We all know where we most commonly find bed bugs – in beds! But of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t get around, too. Bed bugs can find their way onto airplanes, buses, cars, ambulances, and just about anywhere humans like to be – so naturally, that includes schools.
Most schools have a headlice policy, but few know how to move forward when bed bugs have taken hold. If you suspect bed bugs have found their way into your school, here’s what you need to know to move forward.
Identify: Are you dealing with bed bugs?
Bed bug infestations in schools are fairly uncommon, but of course, if a student has bed bugs at home, they can hitchhike to school with them. Bed bugs are shy creatures that will usually only be visible when we’re still and it’s dark, such as at night. They’re usually very small and can’t jump (like fleas). If you think you may be dealing with bed bugs, it’s important to get professionals in to examine and treat them as soon as possible.
Dealing with the Social Stigma
Despite common belief, bed bugs do not come from dirty homes – bed bugs only like one thing, and that’s human blood. They aren’t interested in how clean or unclean something is, and no amount of cleanliness will make them go away. However, while we know this and you now know this, it’s important not to point the finger at any student or teacher who may have brought bed bugs to school with them. They likely caught them while on vacation or from another family member who travels often. It will also be extremely difficult to know for sure if they brought the bed bugs with them or simply caught them while they were at school.
Here are some guidelines for what you should do if you suspect a teacher or student of having bed bugs:
- Don’t single out any one student or teacher. Instead, send educational materials home with all children/teachers affected with advice on how to identify bed bugs and next steps to take to avoid transferring bed bugs to and from school.
- If you find a particular person has bed bugs on their possessions, deal with it as discreetly as possible. Ideally, talk to the parent or guardian to let them know that bed bugs have been found on their possessions and what next steps to take to ensure that an infestation is not transferred to or from school – make sure you do not point the finger. Make sure they have the same educational materials as everyone else.
How to Avoid Spreading Bed Bugs in a Classroom
To avoid spreading bed bugs in a classroom:
- Regularly wash down hard surfaces with hot soapy water
- Don’t pile clothes and shoes together
- Have designated plastic totes or similar for each child’s belongings
- Keep the classroom uncluttered and avoid large piles of communal cushions, bean bags, and soft toys
These tips are ideal if you suspect bed bugs, but are also good practice for avoiding spreading any parasite, bacteria, or virus.
If you suspect a bed bug infestation in your school, don’t hesitate to contact a qualified bed bug professional as soon as possible. They will be able to accurately detect infestations and treat the area quickly, and the classroom will be inhabitable again within hours of a heat treatment. Chemical treatments are not recommended for schools and aren’t 100% effective. To find someone to help you or for more information on identifying and treating bed bugs, click here.