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When you tuck your kids in at night, do you tell them, “Sleep tight! Don’t let the bedbugs bite!”? Turns out that this could be a very real threat — not just a bedtime refrain.

Bedbugs became epidemic last year, with outbreaks at hotels and homes around the country. If you were lucky enough to be spared the invasion in your home, don’t feel that you are immune from it. Bedbugs spread easily, and they reproduce at a rapid rate. A few bedbugs quickly become an infestation.

Kids often bring home viruses and other nasties through their contact with other kids, either at home or at daycare, and through their natural tendency to explore. You already take extra precautions to keep them germ-free. Be sure you take the precautions to keep your home bedbug free, as well.

Here are a few tips for making sure you keep bedbugs out of your home:

Wash Everything in Hot Water
Contrary to their name, bedbugs like to travel on furniture, luggage, clothing, electronics, and other items — not just beds. If you suspect that your children may have been exposed to bedbugs at a friend’s house, school, or daycare, be sure to wash all clothing, bags and other items in the washer with the hottest water possible.

When you dry the items, put them in the dryer on the hottest setting possible also. The heat will kill off any stowaway bugs and their eggs.

Wipe Items with Alcohol
For all those items that can’t be thrown in the washing machine — such as toys, hard-sided lunchboxes, and shoes — you can clean them with basic rubbing alcohol. Swabbing these items thoroughly with alcohol will kill off any eggs that may be stowed away. If you see live bugs, the alcohol will kill them, too.

Steam Clean
Bedbugs like to hide in the cracks and seams of items like backpacks, shoes, pillows, and furniture. If you suspect that an item may be infested but you can’t clean it in the wash or reach all parts of it with alcohol, you can steam clean the cracks and seams. Use the hottest steam possible to blow into the cracks and kill off any bugs or eggs.

Use Hard-Sided Containers
Wherever possible, opt for hard-sided containers instead of canvas backpacks or lunch sacks. Bedbugs can easily hide in the seams of soft-sided containers, making it hard to find them and to kill them.
A hard-sided container makes it easier to spot stowaway bugs, and it is easier to swab down with alcohol to get rid of bugs.

Don’t Leave Items on the Floor
Setting a suitcase on the bed at a hotel or a friend’s house, leaving a bag on the floor, or setting a hat down on a chair can provide opportunities for bedbugs to hitch a ride back to your house. Make sure you are hanging all items so that they aren’t touching the carpet, curtains or furniture — whether you are in your house or someone else’s.

Keeping items off the ground and off furniture at a friend’s house will limit opportunities to pick up bugs, and keeping items suspended at your house will limit opportunities to spread the bugs.

Bed bugs can invade quickly, and they can be quite difficult to get out of your home. Be proactive and take these steps to ensure that they never become a problem.

Have you had the unfortunate experience of getting bedbugs in your home? How did you handle them? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

About the author:
Sarah Rexman is the main researcher and writer for BedBugs.org. Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a master’s degree in environmental science. Her main focus for the site involves teaching people what to look for when it comes to bed bugs signs as well as where to purchase rest easy bed bug spray.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to avoid bedbugs.

Image courtesy of TomSpinker via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.