The Agony of Having Bed Bugs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Photo sourced from here courtesy of Martin
STORY: One of the cons of traveling cheaply around South East Asia is risking yourself staying at a dodgy place. To save cost, proper maintenance becomes questionable. Although recent studies show that whether you're staying in a cheap hostel or a fancy hotel, you can still be bitten by this.
I've stayed in numerous hostels around the Philippines and in South East Asia, yet i haven't experienced it. But this time, i wasn't lucky.
I arrived in Kuala Lumpur from the bus departing from Singapore. I got a very good recommendation that this hostel called Haven Guest House along Bukit Bintang was a star. I saw a leaflet/brochure and the rooms look neat, and the hostel was spacious.
I arrived at the Haven hostel. It was about less than $8/night. Not bad at all, plus i could see not a lot of people were staying then when i got there, so even if i book a dorm bed, chances are i wouldn't be spending nights with too many people. Apart from the huge second floor, and the interiors all made of wood, I got a feel of living in a cabin - very homey. The rooms are so dark at night, that going to take a leak in the bathroom is like walking as a blind man. The fan rooms weren't really working. I was just wearing my boxers, and i was sweating profusely. There weren't any windows, so it was a bit suffocating.
The next day as soon as i got up, i noticed that my right arm was a bit itchy. I grabbed my towel, and i was off to hit the shower. As soon as i took off my shirt and looked in the mirror, there it was red island like patches on my right arm. The spots were very red, and it made me worry a lot. I didn't take it too seriously. I thought that it's one of those instances were you sometimes get rashes but nothing to worry about. I washed my arm with clean soap and water. Soon after, swabbed some alcohol. And the OC that i am, i immediately went for my off lotion.
When i got to the hostel again after a very long day, i decided to change bunk beds just to be sure. Maybe, the mattress wasn't clean. The next day, my arm looked worse. The red patches now reached my back and i was beginning to worry about a skin infection, or worse a disease. I was scratching the whole day, and i was very worried about my condition. I was contemplating on calling my father who's a physician but i knew that would be the end of my trip. For sure, he would tell me to fly out to Manila the ASAP.
I met up with the two american backpackers i met in a bar and i showed the gravity of the patches in my arm and back. Everyone in the table, a couple of Malaysians, some English and the Americans said.. "BED BUGS". Right there and then, i was able to grab first hand information on the 101's. And it was an absolute confirmation that i got sucked.
The next day, i woke up early in the morning and left Kuala Lumpur for Southern Thailand. I was dismayed and very disappointed. I saw it as a sign that i need to move on now. I am traveling pretty slowly anyway. The night after, i woke up scratch-free. There were some signs of red patches but as days pass by it disappears quite easily.
I wrote this story to warn people to actually inspect very carefully where to sleep. I know the sound of $2 bed is like jackpot but if it means having to dread about the suckers, i don't think its worth it. The really awful feeling is that the haven hostel in KL was very clean, very neat, it looked very well-maintained. And after a month of traveling to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, this is the only place where I've stayed that i suffered this rash. I mean, I've been to the shadiest, spartan rooms in South Thailand and i didn't get this. It's definitely safe to say, you really can't tell.
So to help people out and spread the word, let's get thing straight...
What are bed bugs?
Bedbugs (or bed bugs) are small, elusive, and parasitic insects of the family Cimicidae. They live strictly by feeding on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. The name 'bed bug' is derived from the insect's preferred habitat infesting houses and especially beds or other common areas where people may sleep. Bedbugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts.
Bedbugs are bloodsucking insects. They are normally active at night just before dawn, with a peak feeding period of about an hour before sunrise. Bedbugs may attempt to feed at other times if given the opportunity and have been observed feeding during all periods of the day. They reach their host by walking, or sometimes climb the walls to the ceiling and drop down on feeling a heat wave. Bedbugs are attracted to their hosts by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide. The bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow feeding tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. The bites cannot usually be felt until some minutes or hours later, as a dermatological reaction to the injected agents, and the first indication of a bite usually comes from the desire to scratch the bite site. Because of their natural aversion for sunlight, bedbugs come out at night.
Most observed bites consist of a raised red bump or flat welt, and are often accompanied by very intense itching. The red mark is the result of an allergic reaction to the anesthetic contained in the bedbug's saliva, which is inserted into the blood of its victim. Reactions to bedbug bites may appear indistinguishable from mosquito bites although they tend to last for longer periods. Bites may not become immediately visible and can take up to nine days to appear. Bedbug bites tend not to have a red dot in the center such as is characteristic of flea bites. A trait shared with flea bites is tendency towards the pattern of sequential bites often aligned in rows of three. This may be caused by the bedbug being disturbed while eating and relocating half an inch or so farther along the skin before resuming feeding. Alternatively, the arrangement of bites may be caused by the bedbug repeatedly searching for a blood vein. Sourced from here
Just in case you think you were bitten by bed bugs (hopefully never) and find yourself scratching red patches anywhere in your body, I found 7 simple solutions to help you get rid of this rash.
1. Don't scratch, i know a few scratch here and there won't hurt a bit. The more you scratch the more chances the area will get infected.
2. Wash the affected area with soap and water just to make sure, the area is clean.
3. Swab cotton buds with alcohol on the affected area to make it infection-free.
4. I've researched and found out it actually helps. Tea tree oil is very helpful. Mix tea tree oil with water and spray it directly to the affected area. Smells good and chances are you won't get sucked again.
5. Products like Calamine lotion and antiseptic cream are said to help sooth the affected area.
6. If you've slept on a bed bug infested bed, don't sleep there anymore. These parasites are very good at hiding. Even if you'e cleaned thoroughly the bed, chances are they will get back at you that night.
7. And lastly, don't worry, it's not life threatening. It may be irritating, and it looks like you need to worry, but it's not the end of the world. Move on, and charge it to experience.