Student’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Avoid Bed Bugs at College

There couldn't be a better living environment for a bed bug infestation than a college dormitory. College housing with high numbers of students packed into small living quarters, all coming from different parts around the world offers a perfect scenario for the introduction and establishment of bed bugs.

Bed bugs are wingless bloodsucking pests that feed on warm-blooded mammals, preferably humans, while they are sleeping or relaxing. These blood-sucking pests, often associated with medieval times, have made a strong renaissance with infestations reported universally in restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, homes and yes, even college dorms. And bed bugs do not discriminate; some of the finest colleges in the country are battling these parasites.

No one wants bed bugs as roommates! As bed bugs have reached epidemic proportions, more and more college campuses are gearing up to battle this bloodthirsty pest. Colleges all over the country are aggressively taking aim at bed bugs and challenging the associated stigma by educating their students about the signs of an infestation. Students need to equip themselves with facts and information about bed bugs so they can identify an infestation early on, take action if they notice bed bug activity in their room, but, most importantly, take steps to prevent them entirely. Information is at the heart of the solution; get informed! It's the best way you can defend yourself and your dorm room from an invasion of bed bugs.

Begin by understanding that bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. You are most likely to suffer an infestation by bringing bed bugs into your room after your belongings or an item you bring to your room has been previously infested. To help avoid bed bugs in residence halls and dorms, it’s important for both students and staff to take preventative action. Here are a few tips to avoid bed bugs at college:

  • Fully examine your suitcases before re-packing for a return to school, particularly if you are traveling during the summer or break. Using a flashlight, lift flaps and thoroughly look inside of pockets for signs of bed bugs.
  • If you have been traveling, make sure that any clothing that went with you has been washed and dried at the highest temperature setting available; drying typically at 30 minutes under these conditions will kill all bed bugs and their eggs. 
  • Before installing your sheets on your dorm bed, fully inspect the mattress seams, specifically at the corners, for telltale spots or stains. Properly examine the complete room before unpacking, including sofas/chairs and behind the headboard. If you find anything suspicious, be sure to contact residence life immediately.  Leave your bags in the bath tub while inspecting; bed bugs are not likely to reside on cool surfaces.
  • If you are looking to bring "secondhand" furniture to the campus, thoroughly inspect it to make sure that the pest problem, such as bed bugs, is not the cause for its "secondhand" status. If you find anything suspicious, do not bring it to your apartment or dorm.  However, your best bet is to avoid “secondhand” furniture altogether.
  • Keep your room neat and tidy. Clutter offers bed bugs more places to hide. Having a cluttered dorm room will also make it more difficult to identify a bed bug infestation early on, when it is easiest to control.
  • Examine your body for bites or rashes. Investigate any unexplained red, itchy welts on your skin as they can be a sign of bed bug bites. Remember, while dermatologists and other professionals can’t distinguish bed bug bites from many other insect bites, any unexplained skin irritations should be examined. 
  • Closely examine library books. Bed bugs have been known to hide inside of books and infest libraries. Closely examine books before taking them back to your dorm rooms by looking closely at the binding and in between pages for signs of bugs.
  • Consider an active mattress liner that kills bed bugs that come into contact with it. Simply cover your mattress and/or box spring with a treated liner to prevent a bed bug infestation. This is probably the easiest step you can take to combat bed bugs in a dorm or multi-unit housing facility.

While bed bugs are a true nightmare for a college student and their parents (you certainly don’t want to bring them home as an uninvited guest for the holidays), the good news is that they are not known to spread disease. If you discover that you have bed bugs do not attempt to treat the problem on your own. Bed bugs are one of the most difficult pests to treat, even for a trained pest professional. Report your infestation immediately to your residence life staff to ensure that the problem is addressed promptly to alleviate as much inconvenience as possible. 

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