A family say they refused to leave their council flat due to embarrassment after their home was besieged by bedbugs.
Couple Mark Henderson, 27, and Chelsea Francis, 26, feared passing the insects to others so would stay holed up in the one-bed property in Fulham, south-west London.
Mark said: “My kids get [bedbugs] in their ears - it’s absolutely disgusting. We couldn't go to out as a family.
"There was funfair the other day that we had planned to go to, but we couldn't. The bedbugs are in their prams, in their clothes - they are even in the fridge.
“We just want to live our lives and be able to go outside. No one should have to go through this.”
The couple, who are parents to Ewan, two, and Riley, four weeks - say Mark has been unable to work as a result.
This means they have been forced to live on £900-a-month benefits, they say, as Chelsea has been declared unfit to work due to suffering with epilepsy.
Hammersmith & Fulham council took action on 18 October and moved the family into a hotel while a new home is looked for.
Mark added: “It was horrific having to live there. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
“Me, my partner and two kids couldn't leave the house because we are covered in [bedbugs] and didn't want to pass them on.
“I don’t want people to think we’re dirty - the house was spotless. We’re clean people but the bedbugs were just everywhere."
The couple have been in the flat for seven years, they say.
But the severity of the bedbug problem ramped up in the last year - causing so much stress they wanted out.
Chelsea said: “The bedbugs weren't budging. They get in wardrobes and in my bed. They were everywhere.
"It was awful and so gross, knowing that you were getting crawled on the whole time. It was like a nightmare.”
Mark said of their first night in a hotel: "Being able to have a bath and a shower and coming out knowing you won't be sitting back in bedbugs was amazing.
"It's the best sleep we've ever had. Both the kids slept like logs. We are so relieved to be out of there."
Council 'acted swiftly'
Hammersmith & Fulham Council said officers had visited the property nine times since 2018 over the issue.
A spokesperson confirmed the family had been moved and new accommodation was being sought.
A council spokesperson said: “We have acted swiftly [on October 19] and moved the family into a hotel, as we find them a new, permanent home.
"We are now working closely with the family to make sure that they have the daily support they need – including a dedicated social worker, any clothing, bedding or furniture they need, meals, as well as financial help to allow them to buy other food and supplies.
"Any H&F residents struggling to pay their bills or need advice about benefits or support can call our dedicated team for help on 0800 917 6994 or visit: www.lbhf.gov.uk/costofliving.”
What to do if you find bedbugs at home
The first step is to try and contain the infestation by thoroughly cleaning and vacuuming the affected areas.
You should also wash any bedding, clothing, and other textiles that may have come into contact with the bedbugs in hot water and dry them on the highest heat setting.
It's important to seal up any cracks or crevices in walls and floors where bedbugs can hide, and to dispose of any clutter or items that may be providing a hiding place for the bedbugs.
You may also want to consider contacting a pest control professional to help with the problem.
If you're living in a rented property or council flat and have bedbugs, you should let your landlord or local council's pest control team know about the problem.
They can provide treatment or suggest ways to get rid of the bedbugs.
Acting quickly is important to prevent the problem from spreading to other flats and to avoid taking the bedbugs with you to other places.