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Planning for Summer Camp? Plan to Avoid Bed Bugs – Part I

By Chris Williams on May 25, 2015.

summer-camp-cabin-interiorSchool is drawing to a close in most areas. Parents are looking forward to a peaceful summer as they send the kids off to summer camp. But, summer camp may not be quite the carefree, safe escape for children that it used to be… largely thanks to bed bugs. The possibility of your child being bitten by bed bugs and then bringing them home to the family is a new concern for campers’ parents.

How can you be sure that your child’s summer camp is bed bug-free? The answer is that you probably can’t be sure. You can ask questions, check the camp’s ratings and reviews, inspect your child’s cabin, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

Even when a summer camp is totally pro-active and taking all steps to assure that there are no bed bugs present in those cabins, the camp can’t control the actions of arriving campers. Campers, themselves, bring bed bugs to camp. A camp that is bed bug-free in June can still have an infestation by fall.

Bed Bug Precautions at the Start of Camp

  • Ask the camp whether they encase their mattresses. If not, consider bringing your own bed bug mattress encasement (not the same as a regular mattress cover). See Do Mattress Encasements for Bed Bugs Really Work? for more on this method of bed bug protection.
  • If possible, send your child off with a trunk or hard-shelled suitcase, rather than a fabric one. Bed bugs like to move and hide in textured fabric and its rolled seams.
  • If you have a choice, choose a bed or bunk that is farthest away from any wooden structures, such as walls or posts, where bed bugs hide.
  • Learn what bed bugs look like (and teach your child, too). If you drop your child off at camp, use a flashlight and check the mattress and any box spring for the presence of bed bugs or the blood spots or shed skins left behind by bed bugs. Check around the seams, and also check the bed frame. If there’s a headboard, check it and the area behind it. If you find anything suspicious, report it to your camp counselor.
  • Once suitcases and duffels are emptied, place them inside a large, sealed plastic bag until time to repack, to insure that bed bugs don’t take up residence inside.
  • If possible, keep your child’s suitcase and belongings up off of the floor. If the camp doesn’t provide racks, inverted plastic crates could do the job.

Be sure to read the next entry Planning for Summer Camp? Plan to Avoid Bed Bugs – Part II to learn the steps you can take to keep from bringing bed bugs home with your child.

Photo credit: m01229 / Foter / CC BY

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