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Changing Bed Sheets is Essential for Avoiding Dust Mites

Changing bed sheets should be one of your most important household chores — especially during the hot summer months.

Skin cells can be a breeding ground for dust mites and bacteria that live on your sheets, pillows, and mattress.  Mixed with your skin sweat, oil, and saliva offers a haven for these microscopic critters.changing bed sheets more often

Changing Bed Sheets

Why is changing bed sheets so important?

Consider this: One million dust mites can feast on the dead skin cells you produce in one day.  Each day, the average person sheds a about a gram and a half of skin cells called keratinocytes. Cleveland Clinic dermatologist, Alok Vij, MD., says that’s roughly 3/8ths of a teaspoon.

Dr. Vij briefly explains.

“A lot of that happens when you’re making that contact with your sheets in your bed at night. Any kind of friction will abrade, or chafe, off the outer layer of your skin cells.”

You have an even greater problem during hot temperatures. As a good rule of thumb, Dr. Vij says you should typically wash your sheets at least twice a month. “But as the weather gets warmer — especially if you sweat more at night — you have to really ramp up to at least once a week.”

The Details

Here are a few more reasons changing bed sheets is important.

Dust mites don’t theoretically bother everyone. However, Dr. Vij says, many people in the United States are allergic to dust mites, which live on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. These eight-legged relatives of the spider are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Dr. Vij explains.

“That can lead to itching; trigger asthma flare-ups, other seasonal allergies or rashes if too many of them come in contact with your body.

Then there’s bacteria.

According to Dr. Vij, bacterium loves our skin.

“Bacteria love the skin.  There are more bacterial organisms in our bodies than our own cells — and the skin’s one of the most commonly inhabited areas. When you let the dead skin cells rest in your sheets, those bacteria can thrive. If they get back on to your skin it can lead to folliculitis, or maybe make your eczema worse.”

Eczema is one of the most common types of skin rashes.

Dr. Vij elaborates.

“We know now that eczema is driven by a combination of the dryness of your skin and overactive bacterial colonies on your skin.  So by allowing those bacteria to live in harmony on your sheets and get on your skin when you hop in bed, you could be making your eczema worse — or allowing it to start in the first place.”

Good News

The risk of getting a bad bacterial infection under your skin is low. But it’s still a good idea to practice good bed linen hygiene — like changing bed sheets — so your own bacterial ecosystem doesn’t get out of hand.

In addition, you may want to consider not making your bed right away in the morning. Not pulling up your comforter, gives sweaty sheets a chance to dry and reduces the moisture that dust mites and bacteria need to proliferate.

Additionally, your other bedding isn’t as high maintenance as changing bed sheets.

Dr. Vij says the following.

“Blankets and pillows don’t need to be washed as frequently.  But skin cells, bacteria, dust mites can definitely travel and live on your pillow or in your blanket. So at least every six months, they need to be washed. The washing process can actually fluff your pillow and make your blanket’s filling — down or whatever material’s inside — distributed more evenly. That’s helpful for making your pillows and blankets as comfortable as possible for their whole life.”

One More Consideration

Besides summer, there’s one other reason, changing bed sheets more often than twice a month is important.

Pets are a concern as well, according to Dr. Vij.

“Pets are common harbors for fungal organisms that can come in contact with your skin.  This can cause simple infections like ringworm, but can also lead to more aggressive infestations like scabies, which is caused by mites that can live on dogs and be transmitted to humans.

Pets can also transfer a number of other parasites to you.  So make sure changing bed sheets often is on your list of essential and important household chores.

About the author: George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion and Education (Kent State University). George focuses on providing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles.

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