(BPT) – As parents and students prepare to begin another school year, one back-to-school routine they may have to add to their duties is checking backpacks, school items and clothing for bed bugs.

Communities across the country have seen an increased number of bed bug infestations in recent years. As these pests infiltrate more homes, they’re hitching rides on backpacks, clothing, books and other items to make their way into schools.

Bed bugs that travel into a school in one student’s backpack can be carried home in the clothes of another, making the school a nucleus for the spread of bed bugs to households.

Several precautions can be taken to keep bed bugs out of your home should your child’s school become infested but you must first be able to identify these pests. Adult bed bugs are reddish-brown with small, flat, oval and wingless bodies about the size of an apple seed. They crawl at a steady rate and can be seen with the naked eye. Bed bug nymphs look much the same but are smaller and lighter in color than the adults.

Upon return from school each day, children’s school items and clothing should be thoroughly inspected. If bed bugs or their fecal staining – which is light brown to black and looks like tiny drops of dried blood – is discovered, it doesn’t mean your home has a bed bug infestation. Preventative measures can be taken to stop an introduction from developing into an infestation.

Any evidence of bed bugs can be eliminated by washing and drying items on the highest heat setting. Items that cannot be washed may be stored in large plastic zipper bags or in tightly-lidded plastic bins to stop bugs from moving into living areas.

If you suspect bed bugs have made their way into the rooms of your home, carefully examine all the mattresses, bed linens, headboards, upholstered furniture and draperies for these tiny pests.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Signs of an infestation include the presence of:

* Bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets

* Exoskeletons after molting

* Rusty colored spots from blood-filled fecal matter

* Sweet, musty odor.

Treatment options are available to rid your home of bed bugs and keep them from traveling back to school with your children.

“More than 300 products are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency to control bed bugs and many can be used by consumers,” says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) – a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide products.

Bed bugs are most successfully treated with a combination of insecticide liquids, aerosols and dusts. “Just remember to select the right product and always read and follow all label directions,” Hobbs adds.

With more schools reporting bed bug outbreaks, it’s important for parents to stay aware of these pests, their ability to spread from schools into homes and ways to prevent and treat infestations. For more information, visit www.DebugtheMyths.com.

        Comments are not available on this story.