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Keeping Bed Bugs Out of Dorm Rooms

By Chris Williams on June 7, 2013.
Dorm room with bed bugs

Question

Our daughter just graduated high school and will be going away to college in just a couple of months. She’ll be living in the dorms and it seems like I’m reading all the time about college dorms being infested with bed bugs. What can she do to help prevent bed bugs in her dorm room? Are there sprays or something we can buy?

Answer

The best thing your daughter can do is to be proactive to prevent bed bugs in her room, and in her bed, in the first place.

1. Inspect the room before you ever move her in

You will find easy instructions on the internet for how to inspect a room for bed bugs. Use the same procedures that you would use for a hotel or motel room, basically inspecting the bed, mattress, and box spring and any furniture already in the room.

2. Be careful if you add a bed or furniture to the room

College students are always looking for a bargain. If your daughter buys furniture from a thrift shop or is given furniture or a mattress from a friend, she needs to be sure that furniture doesn’t come with bed bugs. Inspect any furniture, rugs, or electronics added to the room if not brand new.

3. Invest in a mattress and box spring encasement

This is something that you can purchase now for your daughter’s room, as long as you know what size bed she has. These zippered protective covers completely cover the mattress and box spring to seal any bed bugs already on the bed inside the cover and away from your daughter. The encasements also make it easier to spot new introductions. There are encasements for pillows as well. Make sure you buy an encasement specifically designed to protect against bed bugs; not all zippered covers will work. Bed bug encasements can be ordered on the internet; Protect-A-Bed is just one brand name. See Do Mattress Encasements for Bed Bugs Really Work? for more information.

4. Be wary of introducing bed bugs to the room

If your daughter takes short trips, or stays overnight at friends’, or has friends visiting her, she should check her belongings afterwards to make sure bed bugs were not brought in from another location. Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers and can be transported in backpacks, tote bags, and similar items. Any suspect clothing or other dryable items can be placed in a dryer for 20 minutes on high. Heat for that length of time will kill all stages of bed bugs.

5. Clean the room and change linens regularly

Your daughter should change bed linens weekly and should periodically wash or dry clean blankets, comforters, pillows, and bed skirts. Regular vacuuming helps and keeping clutter to a minimum will help if the room does require bed bug treatment.

6. Report bed bugs immediately

If your daughter even suspects that she has bed bugs, or hears others in the dorm mention that they have bed bugs, she should contact dorm officials right away. Bed bugs can move from room to room and once a dorm is infested, getting rid of the bugs can be a real challenge.

As for trying to use insecticide sprays on your own, I don’t advise it. There are really no over-the-counter products that are very effective against bed bugs. Even the products that professionals use are not a sure cure and bed bugs usually require followup treatment before they are completely eliminated. Let the college housing officials and the pest control professionals deal with any bed bug problem.

Photo credit: ColorblindRain / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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