Merry Christmas! Bedbugs, Anyone?


Dear Robin:

Every Christmas Eve we go to my sister’s house for pizza. This year they are fighting an infestation of bedbugs.  None of us want to go there but she will tell us it’s all fixed. She will be really mad if we don’t go.

She has a fourth and “final” treatment next week. She says she has seen a couple of bugs in the master bedroom. I’m sure she isn’t doing all the vacuuming that is recommended because frankly, she is lazy.

Also, I always have Christmas dinner. I don’t know how to tell her that her family would not be welcome in my home for Christmas and that we won’t go to her house on Christmas Eve.  What do you suggest?

Bugging Out Betty

Dear Betty:

I’ve received a lot of interesting questions but yours is definitely in the top five for original topics, so thank you for that!

Thank you also for giving me the opportunity to do research on bedbugs, thereby ensuring I won’t sleep for the next few days.  Insomnia is a bitch, but at least I’ll get some work done.

While my past has included time in bed with questionable characters who had a tendency towards biting, they never looked anything like this:


Obviously bedbugs can spread by hitching a ride on humans – we know this because people often bring them home from hotel rooms. This means unless your sister’s house, clothing, and accessories are completely free from these little shits, your home is at risk for an infestation.

It matters not whether either of you keep your house impeccably clean because bedbugs do not discriminate when it comes to the meticulous or the slovenly housekeeper.

However, bedbugs are averse to heat so they don’t hang out in hair or on skin as lice or ticks tend to, and they prefer not to snuggle in our clothes while we are wearing them because they are then subjected to our body heat.  Bedbugs are much more likely to travel on backpacks or purses, luggage, shoes and other items that don’t subject them to the warmth we humans project.

Well, some of us project warmth.  I’ve known plenty of folks who were cold enough to carry bedbugs around on their person for years, but that’s another blog for another day.

Your sister probably knows bedbugs don’t like cruising around on people and though she may understand why you don’t want to be in her home at this time I suspect she will struggle with her exclusion from yours.

Your question presents me with quite a conundrum because I am fond of making solid risk-based assessments (in this case, I think it is fine she comes to your home if you take some precautions) and yet the very idea of bedbugs grosses me out so much that reason and logic based on probability are difficult.


I’ll give it a try, because that’s my job.  In order to preserve your relationship with your sister and ensure you aren’t exposed to bedbugs, I offer the following solution:

Cancel Christmas!

Of course, those of you who know me well know that “cancel Christmas!” is my fallback that solves any problem during any time of the year.

Can’t pay your power bill and fighting with your best frenemy?  Cancel Christmas!

Breasts drooping and frown lines forming?  Cancel Christmas!

Heat wave kill your plants while you were out of town PLUS suffering from intermittent diarrhea and constipation?  Cancel Christmas!


I will give you alternative advice because despite my best efforts, even I have never been able to accomplish the simple task of treating December 25th as any other day.

Let’s talk about Christmas Eve first:

You need to be straight with your sister and tell her you are not able to come to her home given her recent battle with bedbugs.  You can lessen the impact by suggesting you all go out for pizza instead so your family tradition can continue.  Sit as far away from her as you can without actually positioning your chair outside on the sidewalk.

You can also soften the message by asking if there is anything you can do to help her during this difficult time.  Don’t let your fear of bedbugs preclude you from being a good sister and friend to someone who is struggling with a horrible and disgusting situation at home.

As for Christmas, I fear your exclusion of your sister and her family from your home is going a bit too far based upon what I know via my six-minute research on the issue.  I think you either need to postpone the Christmas dinner until you are satisfied her issue is resolved or you need to lighten up a bit, take some precautions and host the Christmas feast as usual.

Reasonable precautions include asking her and her family to not carry in any purses or other items in which bedbugs could be hiding and to conduct a thorough inspection of their clothing both before they leave their home and when they arrive at yours.  I would also ask them to either leave their shoes outside or take them off and bag them immediately upon entering your home.

Slightly less reasonable precautions could include her delivering clean clothing to your home for everyone in her family a couple of days before Christmas (which you will probably triple wash after she drops it off).

When they arrive for Christmas dinner, present them with plastic bags and order them into another area of the home, preferably the garage, to change into their clean clothes and bag their possibly buggy clothes.


That’s all I got, Betty.  Your Christmas problem may be solved automatically when you suggest moving the pizza party to a restaurant, because your sister may be so offended that she cancels on you for Christmas dinner before you are even able to list your demands.

Let’s hope so, because while uncomfortable family confrontations that excavate years of unrelated issues may be a Christmas tradition, it’s never too late to change that paradigm!



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. echinachea

    Goodness gracious! At least our wacky family issues don’t get under our covers at night:)

  2. Melinda

    I would tell Bugging out Betty to take a little trip at Christmas. Problem solved.

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