Back to School Tip: Check your children for bed bugs

bed bugs schoolBack to school time has started for some children already and is very close for many others.   Both students and parents have lots to take care of and deal with during this time of the year, and certainly don’t need anything added to their plate.

Unfortunately, we have one new item that needs to be added to your daily checklist this year: Check your children for bed bugs.

Bed bug reports are on the rise

Bed bugs are certainly not something people like to talk about or even want to think about having to deal with.  The reality though is that they do exist, and are growing in numbers.   Bed bug reports are rising according to various national pest companies.   Reported cases have been up by more than 50% each year over the past 8-10 years.  Nobody is really sure exactly why.

Bed bugs in schools

With those rising numbers, the likelihood that your children will come into contact with a child at school that has a bed bug infestation at home is also rising.  A number of schools across the country have seen bed bugs, and a few have been temporarily shutdown as a result of bed bugs.  Almost all state school administrations have put bed bug action plans in place to address the growing problem.

Bed bugs can go to school or come home from school with students either:

  • On the student themselves
  • On their clothes
  • On or in their book bags

If your child comes in contact with another child, they can bring bed bugs home with them and start a home infestation.  Also consider that if a child brings bed bed bugs into the school or classroom, the classroom can also be infected.  Once the classroom is infected, the chance of students being bringing home bed bugs significantly goes up.

Check your children for bed bugs

The single most important step you can take to defend your home against bed bugs is the inspect your children as soon as they come home.

Of course to do that, you need to know what bed bugs look like.  Bed bugs are small reddish-brown colored insects about the size of an apple seed.   You can see pictures of actual bed bugs in our photo gallery.  Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye, but are notorious for hiding in small cracks and crevices.

In addition to looking for the bugs themselves, watch for signs of the bed bugs, which are either left over body shells or fecal matter.  Fecal matter is generally small black or red spots on clothing.

To inspect your students for bed bugs, do the following:

  • Inspect the contents of their book bag.  This includes books, papers, pencil holders, and any other item.  Pay attention to crevices and cracks.
  • With the contents removed, inspect their book bag.  This includes inspecting all pockets and zipper areas.  If possible, turn the various areas inside out for a thorough inspection.
  • Have your child change clothes near the door or in a contained area.  We would not recommend their bedroom.  A laundry room is ideal.  Immediately inspect their clothes inside and out, including pockets.   If you see bugs or signs of bed bugs, wash and dry the clothes in high heat immediately.
  • Inspect your child.   I know this might be a little uncomfortable, but bed bugs hide.  So check hair, and other “more hidden” areas of your children.  For older children that aren’t comfortable with you inspecting them, teach them the proper inspection process.  This process is very similar to checking for ticks, which most parents are familiar with.

For items with bed bugs or signs of bed bugs that cannot be immediately washed and dried, like school books, they should be immediately placed in a sealed plastic bag and disposed of in an external trashcan.  Do not risk trying to clean them or remove the bugs, it’s just not worth it.

We recognize this isn’t a fun process and that it can be tedious and embarrassing, but taking a few minutes each day to do a thorough inspection is far less time consuming than having to deal with a bed bug infestation.

Also, if you find bed bugs on your child after coming home from school, notify the school and your local Center for Disease Control immediately.   We recognize there is a negative social stigma with bed bugs, but you’ll need to get over that.  You may save other students and homes from very costly and health threatening bed bug infestations.

Bed bugs in your home

If you feel like you may have a bed bug infestation in your home, addressing the problem quickly is critical.   Please review our bed bug treatment page for a number of effective treatment options.  We also recommend reviewing our bed bug prevention page for some additional preventative measure you can take to protect your home.

Again, bed bugs are not something any of us want to have to deal with, especially when it comes to our kids and homes.   Spending just a few minutes to inspect your kids for bed bugs can make a positive difference in reducing your home’s risk of getting infested.


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