Help! My student has bedbugs!

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You notice a student has red bites, you find a tiny reddish brown bug crawling on said student, and a few google searches later you realize it: your student has bedbugs. The word "bedbugs" can send even the most stoic teacher into a panic. But take a deep breath-- I got through it, and so will you!

First of all, alert your administration and social worker. They may already have steps in place, such as sending home a letter to the class and calling an exterminator.

In the meantime, protect yourself. Because no one is sleeping in your classroom (hopefully!), it's unlikely that your classroom itself will become infested. However, that doesn't mean you couldn't pick up an actual bug from the student and transfer it to your home. When I consulted with an exterminator, he had a couple recommendations for teachers exposed to bedbugs. As soon as you get home, take off the clothes you wore at school and place them in a sealed bag. Don't wear or touch them again until they've been in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes-- I did an hour to be safe. Don't put anything on your bed, ever! You can also pull your bed away from the walls, making it an "island." Place the bedposts in steep bowls (or buy these). This way, no bugs can get in your bed unless you yourself transfer them there. Which you won't do, because you're not putting anything on the bed!

Okay, back to school. Bedbugs prefer fabric, so pack up any excess pillows or curtains for the time being. Put them in the dryer for 30 minutes plus, and then store them until your student is bedbug-free. 

Bedbugs don't live on humans (they just bite them while they're sleeping), so while you might find a bug or two on your student, it's more likely that bugs would be on their backpack or clothes. You can have all students place their backpacks and coats in separate trash bags when they enter the classroom, and keep the bags sealed until it's time to go home. If one student has them, it's likely that bedbugs are going through the community, and more students may have them as well. 

Keep in mind that having bedbugs does not mean the home is "dirty" or the student is uncared for. In big cities particularly, apartment buildings become infested and are very difficult to de-bedbug. Your student may be tired due to being woken up by itchy bites, so be patient. 

If worse comes to worst, and you do get bedbugs, remember it's not the end of the world! If you catch them early and follow the advice of your exterminator, they should be gone within a few weeks. You've got this!

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