Bed Bugs & Schools – Advice From the Pros
By Chris Williams on August 24, 2011.
The kids are getting ready to go back to school. They’ve got their notebooks and their backpacks and their new jeans. And you’ve got worries about bed bugs. Are bed bugs going back to school along with the kids? Could your kids bring bed bugs home from school?
Widespread bed bug infestations in schools almost never happen because there are no beds and no people available to feed on at night. But since there are no beds, bed bugs can be found anywhere in a school, making control more difficult. The primary concern about bed bugs in schools is that schools serve as a transfer point to move bed bugs home with students and staff, infesting new sites.
How Do They Get There in the First Place? Bed bugs are brought into schools by students, staff, or visitors who may, or may not, know that they have a bed bug problem at home. Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers. They will travel from an infested home to school on backpacks, purses, lunch boxes, and other personal items. If the individuals that are bringing bed bugs to school can be identified, the school should offer guidance and support to help eliminate that person’s infestation at home. It is not necessary to send a suspect child home but his/her belongings should be discreetly inspected (and isolated) by school staff.
What Should Schools Do? Your child’s school should have a bed bug policy in place. When there is a bed bug sighting or complaint, a thorough inspection must be conducted. If bed bugs are found, nonpesticide controls such as heat treatment should be considered first. Most school districts have some kind of an integrated pest management plan in place which limits the use of pesticides in schools. If pesticides are necessary, they must be used in a manner that poses the least risk to school children.
Bed bug prevention in schools involves such steps as cleaning to remove eggs, removing clutter, using double-sided sticky tape on chair legs, and most importantly, implementing separate storage of personal items such as back packs, tote bags, and jackets. Sometimes each child is assigned his/her own plastic storage bin with a tight-fitting lid. Bins are periodically inspected for evidence of bed bugs.
What Should Parents Do?Do not overreact. Bed bugs are an annoyance but they do not spread disease. If your child’s school has a bed bug problem, officials there will likely notify you and advise you as to what you need to do, if anything.
Bed bugs are susceptible to high heat so you can use your clothes dryer to kill bed bugs on anything washable like your child’s clothes, jacket, hat, shoes, and backpack. Use the high heat setting for at least 20 minutes. Even if an item is not washable, it may still be dryable.
If there are bed bugs at your child’s school, it would be a good idea to store the items that your child brings home from school (backpack, book bag, etc.) in an area that is not near your child’s bed, or place them in a large sealed plastic bag or bin so that any bed bugs on the items won’t be able to migrate. Minimize the amount of items that your child takes to and from school so there are fewer things for bed bugs to hitchhike home on.
If you have reason to believe that you have bed bugs in your home, you should call our pest control experts at Colonial for an inspection. Bed bugs are not a do-it-yourself project.