I had a normal Saturday at the hotel and never left the resort property. My morning started off with breakfast followed by time on the beach, lunch at the pool bar, time in my room relaxing reading a book on the comfy chair and then a spa massage before dinner at the restaurant. I happily packed my suitcase after dinner to prepare for my flight back to San Juan in the morning and went to bed early as I was exhausted from the sunny, relaxing and hectic day of lounging, spa and eating.
I woke up to my alarm and got out of bed as I had done the day before. When I approached the bathroom mirror to put my contact lenses in, I seemed a bit reddish. While the lighting in the bathroom was awful, I could see red spots all over me. I quickly exchanged my glasses for my contact lenses to get a better look and I looked horrible covered in spots. As I started to inspect my body, I stopped counting at 50 bug bites – mostly concentrated on my arms, shoulders, neck and legs with a few stray bits on my face. Basically parts of my body not covered by my pajamas were now covered in bug bites. What the hell!? I had become a bug buffet overnight and now I was in a panic.
Bug Bites – In Search of an Answer
I threw the bed covers over and pulled at the corners of the sheets to look under with my flashlight. I was investigating to see if I could find the almost invisible evidence of a feast – a feast of me. I then scoured the room looking for and listening to the sounds, excluding the ocean waves crashing in the background, hoping to hear something flying to explain my spots. Nothing.
I called the front desk to report that I went to bed last night without bug bites save a mosquito or two at dinner on my ankles and woke up covered in what? Bed bugs was my first thought. The staff member said “we’ve had other bedbug reports but found nothing, I will let the GM (General Manager) know immediately”.
I’ve traveled to almost 50 countries, taken malaria meds, slept under mosquito nets and in tents and have stayed in a few icky places in my travels but have never encountered this situation. I once had a mosquito fly into my Venice room from the canal below when I kept the window open. The large room made it impossible to kill it so I slept with a sheet over my head all night listening to the mosquito dive bombing me until I fell asleep, but this? Over 50 bites was crazy and if I thought about it too long, it was gross and horribly itchy.
I took a shower to get ready to leave which only made the bites worse – now I was itchy and didn’t have any hydrocortisone with me this trip. I had the bug crème I used in Africa with me that I had applied while on property to keep bugs at bay but nothing to combat the aftermath. Not knowing what to do about bedbug bites, I was googling up a storm (not recommended if pictures of people, bites and bugs gross you out) – I put my pajamas in a plastic bag and packed in the front of my suitcase. The bites were welt like and clustered at my elbows while other spots were in a pattern. And they itched like crazy.
Covered in Bug Bites – Talking to the GM
I went to the front desk and one look at me, you could surmise I was the lady who called about the “bedbug bites” despite trying to hide them with my cardigan (yes, a cardigan on a tropical island is quite out of place). The GM met me at my breakfast table and talked to me for over ten minutes. She said that they take reports of bed bugs quite seriously and would call the exterminator for an immediate inspection. The room would be isolated and hotel staff would be present during the inspection. The room would not be assigned to another guest until cleared. She doubted it was bed bugs and said I was probably bitten by other bugs, maybe noseeums which are sand fleas (in my room? seriously?). I told her that I spent a good amount of time on the chair in the room reading during the day, could they be there? I asked if the hotel sold bug cream or something soothing and she said it didn’t, but she found five packets of hydrocortisone cream to use (not enough to cover my body of bites).
We exchanged business cards and she said she would email me later in the afternoon so I could have peace of mind on my family cruise (note NO PEACE OF MIND because bugs were feasting on me while I slept, the thought makes me itch now and every time I’ve gone to sleep since leaving the resort I feel like something is crawling on me everywhere). I checked out of the resort trying not to scratch my arms, legs, neck, etc. to no avail. Despite the 80 degree, sunny day, I kept my cardigan on to hide my arms and neck from others as I looked and felt gross and ugly.
Finding More Bug Bites Daily on the Cruise
When I arrived on the cruise, thankfully they had a self-service laundry so I immediately put my pajamas in the dryer on hot as the internet instructed to kill bed bugs. During the cruise, my bites got worse and more seemed to show up each day which continued to freak me out (and was consistent with my research). I was now using Benadryl at night to sleep, Claritin in the day and applying hydrocortisone. I visited the ship’s medical department for the hydrocortisone and to get triage from the nurse who said I wasn’t contagious so I waited until I arrived home to see my doctor.
After Vacation, Still Covered in Bug Bites
My doctor, who isn’t versed in “tropical bugs” that the GM said bit me, said that based on the patterns it was consistent with bed bugs (pattern of three –breakfast, lunch, dinner they call it). The bites were now over a week old and still quite visible and still itchy. She said that they were too small to be mosquitos and having been a mosquito buffet my whole life, I knew this was different immediately. She said I’d need to wait it out and continue with my treatment as is. It’s now three weeks since I woke up at the resort to my new spotted complexion.
The hotel GM emailed me the exterminator report later that day, before sailing, saying “no evidence of bed bugs”. So now what? My doctor thinks that my bites were consistent with bed bugs. On follow up with my doctor’s assessment, the GM replied that no guest before or after me in that room has reported bug bites. To me, I’m evidence to the contrary of the exterminator report. I’m trying to wrap my head around this and am stumped – was I a bed bug buffet? I look like I was. Or did another bug type feast on me? Anyone know a logical answer here? What would you do if you were covered in 50 bug bites on your arms, legs, neck, shoulders and face?
Have you ever awoken to find out you were a bug buffet – covered in bug bites? What did you do?
Note: Sorry if I made you itch reading this, on telling friends without photos they have all started scratching. Photos below are a few shots of my spots.