Did you know that saying you have a dust allergy is just a nicer way of saying you’re allergic to the proteins and feces produced by dust mites?
Did you also know that dust mites feast on the dead skin cells and hair cells you should onto your bed sheets as you sleep? Get ready for the creepy crawly reasons you should be washing your sheets more often than you probably think, and the best way to do so effectively.
Do You Have A Dust (Mite) Allergy?
If vacuuming and sweeping tend to make you sniffle, you might be among the millions of Americans that suffer from a dust mite allergy. The common condition includes symptoms such as:
- runny nose
- itchy or watery eyes
- difficulty breathing
- irritated skin
- asthma attacks
- eczema flare-ups
Microscopic dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments, so your cozy bed is a common choice for dust mite real estate.
Microbes, Bacteria, and Fungi, Oh My!
Unfortunately, dust mites have a lot of company. A North Carolina State University biologist, Rob Dunn led a project entitled “Wildlife of Our Homes” in which he collected swabs from around study participants’ homes, including their toilets, beds, fridges, and couches.
After testing each sample in a lab, Dunn’s research team found that the average pillowcase and the average toilet seat had more or less the same bacteria hidden in plain sight. But before you pat yourself on the back for having a very clean toilet seat, know that Dunn regularly found fecal contamination on both surfaces.
“The pillowcase and the toilet seat actually have a lot in common,” said Holly Menninger, the project’s director of public science.
“There are also plenty of gut microbes in both places,” writes Jessica Green of Discover Magazine, which featured Dunn’s work. “Which means that the pillows were seeded with what scientists delicately refer to as ‘fecal contamination.’
How to Make Your Bed Less… Gross
1. If it’s within your means, swap carpet flooring for laminate, tile, or wood.
2. Wash all of your bed linens on a weekly basis, using very hot water to kill most of the microscopic critters.
3. Keep pets out of your bedroom (or at least off of your bed).
4. Measure the humidity in your home, and use dehumidifiers if necessary to keep it below 50%. Alternatively, you can use (well-dusted) fans.
5. Deep clean your mattress every month or so. Simple ingredients like baking soda or hydrogen peroxide can do the trick.
6. Consider buying dust mite proof bed linens to help prevent dust mites from getting into your pillows and mattress.
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