Bed Bugs and Summer Camp – What Every Parent Needs to Know

The long hot days of summer are upon us, and it’s time to have some fun and make some memories. School’s out for the year and children everywhere are tossing aside their schoolbooks and are getting ready to head off to summer camp. It’s the annual adventure they’ve been looking forward to for months. A few weeks in the country with nothing to worry about but hiking and swimming, cookouts by the lake, and (if they’re lucky) some good ghost stories round the fire.

It certainly sounds idyllic, and for parents it no doubt conjures up memories of their own summer vacations. But summer camp isn’t all sunshine and s’mores. There could well be trouble lurking in those camp cabins. Summer camps might be ground zero for fun and adventure, but they are also prime breeding grounds for bed bugs – and that’s one part of the summertime experience we all want to avoid.

Why are Bed Bugs Such a Problem at Summer Camps?

When you think of summer camps you probably think of old weathered cabins nestled in a protective wood. You imagine rows of rustic looking bunk beds just waiting for tired campers to clamber in and sleep off the long day’s adventures.

While all of that may seem charming, those are the same conditions that make camp cabins an ideal breeding ground for bed bugs. Like hotels, overnight camps see a lot of human traffic. Campers and counselors are coming from miles around, and some of them may be traveling with some unwanted companions. It only takes a few stray bed bugs to start a full-scale invasion, and with a steady stream of temporary guests summer camps are fertile ground for an infestation.

So what should campers and their parents do to prevent bed bugs from ruining an otherwise idyllic summer adventure? Well, here are a few tips to help you and your youngsters avoid fall foul of bed bugs this summer season.

Prevention – What to Do Before Heading Off to Camp

As always, when dealing with bed bugs prevention is the key. What you do before sending the kids off to camp can help minimize the risk of exposing them to bed bugs, or having them bring the pesky critters home with them when camp is over for the year.

Before you send the kids off to camp follow these important steps:

  • Contact the camp’s administrators and ask for a detailed account of any past problems they may have had with bed bugs. If there has been a problem in the past, you want to know how it was dealt with and what follow-up plans they have to avoid a recurrence of the infestation.
  • Teach your young camper what to look for when they arrive at camp. When they get to camp they should be prepared to inspect their cabin thoroughly, looking for any telltale signs of bed bugs. They should give special attention to their bed, and should carefully inspect the mattress (especially along the seams and stitching) as well as their sheets and blankets.
  • Teach your child how to recognize and treat bed bug bites. Make sure they understand that if they are being bitten by bed bugs they should immediately report it to the camp counselors.
  • Before unpacking, your camper should also be taught to inspect the cabin in full once again looking for any signs of infestation. If they spot anything suspicious they should immediately report it to one of the camp counselors.
  • Throughout the duration of their stay campers should keep their suitcase and other belongings in plastic bags to ensure that they don’t pick up any stray bed bugs. Even if the cabin looks clean and free of pests another camper may well be bringing some unwanted guests along in their luggage. Keeping everything closed up in plastic bags will help minimize the risk of picking up a bed bug or two before returning home.

Returning Home – Tips for Avoiding Bed bugs After Camp

As the summer fun winds down, and the campers come home from their adventures, there’s still a bit of preventative work to be done. Even if your kids swear that they carefully inspected their cabins, and promise that they never saw a hint of a bed bug, you want to take steps to avoid bringing any unwanted pests into the house.

When the kids get home from camp take the following steps to ensure that any bed bugs hiding in their luggage get kicked to the curb:

  • Unpack all of the camper’s luggage outside of the house and put clothing in sealable plastic bags until they can be thoroughly washed.
  • Wash all clothing on the hottest appropriate wash cycle. Thoroughly dry all of the clothing on high heat for a minimum of 30 minutes. The intense heat of the washer and dryer should kill any stray bed bugs that may have migrated to your child’s luggage and clothing.
  • Soft luggage (backpacks, overnight bags, etc.) should be thoroughly scrubbed out with hot water and detergent. Once the hand wash is completed, any bags that can be machine-washed should be run through at the hottest appropriate setting. Again, dry for a minimum of 30 minutes at high heat.
  • Hard luggage will have to be hand washed. Pay close attention to seams and stitching, and be sure to get into any cracks or crevices where bed bugs might hide. If possible, steam clean or heat treat after washing to ensure any bugs that may have been lurking in the folds or crevices are thoroughly disposed of.
  • Finally, if you have anything that needs to be professionally cleaned (dry cleaning, steam cleaning, etc.) seal it in a plastic bag and keep it out of the house until you can take it your cleaner. Make sure to inform them that you suspect bed bug activity so that they can take the appropriate measures.

Keep Your Campers Safe from Bed Bugs 

Summer camp should be filled with fun and adventure for young campers enjoying a few months off from the grind of schoolwork. Unfortunately, spending a few weeks at camp can expose young campers to more than fresh air and exercise. They can also put them in close contact with bed bugs and other pests.

If your children are heading off to summer camp this season, take the necessary steps to protect them from bed bugs. Teach them how to recognize and avoid these troublesome bloodsuckers, and when they return home refreshed from a few weeks in the country take the necessary steps to ensure that they come home without any unexpected companions.

Published by Scott Palatnik

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