What to do if you have ticks or bedbugs

16 Jul

Travelling in South America and in Mexico, I’ve gotten my fair share of bedbugs and ticks.  They lurk anywhere and your reaction to these parasites depends on your tolerance level, much like alcohol.  Needless to say, I have a low tolerance for both and both make me turn red.  And similar to the side effects of alcohol, the parasites are harmless but annoying.  In fact, it is not entirely necessary to go to a doctor.  But I have gone to a doctor and below are her recommendations + wisdom gathered from painful experience.

How to identify bites:

  • There’s lots of advice on the internet.  Use that.  It’s more accurate.
  • Anecdotally, bedbugs are a red splotch with a red dot in the middle.  They show up a few in a row and in all the parts of your body with a crease, because they like heat.  (armpit, bikini line, knees, parts of your torso, muffin top…jk.)

The PG-version of my bedbug bites

Upon immediately discovery of ticks (garrapatas, en español) or bedbugs (chinches, en español),

  1. Pre-empt them. Before you even discover bugs, immediately after returning from a jungle, take a shower and throw all of your clothes outside your room.  It doesn’t even matter if locals insisted five times that there are no bedbugs in the area.  There are no bedbugs for their immune skin.  There are bedbugs for your untouched baby skin.
  2. Take a bath, preferrably in hot water.   Take two baths. 
  3. Wash everything that your body touched, preferrably in hot water.  This includes bed sheets, underwear, shirts.  Better yet, just wash everything in your suitcase.  If you put your shirt next to another clean shirt, wash the clean one too. These suckers spread like no other.  Also, they like to hide out in the hemming of your clothes.  Iron those parts.  If the bugs still aren’t going away, leave your mattress out in the sun for at least 8 hours and spray the bedposts down with tick killer.  I’ve never had to put my mattress out, though.
  4. Apply VapoRub to bites.  This is anecdotal advice.  I heard that the “freshness” kills the bugs.
  5. Try not to scratch.  The swelling and itchiness will go away, but after a week.  Allow two weeks – one month for ticks.  Claritin or an antihistamine will reduce swelling, and Eurax will relieve the itch.  I advise getting the Eurax, because unless you lack nerves, you will not be able to resist the scratching.  A little “oh, I’ll just lightly brush” turns into violent fingernail scratching.  If you get scars from scratching, Cicalfate will make it pretty.  My doctor also advised to stay out of the sun and to not sweat (Even if I didn’t have ticks, I would want to stop sweating if I could control it), because the sunlight casts scars into more permanent fixtures.  See the medication section for dosage details.
  6. If you need treatment, a dermatologist is qualified.  They’re not solely for cosmetic purposes and actually know a lot about local diseases.
Medication Details
  • Eurax cream.  For itch relief.  Use 3x each day for 6 days.  Cost $5 in Mérida, MX.
  • Cicalfate cream.  For scar prevention.  Use 3x each day for 10 days.  Cost $20 or $38 (100 ml), depending on size of tube, in Mérida, MX.
  • Claratin tablets.  Use 1x each day for 10 days.  Cost $20 in Mérida MX for 10 tablets.
Where I have gotten bites
  • My friends’ couch in her posh La Paz high-rise.  I am the only person on record to get bedbugs there, but yes, I have gotten them there TWICE.
  • Buena Vista, Bolivia.  These were ticks.  Took 1 month for the itching to die down and the scars are still there after 6 months.  However, I scar easily because I am Asian.
  • Calakmul, Yucatán, MX.  Stayed at the cabins of La Selva.  It was really a jungle.  But I was the only person of a group of 3 Frenchies and one Méxicana to get bedbugs.
A good dermatologist in Mérida
  • Dra. Maria Rosa Rivero Vallado, Clinica Mérida.  Phone: 925 8406.  Av. Itzáes 242 x 35 x 37, García Ginerés.
  • Cost: $600 pesos ($US 55)
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One Response to “What to do if you have ticks or bedbugs”

  1. Herr Reisende October 31, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    Thank you so much for such well-written advices!

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