Studies have shown that one of the ways bed bugs spread is through contact. While these parasites feed on humans and animals (they live by sucking your blood), they don’t actually tend to live on your body. However, they can travel in your clothing and hop off anywhere they choose (generally a place with the plush surfaces they prefer to nest in). Because of this, it seems that they are spreading most rapidly in public places like subways, as they travel from one commuter’s clothing to the next, and daycares and schools, where children are in constant contact throughout the day. So if you’d like to protect your home and your family from these hard-to-exterminate pests, one of the first steps should be to ensure that your kids don’t cart them home from school.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to stop other kids from introducing bed bugs into the daycare or school environment. But you can certainly try. The first step is to make people aware that the potential for this problem exists. So talk to the school about sending out an educational flier that warns community members of the possible threat of infestation and what it could mean to the many families that have children in daycare or school facilities. This packet should include signs that parents can watch for (namely, bites, but also the actual bugs themselves, which are relatively easy to spot in a mattress when you know what you’re looking for).
It should also address protocol for parents that do discover bed bugs in the home, including keeping a child home from school until the infestation has been eradicated (so as to avoid spreading the pests to the school and to other homes). In addition, the school should be notified so that they can conduct an on-site cleaning, as well, and other parents should be apprised of the situation. Finally, any informational packet should include details on how to rid your environment of these buggers, which can be very difficult to exterminate once they take up residence.
As for preventing your child from bringing bed bugs home, there’s not a lot you can do. Some people think that pesticides are the key, but no parents in their right mind are going to douse their kids with DEET on the off-chance that there could be bed bugs lurking in the school environment. And most schools probably aren’t too keen to start spraying insecticide for bed bugs since it can be harmful to children, as well.
In truth, you will probably have to wait until you get bed bugs to take action. However, you can take steps to reduce the likelihood that they will gain a foothold in your home. A clean environment is your best defense since that is where these buggers will live. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs don’t use animal hosts as a home. They prefer to feed at night and return to a nest during the day. So if you suspect that bed bugs could become an issue, simply clean your home frequently and wash clothing and linens on the hot-water setting (heat is a guaranteed killer). You could also steam your mattress, carpeting, and any other plush surface they might find appealing. And if you happen to spot a bed bug on your child, simply kill it with rubbing alcohol.
Danielle Blank is a contributing writer for http://www.bedbugs.org/ where you can find information on what causes bed bugs and learn how to eliminate them from your home.