The world of medicine is like a bubble. A lot of people THINK they know what goes on there, but unless you're down in the trenches it's unlikely you do. So here is my semi-anonymous blog, here to tell you what really goes on in the life of a medical resident.

Friday, June 02, 2006

You HAVE to be kidding me.

Yet another reason to hate call.

I don't have allergies. At least, I've never had any allergies that I am aware of. But I am seemingly allergic to call. Back at medical school, when a night of call was quiet enough that I slept for a period of time in my call room I would often wake up frequently during the night completely congested. I'd wake up in the morning rubbing my sticky eyes, trying to breathe out of my stuffed nose and prone to sneezing fits. Fun stuff.

Then I change cities. And hospitals. But the allergies remain. Now I've never had this reaction to another room away from home-- I've stayed in countless hotels and hostels and I've never had the same reaction to them as I do to call rooms. Dust? Could be, but my home can get pretty dusty too. Bleach? Don't think so. The call rooms are so sterile that I can't think of much that they all have in common-- plastic coated pillows that crinkle every time you move, rough white sheets, institutional blankets that need to be layered in factors of ten before they actually provide any warmth... what else is there?

Eventually, I just accepted that I am allergic to call and sucked it up.

Recently, though, it got worse. I started waking up from call ("waking up" is a bit of an exaggeration since I rarely get more than 20 consecutive minutes of sleep) with a rash. Again, I wasn't too concerned. I have insanely sensitive skin that is still recovering from a bout of poison ivy passed to me from the puppy from hell after a morning walk in the woods, and I seem to get random hives on a regular basis.

But these weren't hives. They looked like little pimples. And they itched like the dickens. I had a batch of them on my right ankle, and another batch on my left forearm. Then I looked closer-- the ones on my forearm formed a perfect line.

Ugh. I have bedbugs. Or rather, the call rooms have bedbugs. I am so grossed out right now I can't even think. The idea of bugs crawling over me as I sleep... UGH! If I can get bed bug bites when I sleep fully clothed, I don't want to think of what I'm taking home from the hospital attached to me in some way.

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Blogger Awesome Mom said...

Ewwwww That would totally freak me out big time! Is there something you can do to get rid of them? I am shuddering just thinking about it.

11:56 PM

Blogger Dr. Wannabe said...

Did you actually prove it was "bed bugs" or do you just think they were bites? And what are the chances that call rooms in both hospitals were infested. I guess it could make sense that you're allergic to their feces causing the congestion.

2:04 AM

Blogger Couz said...

No, I don't think they're related to the allergies. I know I have an allergy to dust mites (or at least I'm pretty sure I do) which likely accounts for the stuffy nose and sneezing when I'm on call. The bites just happened at one hospital. And they happened more than once at that hospital. So I looked up some info on bed bugs, and it seems pretty likely.

2:59 PM

Blogger Kungfukitten said...

Maybe they're doctor cooties. Who else sleeps in that room?

4:11 AM

Blogger Nikki said...


I was going to suggest the detergent in the bedding. My skin doesn't like it. Or maybe my skin doesn't like bedbugs and I didn't realize it.

1:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dr. Couz,

I feel for you and, sadly, due to a run down hotel in Amsterdam, sympathetically not empathetically.

The bites I got from the bedbugs seemed very similar to mosquito bites and in a straight line like you mention. It took a couple of nights at the grodie hotel before any of us had reactions to the bites (yay immunity!).

The good news is that the bugs don't live on you they live in the structure of the building (bed frame, base boards, knots in the wood etc.). However, if you bring your briefcase or backpack in with you into the room...consider washing it or buying a new one. Our big rucksacks were infested in along the stays and straps and one girl's wheels on a wheelie suitcase.

The best way for a sure idenification is to go into the room, flip back the sheets, turn off the lights and wait about 5 min. Flip the lights back on and look for little brown tick-like buggers scuttling back to their hidey-holes. The only solution is to fumigate the building. Sometimes places only fumigate the room, or a portion of the building. Then bedbugs from adjacent areas just move on in. Imagine Amsterdam where all of the houses along a street are connected. I'm sure some of those bugs could trace continual habitation in the neighbourhood back to mideval times...

Apparently as wide spectrum fumigation has become less popular (quite rightly given the potent chemicals and serious adverse reactions to people) these guys are cropping up all over. I've talked to others that suffered 'em on cruise ships and at B&B's in N. America--nice ones not run down dives like we penniless backpackers were flopping in.

My sister pointed out that my experience with bedbugs (and other creepy-crawlers all from that one room) at lease would help me treat future patients with similar problems with more empathy and less disgust...

OFF! helps, as does a mosquito net that closes all around you... probably give you quite the reputation around the hospital!

Be brave lil buckaroo!


10:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are SO dirty.

Man. Gross.



3:29 PM

Blogger The Locum said...


I agree with Jen - I once stayed in a hospital res that had allegedly caught them off the Medicine for the Elderly ward. You absolutely have to wash all your kit, or they will follow you; otherwise fumigation does the trick of getting rid of them.

The Environmental Health chappie who came to fix stuff reckoned the other way to tell if there's an infestation is to look for wee black lines on the head board, sheets or surrounding walls. Apparently this represents bed bug poo. Lovely.

I used piriton to get to sleep acutely, but was itching for weeks. Actually, just thinking about it again makes me feel like I have nits. You have my sympathy too!

3:05 PM

Blogger Kim said...

Okay, I'm itching all over.

That's just gross.

How often do they change the linen in there? Did you see a bug? Are you sure it isn't a contact dermatitis or that you are having increasingly severe allergic reactions to something else? Latex?

Do bed bugs bite in a straight line?

Just call me Nurse Rule/Out! LOL!

2:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh. My. God.

I'm only in 2nd year... but I can tell you right now, I am _never_ sleeping in a call room after your post.

3:09 PM

Blogger Liana said...

The call rooms at one hospital I was a clerk at was infested with mice. Every morning housekeeping would come by to empty the traps...

11:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:02 PM


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