My HDB Was Infested With Bed Bugs: How My Family Gaslit Me Into Thinking It Was A Skin Problem

9 June 2023 | BY

A woman suffered from intense itching and had red bumps on her skin – Her family dismissed it as a skin problem, but it wasn’t so simple.

bed bugs infestation - cover image

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” is a light-hearted and humorous way to wish one a good night’s sleep. But when bed bugs really infest a home and bite you, it is no laughing matter. Those tiny buggers feed on the blood of humans and animals, and the bites cause severe itching.

Unfortunately for Krystal Ng, bed bugs invaded her executive HDB flat in Sembawang. Clearing out the bed bugs took a long, gruelling month as Krystal’s family thought lightly of it initially. Here’s how the problem persisted before pest control busted all the bed bugs’ asses.

Unexpected “skin problems”

bed bugs infestation - skin problemsThe appearance of bites can differ from person to person.
Image credit: Everyday Health 

Krystal had just returned from a concert when she spotted mosquito bite-like red bumps on her skin, particularly on areas of her arms and legs. It was incredibly itchy too. At first, she assumed that the red bumps were simply mosquito bites she’d gotten from being outside. 

When she confided in her mother about the bites, her mother simply brushed it off as a “skin problem” and didn’t even think it to be a telling sign of anything else. However, this idea seemed absurd to Krystal, who had no such skin problems before this.

Went for 3 medical consultations

bed bugs infestation - consulted the doctorImage for illustration only.
Image credit: GOKPOP 

Doubting her original judgement and being convinced by her mother that she had developed some strange form of adult eczema, Krystal sought advice from 3 different doctors. 

Krystal was given steroid cream by a private GP – steroid cream is generally prescribed for people with eczema to alleviate the itching problem. Looking back, Krystal shared that her skin did not resemble those of eczema sufferers – she didn’t have dry, wrinkled skin prone to flaking and cracking. 

After using the steroid cream for about a week, the itching still persisted, and there were no improvements. She also started to notice more red spots appearing as time went on. Soon after, Krystal stopped using her topical steroids because she’d heard of some risks associated with long-term steroid use. 

The next advice given to Krystal by a doctor was the most ridiculous: to eat more fruits and vegetables. After three doctor’s visits, Krystal was still befuddled over the matter. It was then that she realised that these spots might not be a “medical” problem she needed help for. 

bed bugs infestation - bedImage for illustration only.
Image credit: @hamnehome  

Since bed bugs are tiny in nature, they can easily conceal themselves in every nook and cranny of upholstered furniture and beds. Her only clue to solving this mysterious case was the red bumps on her skin. Clinging to her only lead, she carefully sussed out the situation.

Investigating the matter

She surfaced the situation to her entire family but nobody seemed to be as concerned about Krystal’s condition, thinking it to be an allergy of sorts. Bed bugs eventually started multiplying and spreading throughout the entire home. Soon after, other family members came forward complaining of the same red spots and insufferable itching Krystal had.

There had to be an external factor that she couldn’t come up with yet, so Krystal persisted. After googling the bites online, the family started to suspect that bed bugs were the main perpetrators behind this ordeal since their symptoms all fit the bill. This puzzled them because they were quite a hygienic household and regularly washed all their sheets.

The arrival of pest control

bed bugs infestation - bed bugs found on bedImage for illustration only.
Image credit: Accurate Termite & Pest Solutions

This time, no one hesitated and Krystal’s mother called in pest control. They revealed what the family had suspected: hundreds of bed bugs had infiltrated and made themselves a home out of all the sofas and beds in the flat.

bed bugs infestation - pest exterminationBed bugs aren’t just limited to beds.
Image for illustration only.
Image credit: Protect Pest Control 

Horrified and determined to kill every bed bug alive, the family requested pest control to make a few visits to fully exterminate the bed bugs. Krystal finally cleared her name and solved the case of her peculiar red bumps.

The whole ordeal lasted an entire month, and we can’t imagine the stress and frustration Krystal must’ve felt being gaslit by her own family and itching incessantly from the bites. 

Tips to prevent infestation

bed bugs infestation -bed bugImage credit: American Camp Association 

When we hear of pest infestations, it’s easy to conclude that it happened because of an unhygienic living situation. But what most people don’t know is that bed bugs can easily travel into your home if you’re one to buy secondhand fabric sofas, or unlucky enough to have stayed in an overseas accommodation with bed bugs.

These critters seek out environments with warmth, blood, and carbon dioxide. So any home could be their next target. But there’s no need to let the hypochondriac in you take over, here are some tips to keep your home squeaky clean: 

  • Always disinfect and wash all clothes and suitcases after travelling
  • Wash your clothes and bedding with hot water
  • Vacuum your mattresses and couches periodically

The main takeaway of this story is that signs of a pest infestation shouldn’t be ignored. One single pregnant bed bug could quickly create generations of offspring, ballooning into a full-blow infestation in mere weeks. 

bed bugs infestation - clean homeImage for illustration only.
Image credit: @yenni.hom 

Keep your living space clutter-free and regularly clean your mattresses, cushions, and anywhere bed bugs can hide. But if an infestation does happen, be thorough and get the experts on top of your case early. The last thing you’ll want is one surviving bug that’ll restart the nightmare all over again, just because you wanted to save money.

Bed bugs infestation in an HDB flat

The mental stress that pests bring can be severe, so you should never take an infestation lightly. Battling the bed bugs for one entire month was so stressful that Krystal wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Fortunately for her family, Krystal was persistent and got to the bottom of the issue. If she hadn’t, who knows how many millions of bed bugs would be crawling around every inch of her home.

Names and stories have been edited slightly for clarity and privacy.

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Cover image adapted from: Accurate Termite & Pest Solutions, NHS

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