It’s ‘Back to School’ time, and if this means that your household is preparing to send your student off to college or boarding school, you should consider the growing problem of bed bugs throughout the U.S.

Make Sure You Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

If you are an allergy sufferer, you likely know all too well that a million dust mites can make their home in a single bed. But, while you may be taking all the necessary steps for at-home allergy relief, the dorm room is an entirely new arena that brings up not only dust mite allergy problems, but also the added concern over bed bugs. While dust mites are invisible to the naked eye, bed bugs measure approximately 1/8th-inch in size. These biting, blood-sucking pests mean that extra precautions are necessary to make sure that the old saying “Sleep tight – don’t let the bed bugs bite,” doesn’t come true for your child.

Bed Bugs vs. Dust Mites

To cover a few basic facts, let’s note some differences (or similarities) between dust mites and bed bugs. Both dust mites and bed bugs like to make their homes in mattresses or soft furnishings like couches. Unfortunately for us, both critters find humans to be their primary food source. However, a dust mite’s food source is skin that has already been shed from our bodies, while bed bugs feed from blood that is sucked directly out of bites they make on the skin. Dust mites don’t bite us, but they do cause allergy symptoms when we inhale their waste particles or dead body fragments. Bed bugs come out of their hiding places at night or in the early morning and crawl across the bed to bite us — or they can even crawl up the walls and drop from the ceiling! A bed bug can suck your blood for up to five minutes before going back to hide. Your itching reaction to a bed bug bite can last for minutes and sometimes hours. Once you have a bed bug problem, these pests can be particularly hard to get rid of because, while they prefer to feed more regularly, they can go dormant for 12-18 months — plenty of time for you to think the bed bug infestation has been resolved, only to have it flare back up again.

Bed Bugs and Schools

While you may not think that your home will be prone to a bed bug problem, sending your kids off to college can mean putting them directly in the path of bed bugs, and potentially bringing bed bugs home during weekend visits. While hotels top the list of sources for bed bug problems, these pests can be found in airplanes, trains, theaters, dormitories and more. Universities across the country have seen upticks in bed bug infestations as more students travel abroad or come to school from foreign countries, bringing bed bugs into the dorm. Over the years, universities from New York to California have sounded the alarm upon the discovery of bed bugs — from room relocation to dorm evacuation for fumigation.

Bed Bugs are a National Problem

With an increase in international travel in recent years, the U.S. has seen a resurgence in bed bugs, making the bed bug a global jet-setter. The problem has grown to such a degree that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a National Bed Bug Summit in April 2009, to address the bed bug issue. Of such critical importance, the EPA held a 2nd National Bed Bug Summit in February 2011 to review progress and develop new strategies and initiatives in the fight against bed bugs. One such initiative is the EPA's new website, Bed Bugs: Get Them Out, Keep Them Out, packed with easy-to-understand information about bed bugs, including steps on preventing and eliminating them from your home.

How To Protect Your Child

Initial precautions to keep your child protected in his or her dorm room should include checking the mattress, box spring, headboard and bed frame for signs of bed bugs – from the bug itself to black spots left behind from their waste particles. Look in the seams and folds of the mattress or box spring, and in other crevices where they may be lurking. For the best protection against bed bugs — and dust mite allergens too — cover the bed (mattress, pillow, box spring, and comforter) in an encasing that is specifically designed to block both. Depending on your budget and fabric preference, Allergy Control® offers several lines of encasings to provide the allergy relief and certified bed bug protection that you need. Even if bed bugs have been in the mattress, covering the box spring, mattress, pillows and duvet with these encasings, and leaving them on, will keep the bed bug contained and protect your child. If bed bugs haven’t been in the room, these Allergy Control® encasings will ensure that they cannot get into your child’s bedding to make a new home.

In a Nutshell

The simple step of encasing bedding can ensure that bed bugs don’t cause a problem at school -- and don’t come home, either in the piles of laundry that are sure to be deposited on your doorstep during your child's visits back home or in soft furnishings that make their way back to your home during breaks. After all, Back to School is an exciting time, and higher learning shouldn’t mean a crash course in just how damaging bed bugs problems can become.