Well… week 31 of pregnancy went a LITTLE differently than others. Baby is gooood. Moving a ton. Belly is growing almost daily. I’ve been crazy sick and haven’t worked out in over a week.
But really Dan’s and my stress level went up tenfold when we finally diagnosed the problem in our house…
It’s weird though… because we’ve seen 4 fleas in two weeks. One two weeks ago. And three this week all at once in one spot. I’ve been bit on two occasions – both times at night with dogs in the bed. We have never once seen them on the dogs – who are LIGHT-COLORED – as is all our furniture – so it should be pretty easy to. We’ve worn white socks all around the house which is apparently a great test – in big infestations, fleas just jump on the socks! – and we have never had any fleas on our socks. And after talking to a few professionals and people who have gone through this, it sounds like not a horrible situation…
But let me start at the beginning.
Two weeks ago on a Wednesday, a few days before my baby shower, I woke up bright and early and started doing my morning yoga in our bedroom. I had slept in a short nightgown and quickly realized I had a ton of bites on the back of my legs. Very weird but I didn’t freak out for two reasons: this happened to me once YEARS ago and I treated my room with bed bug spray, even though no signs of bed bugs were ever seen or noticed, and just nothing ever happened again… over and done. Easy.
Second reason: I’m always getting bit! Bugs loooove my blood type (mosquitos feast in the summer), so I thought a spider went ham on my legs (which we regularly have in the house… yes. old home in the city, it’s always the case everywhere I live. Usually they don’t bother me.)… I shrugged it off. Even though I had 21 bites total, mostly on my back upper thigh but in a few other places… calves and the side of my waist. WHY did I shrug it off?! 21 bites! Ahh. Live and learn.
LAST SUNDAY NIGHT (4 days after first bites): It wasn’t until Sunday when the bites were STILL really itching and swollen that I started questioning / worrying what the heck did this. IS IT bed bugs?! Ahh.
Commence freak out.
LAST WEEK MONDAY (5 days after first bites): Monday morning we woke up and threw all the bedding in the wash, and did a thorough investigation of the mattress and headboard. We did encounter one tiny little bug on the headboard, that didn’t look quite like the bed bug pics we were seeing online, but we didn’t get a photo in time before it jumped out of Dan’s hands… NO. Not great, right? But we didn’t know if it was a bed bug or what.
So we called and had a service come out that day to see if it was bed bugs. These professionals saw absolutely no signs. Checked bed, all bedroom furniture, all living room upholstered furniture. We tried describing the bug but it wasn’t super helpful… he said it didn’t sound like a bed bug based on how it looked and moved. Either way, we felt so much better – no bed bugs… they said it could have been spider or fleas or who knows. But not bed bugs. Hallelujah.
We had a different company come later that day and spray some kind of alcohol treatment in the master bedroom… and we gave the dogs a flea bath… just in case? Even though we had seen no signs of fleas on them. We put a plastic protector around our mattress and those guys left little sticky traps by each foot of the bed. All that’s been caught in that for over a week is a little spider.
Another week goes by. No bites. No signs of bugs anywhere. Everything seems all good.
THIS WEEK TUESDAY: Fast forward a week which brings us to this week. I woke up Tuesday with five bites on my ankles. (I had slept with socks and PJ pants on so that small amount of skin must have been exposed. Noooo. Again?! Tried not to let it stress me. Then I sat down on our nicely made bed for a morning conference call and this time SAW THREE TINY BUGS. The same as the one that was on our headboard. I immediately called Danny over, we took pictures of them, and saved two in a tupperware to show the professionals and killed and disposed of the third one.
We quickly realized – it was fleas.
We sprung into action.
Dogs got another flea bath.
The silver lining is I had been sick all week so we actually washed the bedding 2-3 times – which is great and kills any fleas in the bedding.
All bedding, blankets, clothes everything started getting thrown into plastic bags and then wash and dryer on high heat. Down comforter and cashmere throws went to dry cleaners.
We called a different service to come out that night to treat the house.
Dan walked the dogs to the vet around the corner to get checked (didn’t want to put them in the car). Vet saw no actual fleas on them – she said the flea bath probably wiped them out (even though again, we had never seen fleas on either dog and we’re regularly up close and cuddling with them), but she saw signs of flea dirt which meant they did have them… they got flea medication which should kill and prevent any future fleas on them. Ok all good things!
I headed to the burbs to relax at my mom’s house since I was SUPER sick, had been bit again, and couldn’t be around the treatment anyway given my pregnancy. But here’s where things get dicey…
Basically the service we called wasn’t the most professional, didn’t seem to administer it properly – it’s a “natural” powder, Cimexa, we were told was safe for pets and humans to be around – but he literally sprinkled it everywhere, on the entire stair runner and area rug, on the floors. We started researching while he was there applying it (me on the internet in the burbs, texting and calling Danny who WAS in the house), and it turns out this stuff is NOT safe for pets and really not great for Dan to be breathing in. Awesome.
So at 10pm, Dan packed up the dogs and went to a dog-friendly hotel nearby… agh. The flea medication and bath the dogs received earlier had technically started working killing off any fleas on them hours ago so they were in the clear (and again the vet didn’t see any fleas on them). I sleep at my mom’s.
WEDNESDAY: We also read that all that Cimexa dust needed to be vacuumed up, which the technician never even told us. Literally had the dogs been walking on it and licking their paws – it would’ve been really bad. Ah.
So we let it sit for 24 hours then Dan headed home Wednesday evening to vacuum everything. I had returned from my mom’s and joined the pups at the hotel at this point… I picked up a respirator masks from Target for Dan to wear since the stuff is SO drying and not good to breathe in.
At this point – before he started vacuuming, I should also say: we had a friend come over and help Dan throw away the mattress and box spring. (It had been giving me back pain anyway from being so soft I didn’t have a problem parting with it.) We also threw away the shag rug in our bedroom which the dogs are ALWAYS rolling around on and so glad we did since the exterminator said fleas looove shag rugs. We also threw away ALL throw pillow inserts which probably wasn’t necessary but I didn’t care… better safe than sorry. And we put the throw pillow covers in the dryer on HIGH heat for an hour (which kills fleas at all stages). Dog bed inserts get thrown out. Covers go in wash on high heat.
Dan vacuumed the whole house – every upholstery piece, every inch of floor – for five hours that night. Insane, I know. What a guy…
He came back to the hotel exhausted and basically passed out.
I however stayed up most of the night with my head cold still in FULL effect coughing and blowing my nose and tossing and turning with anxiety over the poison in our house and that this crisis would go on for months… I ALSO read that the flea pill the dogs had been given at the vet was somewhat controversial and had led to problems (DEATH) in dogs. Whaaaat. Argh… fun stuff. Also we kept Tucker and Fiona out of the bedroom of the hotel room but he scratched at the door all night. I slept one hour. Not good.
THURSDAY: We woke up early since Tucker had a pre-scheduled surgery appointment to get his teeth cleaned and have two little tumors removed. But instead shortly after we woke up, he threw up bile that had blood in it (thank GOD on the tile floor of the hotel room). That has literally never happened to him in 11 years. So my anxiety about the anti-flea pill they were given was becoming realized…
We called our regular vet he had the appointment with and updated them, and she told us to bring him in. Fortunately blood work came back normal. Vitals all were normal. The tiny specs of blood in vomit didn’t really concern the vet either. She said keep monitoring him, he’s been ok since. We took Fiona with us, as well, and again, no fleas were seen on either dog.
In general – our vet is amazing and we love her. And she really made it sound like the flea thing in our home wasn’t a big deal and totally manageable with tons of vacuuming and laundry. Awesome. Feeling better.
OK…. so we go back to hotel with dogs to try and get some work done. Eventually we get back to the house to rewash laundry that had been sitting out on the dining room table when the house got treated… Dan vacuumed again and mopped the floors with vinegar water (apparently fleas hate vinegar?), and vacuumed AGAIN. Yes… three or four times now.
At this point the dryer breaks. The last time it broke it took over two weeks to fix. So now we have more high heat treatment – and regularly (daily) laundering and vacuuming are the two key things to fighting fleas. Ffffffffffff. Anxiety grows.
Start making calls to get all that fixed – ASAP. I spent… too many hours researching fleas and every article conflicts with the next.
One says: use steam cleaning to treat – the 120+ degree temps will kill ALL stages of fleas.
Next article: Don’t steam: the humidity from the steam is good for the fleas. Ok, whaaat?
Vacuum. Use x. Try y. Use z. “This product is great!” “No this product is crap and doesn’t work.” “Fleas can be remedied in a week or two.” “Fleas takes months and multiple treatments to get rid of.”
Ahh what?! Is this our life now? Am I going to bring a baby home to a flea house? Will I continue to get bit? When will this end? … goes the anxiety reel in my head.
THEN the anxiety over “Holy shit, can I catch a disease from the fleas that bit me?!” enters my sleep deprived brain Thursday evening… and I basically break down and start sobbing. For like the third time that day. I’m telling you – no sleep is baaaad for the mind. I text my friend who is a nurse to ask her if she knew if baby or I was in danger; started doing research where there isn’t much online except 1-2 scary articles; called my doctor. On-call doctor calls back – she is not concerned. Says nothing to worry about. Nurse friend says the same thing. Ok… that all helps kind of.
I literally sleep on the sofa at our office Thursday night. Dan stays at home on clean bedding in the guest room which barely gets used (we’re hoping has no flea activity), and dogs are quarantined on a new cozy blanket in the upstairs bathroom (since we threw their beds out and blankets are easier to wash)…
I get 8 glorious hours of sleep.
Went back to the house early… we both had tons of work to do while simultaneously arranging appointments to get the dryer fixed.
I can’t help but research methods to make sure we get rid of the fleas.
Yes, I’m still. sick. But getting some sleep helped.
Then a bit of luck. A PR contact of mine happens to represent ORKIN. I ask her to put me in touch and explained I had been hearing such conflicting things from vets, exterminators, the internet, etc. and I was feeling hopeless/not knowing what to do. She reaches out on my behalf, and at 4:30pm, I get a call from the local ORKIN branch manager and he spends 50 minutes on the phone with me talking me through EVERYTHING… he’s been doing this for 25 years and he was so nice and helpful. He too thinks it’s not a bad situation based on everything I described… and we have a rep coming to treat the house on Monday.
In the interim, we are vacuuming like our lives depend on it.
We are also instructed by ORKINman to clear out the closet floors which let me tell you… is going to be a LONG process this weekend since that’s ALL our storage in our house… let’s just say the closet floors are not exactly clear. Let the purge begin.
So far here’s our attack plan:
- continue to vacuum daily between now and Monday, then again on Tuesday and for the foreseeable few weeks. We borrowed a shop vac from my mom, and have this powerhouse vacuum which is crazy strong at picking up the deepest dirt (and hopefully flea eggs!).
- ORKIN comes on Monday and treats
- intersperse steam cleaning on the floors, furniture, and area rug – we called a service and they quoted us $180 to steam the sofa, area rug, and two chairs… a quick search and I found this steam cleaner came HIGHLY recommended in a “how to fight fleas” article and it’s for $130 and we could do it as much as needed. So we bought that. I think even once this flea thing is resolved I’m going to LOVE having this thing.
- order new mattress in two weeks once we have a better sense of the all-clear. Sleep on guest bed in the interim.
- treat back yard with spray since we have NO idea where the dogs got these and that’s really our only guess… I mean, FLEAS in the winter?! WTF. Also, don’t allow dogs in back yard for the foreseeable future.
- we also ordered diatomaceous earth (food grade) per the VERY helpful advice from another work contact I’ve been emailing with who went through this… we will likely do a DIY treatment with this in 1-2 weeks on our own… even though we technically get month-long follow-ups with ORKIN so technically using this is a TBD. It fortunately has a 30-day return policy if we end up not using it.
- get the damn laundry fixed so we can continue washing and drying stuff on high heat
And yea…! That’s kind of where we’re at. The next month will be a bit anxiety-filled dealing with this… waiting to see if we spot any more or if bites happen. Ah.
For anyone reading who thinks I sound like a crazy nutbag… I’m telling you – READ ABOUT FLEAS. You’ll understand. It’s the DAMN FLEA EGGS. Basically people think they get rid of them because you don’t see any, but turns out – they had already dropped eggs somewhere in your home, or the dogs walking around the house dropped eggs that had been laid on them (ew) – and those don’t hatch for 1 or 2 weeks to a month or more – and then you have fleas again! FORTUNATELY to be prepared in case that happens, the dogs are treated – which means if and when they bite the dog, they’ll then die and can’t reproduce. OR they’ll encounter some of the poison that we’ve laid down. OR we vacuum that shit up and throw it out.
But that’s why it’s potentially an awful cycle. And this is why the vacuuming is so so important. And the steam cleaning. You ideally vacuum up the eggs. Or BURN THEM with the steam.
Oh and I have a crazy sensitive allergic body and regularly get little hives from food, nerves, dust… you name it. So I’ve had some HIVES pop up and I freak out it’s a new bite. Blurg.
Also I basically have a PHD in fleas now.
Oh and also our kitchen was torn apart last night with five holes in the drywall because THAT wasn’t up to code at all and could’ve caused a fire. And needed to get fixed before the dryer could be fixed.
Have any of you ever gone through this? If so I have to ask – PLEASE DO NOT SHARE NIGHTMARE STORIES in the comments or Insta DMs. They give me serious anxiety. If, however, you have tips / advice on treating, I’m all ears! 🙂
Wish us luck.