Head lice aren’t the only insects that kids can bring home. Parents who want to keep their homes free of pests also need to worry about stopping their kids from bringing home bed bugs. Schools, daycare centers and other places that children trust can all fall prey to a bed bug infestation.
In fact, according to a 2013 National Pest Management Association survey, participating pest control professionals reported that 41% of them treated bed bugs in schools and daycare centers. And, bed bugs have even been found at camps for kids.
If you’re a parent worried that your child could bring home bed bugs, you have reason to worry. But, if you teach your child how to find bed bugs, you can help prevent bug bugs from getting into your home.
How to Talk to Kids About Bed Bugs
To an adult, bed bugs may seem disgusting, but they probably won’t seem scary. To a child, however, who may still be afraid of the dark or leaving their closet door open during the night, the idea of tiny bugs that creep out of the darkness to suck your blood can be terrifying. So, if you want to talk to your child about bed bugs, keep these guidelines in mind:
- You can explain that bed bugs are like mosquitoes: biting insects. Except, where mosquitoes fly, bed bugs crawl. Also, they do not carry disease. This can help children understand that bed bugs are a little creepy and inconvenient, but they aren’t really dangerous.
- You may want to refrain from telling your child that bed bugs often come out at night. This is because if your child is already afraid of the dark, knowing the nocturnal habits of bed bugs can make it worse. And, if your child isn’t already afraid of the dark, fearing night attacks from bed bugs can make them so.
- You may want to explain to your child that people don’t get bed bugs, homes do. So, if one of their friends gets bed bugs, they don’t need to be afraid of their friend (and they shouldn’t be mean about it).
Although you don’t want to scare your child, you do want them to understand that living with bed bugs is unpleasant, and, if they find out that one of their friends’ homes has bed bugs, they should tell you right away. That way you can work together to keep bed bugs out of your home.
Teaching Your Children About Bed Bugs
Teaching your kids how to find and identify bed bugs can help you in two ways:
- It can help you keep bed bugs out of your home. If your children know where bed bugs hide and how to find them (and put that information to good use!), they’re less likely to bring them home from a public facility or friend’s house.
- It can help you stop an infestation before it gets out of hand. If your child’s room somehow becomes infested and your child identifies the problem right away, you might be able to eradicate the problem before you have a full-blown infestation on your hands.
Things that you will want to teach your children include:
What bed bugs look like. Whether you use pictures of bed bugs or drawings, showing your child what the actual bugs look like is invaluable.
How to find bed bugs. Show them where to look for the tell-tale signs of an infestation and what to look for: black and red splatters and speckles.
What to do if they find bugs. What you want your child to do if they find bed bugs is a matter of personal choice. Do you want them to call you and tell you? Do you want them to tell a parent or guardian in the area? Do you want them to remove their belongings before they do anything else? Decide what you want your child to do if they find bed bugs and then clearly explain your expectations.
How to protect themselves. Explain to them why it is important to keep their backpack or bags off of the floor, and why keeping their things in plastic bags can help keep bed bugs out.
What bed bug bites look like. Kids always seem to be covered with an assortment of bites, bruises and cuts. But, if your child finds himself or herself with strange bites after a night away from home, you may have reason to worry. Teach your child what bed bug bites look like (both in the actual bite and the biting pattern) and explain to them how important it is to let you know if they think they have been bitten by bed bugs.
If your child knows how to spot an infestation and what to do if he or she finds one, they’re less likely to bring bed bugs into your home and more likely to let you know if they find something suspicious.