Preventing Back-to-School Pests: A Guide
Back-to-school seasons are a relief for many parents and an exciting time for many youngsters. Whether it’s after summer vacation, holiday vacations, or spring vacations, kids are hugging and playing with the friends they haven’t seen in a while. Unfortunately, that means an increased risk of back-to-school pests, so we put together some tips on how to avoid these pests.
Outbreaks of head lice are most abundant when school starts back up again, allowing their peak season to span the fall and winter. Head lice are spread from person to person either through direct contact or by sharing certain items such as brushes, clothing, hats, helmets, blankets, pillows, and almost anything else that comes into contact with one’s head. Predictably, head lice outbreaks are most common among younger age groups. Whether they’re playing dress up, pretending to be pro wrestlers, or even just napping, young kids typically have plenty of close contact with each other. What’s more, an important value that we teach our youngsters is “sharing is caring.” Well, in the case of lice, sharing is most certainly not caring, which means it is important to take precautionary measures, especially if there is an outbreak at your child’s school. Here are some of the best ways to prevent your child from bringing home lice:
- Check your child’s hair regularly for signs of lice. Signs include itchiness, eggs on the hair shafts, and lice themselves. A fine-tooth comb is the best tool to check for lice.
- Contrary to popular belief, cleanliness has no bearing on who gets lice and who doesn’t, which means that bathing more often will not prevent your child from getting lice. However, there are special shampoos that you can use which will kill and prevent lice.
- Make sure to wash your child’s clothes after each time they are worn, and wash their backpack, bedding, and outdoor wear (hats, jackets, scarves, etc.) regularly. Lice can survive up to 6 hours underwater, so the washing machine will not kill them, however the high heat of a dryer will. This tip can also help prevent bed bugs.
- Teach your children that, while sharing is good, they should be careful what they share and with whom, especially during a head lice outbreak. If there is an outbreak at their school, be sure to warn them against close contact with other children. This sentiment also pertains to bed bug prevention.
Bed bugs are known to be adept at hitchhiking, which means they are incredibly good at invading schools and homes. Peak bed bug season is June through October, but they can be a problem any time of year, including the winter. As with lice, bed bugs are often spread from person to person, but they can also be spread from item to item- for instance, from one backpack to another. Travelling is a major cause of bed bug infestations, and many families travel during vacations. Once school starts back up again, any student who picked up bed bugs during their travels has the potential to spread those bugs to their classmates. These tips can help you prevent your child from bringing home bed bugs:
- Clean out your child’s backpack each evening and check around the seams for evidence of bed bugs. If possible, hang backpacks up to keep any potential bed bugs from getting into rugs and furniture.
- Minimize the amount of items your child brings to and from school, especially cloth items. If possible, use plastic containers (pencil cases, lunch boxes, etc.) instead of cloth ones.
- Put a mattress cover on your child’s bed that covers both the mattress and the box spring. You can also purchase mattress covers that have been pretreated to prevent bed bugs.
- If there is an outbreak at your child’s school, wash their bedding, clothes, and backpack daily.
- Bed bug infestations have nothing to do with cleanliness of a home, but the bugs do love hiding spots. Try to minimize clutter in order to eliminate as many hiding places as possible. Vacuuming regularly is also a good way to get rid of any bed bugs that have successfully made it into your home.
Unlike lice and bed bugs, ticks are not typically spread through contact. They are usually picked up outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. They are most active from March to May and from August to November, but they can be active any time temperatures are above freezing. Ticks can carry various diseases, so it is important to teach your children ways to avoid getting ticks. Here are some of the best methods:
- Before recess, sporting events, and any other outdoor activities, have your children apply an insect repellant that contains either DEET or permethrin. You can also treat their clothing with a clothing-only tick repellant that contains at least 0.5% permethrin.
- If your child will be in a wooded area or an area with tall grass, have them wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and tall socks preferably all light in color. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to see ticks before they make it to the skin.
- Always check your children for ticks when they come home after being outside, especially if they were in a wooded area or an area with tall grass.
- Do not try to use alternative tick removal methods. Many of them do not work, and some are unnecessarily dangerous. To remove a tick, use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it straight out- do not twist. Ideally, the entire tick will be removed, but occasionally the head detaches from the body and stays embedded in the skin. When this happens, the tick is dead and can no longer extract blood or transmit diseases. It may cause some skin irritation, but before too long, it will fall out on its own.
Hopefully these tips will be enough to prevent any pests from being brought into your home. However, pests happen, and if any pests become a problem for your family, give Excel a call and we’ll send a technician your way.
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