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Dust Mites and Bacteria: Why it is Important to Change Your Pillows Regularly

After a day of endless hustle and bustle, there are few feelings more relaxing than crashing on your bed and snuggling up tightly with your pillow. However, you are not the only one in love with your pillow and you are likely to find some uninvited guests waiting for you. Your pillow is home to thousands of bacteria, dust mites, and bug droppings. You cannot see them with the ordinary eye, but they are there. They—the dust mites—feed on dead skin cells and they have been known to cause allergic reactions in millions of people (some studies suggest over 10% of the American population have had allergic reactions because of dust mites).

The bacteria come mostly from the human body and the hair, face, hands, breath etc. have been known to harbor them. When you lay down to sleep, you leave quite a number of them on your pillow and they stay there. The bacteria, like the dust mites mentioned above, are not harmful and do not carry diseases. However, the idea of micro-organisms sharing something as personal as your pillow with you is enough to get anyone cringing in disgust.

Dust mites and bacteria thrive in a warm and humid environment, and your pillow provides exactly that, especially during the spring and summer seasons. They also have all the food they need—dead skin cells—and their droppings provide food for the bacteria also nestling in the pillow. That is a very scary ecosystem right there, and the fact that can only be seen microscopically makes things even scarier.


Bacteria and dust mite account for one-third of pillow weight

If it feels like your pillow is getting heavier over time, that is probably because it is home to millions of squatters. A gram of dust is said to hold hundreds of dust mites, dead cells, and bacteria—and after a year or two of usage without cleaning, over a third of your pillow’s weight is likely to be microscopic organisms.

Don’t even bother looking in/around your pillow to confirm if it is really infested with dust mites or not, as mentioned earlier, you’ll never see the little critters but they are surely there.


Dust mites are known to trigger allergic reactions

Yes, dust mites do not bite and do not carry any diseases. However, they are not entirely harmless; they carry a particular allergen and they have been known to trigger allergic reactions. People who have dust allergies are particularly likely to react to dust mites, and it has been known to trigger asthma attacks in those who are susceptible.

If you want to ascertain whether or not you are sensitive to dust mites, there are some ways to find out. Do you suffer from rashes, hives, sore throat, sinus problems, incessant sniffles and headaches that seem to originate from the area around your nose? Do your eyes itch regularly or do you sneeze constantly first thing most mornings? If your answers to these questions are in the affirmative, and your room is a bit warm most of the time, it is likely that your pillow has been infested with dust mites and you are sensitive to the allergen they carry.


When is the right time to replace a pillow?

Experts say the healthy life span of the average pillow should be 2 years—give or take. So, if you have a 2-year-old pillow that feels suspiciously heavier than normal and you exhibit some of the symptoms outlined above, it is definitely time to replace your pillow.

Washing your pillow—yes, some people do this—may be a temporary solution, but it is only temporary. If a pillow has served you well for over 24 months, then it is time to replace it with a newer one and save yourself from dust mites, their faeces, and the bacterial organisms sharing your old pillow with you.

A good pillow is important for a healthy night sleep, but if your pillow is heavy with dust mites and bacteria that may trigger allergic reactions, then your sleep may not be as healthy as you think. Also, when replacing your pillows, don’t forget those of your family members too, everybody deserves a good—and healthy—night’s rest.