Health

Expert shares how long certain viruses live in bedding

Fitness & Health:

It is well known that bugs and viruses become more prevalent in the winter, making it common for many of us to get sick. While there are multiple ways to protect yourself from these types of illnesses such as diet and vitamin supplements, there are other steps you could take to protect yourself. Sleep expert, Ashley Hainsworth from Bed Kingdom, spoke with Express.co.uk to explain more.

“As we move into the colder months, the home and bedroom will be subject to further cold and flu germs,” he said

“To prevent the spread of these germs among family members and visitors to your home, it is essential to keep all bedding, towels, and clothes clean.

“If you, your partner or your child has been ill, toss your sheets into the wash immediately to kill any lingering germs.

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“Viruses, such as those that cause flu, colds and stomach bugs, can linger on soft surfaces like bedding for up to 12 hours.”

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How long can microbes live on my bed sheets?

Mr Hainsworth said: “Germs can appear in your bed from various household items such as towels, toilets, kitchen surfaces and pets. Improper and infrequent laundering can lead to the spread of germs in your bedding.”

He listed common microbial species that can live in your bed, and how long they can survive:

  • Influenza viruses (flu) – These can survive for eight to 12 hours on tissues and fabrics. These viruses cause the flu. Symptoms include a sudden high temperature, body aches, headache, tiredness, and a loss of appetite
  • Staphylococcus aureus – This can survive for one week on cotton sheets This bacterium is known to cause skin and soft tissue infections such as abscesses and cellulitis. Pneumonia or bone infections can occur in severe cases that infect the bloodstream
  • Candida albicans – This can survive for up to a month. These fungal species are known to cause oral thrush, urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
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What kind of bugs might I find in my bed sheets?

“We lose a lot of fluid and bodily oils each night as we sweat in our sleep, not to mention the shedding of thousands of dead skin cells every hour,” he said. “This environment is the perfect breeding ground for dust mites and bedbugs.”

Dust mites – Dust mites feed on dead skin cells, which are plentiful inside a bed that is slept in for an average of six to eight hours a night. Although they are not visible to the naked eye, they multiply rapidly without being detected.

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Tens of thousands of dust mites can live in your bedding at any given point. The faecal matter and dead bodies of dust mites can cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

Symptoms may include coughing, sneezing, skin rashes, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. Dust mites are also a very common trigger for asthma sufferers.

Even if you’re not an asthma or allergy sufferer, you may experience cold symptoms such as a stuffy nose and sneezing after a night’s sleep if your sheets aren’t clean.

Bed bugs – Bed bugs can also be present on your bed sheets after being carried inside the house via clothes, backpacks, or other family members.

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Bed bugs are a common household pest in the UK, especially in cities.

Warning signs of having bed bugs are small and raised itchy spots on the skin, spots of blood on your bedding, and small brown spots on bedding (bed bug excrement). If you suspect bed bugs are present in your bed contact your local pest control.

How can I get rid of germs on my bedding?

Mr Hainsworth said: “To kill the germs completely, it is best to use hot water and wash the bedding at the hottest temperature recommended on the label.

“It is recommended to wash soiled bedding separately from other washing as the germs can actually pass through the washing process.

“The best way to sanitise dirty bedding is to strip the entire bed of sheets and pillowcases, keeping it away from your face as much as possible, and place it in the washing machine. The hotter the water, the more bacteria, viruses, and allergens you remove, so make sure to wash at the highest temperature your bedding allows for.”

How often should I wash my bed sheets?

“It is recommended that you wash and change your bed sheets once a week or at most every other week,” he added.

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“Once a week is a healthy balance between washing sheets regularly enough to avoid the build-up of bacteria, germs, and dirt without being so often that it becomes hard to fit into your routine.”

There are, however, some factors that will warrant more frequent washing of bed sheets including:

  • If you have asthma and allergies – wash every two to three days
  • If your pet sleeps in your bed – wash every two to three days
  • If you are ill – wash daily
  • If you are prone to breakouts – wash the pillow case every two to three days.


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