Back to school season is here, so it’s time to pick up the books! No, we’re not talking about chemistry or math — today, we’re studying up on bed bugs, a pest that was thriving in the summer heat leading up to the school season. All of that summer travel and warm weather kicked the bed bug epidemic into high gear, which means that anyone could be bring bed bugs to school with them. Stay vigilant and protect your family’s home with these simple bed bug tips.
Bed bugs are in all 50 states, and infestation reports have been on a rapid rise for years. Parents would be wise not to ignore the possibility that kids heading back to school can transfer bed bugs and bring them home. Bed bugs are expert hitchhikers, and spread by crawling onto (or into) clothes, bags, and other personal belongings. Once they’re safely stowed away, one pregnant bed bug can travel to their victim’s home and start feeding and laying eggs, starting a nasty infestation all by herself.
How to Prevent Bed Bugs at School
While there is no simple way to make schools bed bug proof, there are ways that parents can take to reduce the chances of their little ones bringing even littler ones home with them. By addressing the various ways that bed bugs could hitchhike home with your child, you can block them at the door with a few simple preventative measures.
When Junior gets home, make a routine of isolating their school gear in a “containment zone.” No, it isn’t necessary (or advised, for the sake of the child) to build a hazmat clean room in your entrance hall. The garage or laundry room will be sufficient.
The goal of the containment zone is simple: don’t let bed bugs get past it and into the rest of your home. When your child comes home from school, bring them directly to the containment zone and quarantine their backpack (and possibly their jacket) in a sealed plastic storage bin. Those smooth plastic walls will be too slick for bed bugs to climb out of, so any bugs hiding in the items stashed in there won’t be able to escape into your home.
For added protection, you may also consider having the child change out of their clothes as soon as they get home and laundering the clothes. The high heat of the wash and dry cycles will kill any bugs or eggs that may be hiding in the garments. However, this isn’t absolutely necessary, and a visual inspection of the clothes can usually be sufficient. It’s up to parents to determine where to draw the line between vigilance and paranoia.
No matter how thorough you are with your containment zone routine, there is still a chance that bed bugs can sneak their way into your home. Setting up additional defenses beyond the entrance will help to minimize the risk of infestation, as well as protect your family from those itchy and annoying bites.
One of the most important defensive measures for long-term bed bug prevention is to isolate the bed and keep bed bugs out of it. Mattress encasements and box spring encasements are essential for reducing hiding places and keeping bed bugs out of the seams and folds of your bed. Passive traps like ClimbUp Interceptors or the new SenSci Volcanoes are a great way to stop bed bugs from climbing into your bed looking for a meal.
What to Do if You Find Bed Bugs
Did you see a bug fall off of a backpack, or catch one crawling around in the containment zone? Even if it’s a single bed bug, it’s time to take action. The school and your fellow parents need to know that there is a bed bug risk, and you need to take steps to ensure that an infestation hasn’t been introduced in your home.
Before sounding the alarms, make absolute sure that what you saw is a bed bug. There are a number of bed bug imposters that people often mistake for the pest, so taking the time to confirm your suspicion can help prevent scrambling the jets over a false alarm. Other potential signs of bed bugs, like blood spots or fecal streaks, don’t necessarily mean that bed bugs have been active nearby, so some extra inspection may be needed.
If you are certain beyond reasonable doubt that your child brought a bed bug home from school. it’s time to pick up the phone. Call the school and notify them — be sure to mention which classroom your child spends most of their day in so that they know where to start any inspection or treatment efforts. If you have phone numbers or email addresses for other parents in the class, be sure to notify them as well so that they can take measures in their homes.
Once you’ve alerted the community at risk, it’s time to turn your attention to your home. Don’t assume that the bed bug you found is the only one around; where you find one bug, there are usually more nearby. Start with a thorough inspection of the containment zone (or wherever else you identified the bed bug), then move on to each bedroom. The vast majority of infestations are concentrated where people sleep at night, so the bedrooms are the most likely hiding places.
If you find more bed bugs, you need to start a treatment right away. By ignoring the problem or delaying treatment efforts, you risk allowing the population to multiply or spread to other parts of your home. The sooner you start treating, the better, so read up on DIY bed bug treatments right away.