Friday, September 17, 2010

Are your pillows being washed?

When you lay your head down at night and drift off into a dream filled slumber, the last thing that might cross your mind is what exactly is going on inside of that pillow. You may be unaware of the fact that pillows are a breeding ground for dust mites, fungus and bacteria and these unwelcome visitors might be making your guests sick. We have all seen the reports about the bacteria and organisms that can live in bathrooms, in food preparation areas and in mattresses, but pillows are often overlooked. In just one gram of dust inside of a pillow, there can be as many as 19,000 dust mites alive, eating, reproducing and creating waste. For the nearly 60 million Americans who suffer from allergies, this can cause a real health problem.

You might be wondering what exactly a dust mite is. These little creatures which are part of the arachnid family (along with spiders and ticks) cannot be seen with the naked eye but when viewed under a microscope they resemble small white spiders. With their diet of choice being dead skin cells, your pillow is a great place for them to hang out and feast for their entire lifetime (which is about 30 days). They are also masters of reproduction and each female dust mite can produce up to 30 eggs in her lifetime. They thrive in areas of high humidity (Between 75-80%) so if you have rooms that are in the general vicinity of an indoor pool or rooms that have private Jacuzzi tubs you may not realize the damage you are causing to items located in those rooms. It doesn’t take much for moisture to settle inside of pillows and for dust mite infestation to begin.

The reason dust mites can cause some people such extensive health problems is that as much as 90% of allergic asthma sufferers and 45% of regular asthma sufferers are highly affected by these creatures and the waste they produce. 10% of the rest of the population also has sensitivities to dust mites which are often caused by the approximately 20 waste particles each dust mite produces daily. Multiply that number by the amount of dust mites that are potentially present in one pillow and you can better understand the problem. With more and more people becoming aware of dust mites, and the allergy issues they create, guests are now asking what types of pillows are available to them. If hypoallergenic pillows or pillow covers are not available, guests have opted to bring their own allergen free pillows or covers along for their stay, or they have looked elsewhere for reservations.

While not as prevalent as dust mites, bacteria can also grow inside of pillows. Not only can traditional bacteria such as streptococci (strep throat) and staphylococcus (the antibiotic-resistant bacteria responsible for MRSA) inhabit a pillow, but also potentially toxic bacteria by-products called endotoxins are often found in pillows. These endotoxins are chemicals that are released exclusively from dust inside or on the surface of a pillow and can easily be inhaled by someone who is lying on that pillow for numerous hours a night. These endotoxins are exceptionally harmful to someone who has asthma and they can trigger severe attacks. These by-products are harmful even to those people who are not asthmatic, creating a powerful inflammation reaction that mimics flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and headache.

Luckily, battling dust mites and bacteria is not a completely impossible task. There are numerous actions you can take to ensure your guests aren’t sharing their 8 hours a night with these pesky creatures. Consider the cost of the pillows that are currently available for guests. If the cost was relatively low, it’s a good idea to replace these pillows at least every 6 months. For more costly pillows, or for larger body-sized pillows, it’s a good idea to read the care label on the pillow itself and see if the pillow is washer and drier safe. Washing and completely drying a pillow kills dust mites, and removes bacteria which allows for a better and healthier night’s sleep if done on a regular basis. It’s important to make sure the pillow gets completely dried however, to prevent any trapped moisture from harvesting new dust mites or mold. Most high quality pillows will allow for a gentle washing if done properly. Washing pillow covers in hot water at least once a month is also a great idea (55 degrees Celsius is recommended). Understanding dust mites, bacteria and other harmful organisms while realizing how common they are is important to discovering there may be a problem within your pillows. For the many people whose health is severely affected by these organisms, keeping pillows and pillow covers clean is really a very simple way to make sure they are healthy and happy. After all, don't you deserve the best?

Hot Flashes & Night Sweats Challenge

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