Back to School: Bed Bugs in the Classroom

Summer is slowly coming to its end and kids are making their way back to school. Campuses and classrooms are being made ready for a new school year and soon the halls will be full of eager (and in some cases not so eager) students.

Parents getting their youngsters ready for the new school year have a lot to deal with. There’s school clothes buy and supplies to track down. There are books to track down and bus routes to memorize. But there’s one thing about back-to-school planning that tends to get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the season – bed bugs.

Can Schools Become Infested with Bed Bugs?

Schools, like other public spaces, are vulnerable to all manner of pests. That includes bed bugs. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – bed bugs go where people go. Just as you might find bed bugs in airport lounges and bus terminals so you will find them in classrooms and lecture halls.

Bed bugs are champion hitchhikers. They’ll hitch a ride on people and their belongings in their quest to find more unsuspecting hosts. This is how they find their way into schools, and once there they begin to breed. Then they’ll look for new hosts and new environments to infest. Which leads them to hitch rides on unsuspecting students and faculty, often spreading to homes and families throughout the school district.

What School Officials Need to Know about Bed Bugs

There are a variety of ways bed bugs can find their way onto a school campus. They may come in on the clothing of students and faculty, or they could come in on the clothes and belongings of visitors and vendors. In most cases it’s nearly impossible to trace the origins of an infestation.

Over the last several years we’ve seen a marked increase in bed bug infestations. Consequently most schools have an actionable bed bug plan in place. However, parents shouldn’t hesitate to contact their children’s school and ask for a detailed plan. This is particularly important if your child is transferring to a new school or the family has moved into a different school district.

Every school’s bed bug plan should include:

  • Parent Notification – If bed bugs are found on a student or in a classroom school officials should contact parents immediately via email or letter.

  • Prepared Action Plan – Your school district should have an action plan in place to deal with bed bugs in the classroom. This includes bed bugs found in student belongings as well as those found on campus.

  • Pest Control – As part of the school’s action plan a certified bed bug inspection and removal service should be called in.

If your child’s school does not have an actionable bed bug protocol in place it may be a good idea to talk to other parents and petition the school to update their protocols.

What Parents Should Do If There are Bed Bugs at School

To minimize the risk of bed bugs coming home from school try to limit what your child brings home. Anything that makes the daily trip to and from school should be inspected for signs of bed bugs. The most common items you should inspect include:

  • Backpacks

  • Jackets and Gym Clothes

  • Library Books

  • Lunch Boxes

Regularly clean the items that your child brings to school and back. Hard items (lunch boxes etc) can be washed with soap and water. Clothing and other soft items should be machine washed (if applicable) and dried on the highest setting that’s safe for the item.

Be Alert to Signs of Bed Bugs

The key to avoiding a large scale bed bug infestation is to catch it before it starts. Parents should be alert to the signs of a bed bug problem. Key indicators to watch for include:

  • Bed Bug Bites – These typically look like small red welts, often appearing in lines or clusters.

  • Blood and Fecal Stains – Dark rust colored spots or stains on bedding can be an indication of feeding bed bugs.

  • Adult Bed Bugs – Bed bugs may be relatively small but the adults are large enough to be seen with the naked eye.

  • Skin Casings – As bed bugs crow the shed their skin leaving behind empty casings.

Protect Your Students from Bed Bugs

Dealing with bed bugs and be challenging. And stressful. Schools have the potential to be transfer hubs for active bed bugs looking for new environments to feed and breed. An infestation in a classroom can easily transfer to an infestation in your home.

Be alert to the signs of bed bug activity and coordinate with your child’s school to ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to protect their students from bed bugs on campus.

Published by Scott Palatnik

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