell her employer who, largely because of the proactive measures she had already put into place, was more supportive than she expected.
If bed bugs spread to her unit, my friend will have to take more drastic steps to protect herself; but for the time being, with the menace two buildings away, she is doing all she can to ensure that neither she nor her patients become infected.