If you’re thinking you can go more than seven days without stripping your bed and still be sleeping in a sanitary environment, some of you may be in for a rude—or shall we say crude—awakening.
“Once a week is a safe amount of time, as long as there’s no bodily secretions or any potential risk factors,” Marilyn C. Roberts, PhD, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, tells Yahoo Health.
The Germy Bad News
Let’s start with infectious fluids that can be soaked into your linens, such as urine, vomit, diarrhea, fecal spray, etc. “which should be changed right away.” And while ear drainage from an ear infection is more likely to happen in a child’s bed, it’s worth noting since the puss and bacteria left on the sheets can also “be very infectious.”
While many “typical” infections are transmitted person-to-person, Roberts explains that some skin infections can be “caught” between the sheets. “Skin infections can be from foamite, so it can go from a person to a sheet and back to another person.”
And some bed partners are more susceptible to certain skin infections, like MRSA, such as a person who is obese (“It’s very hard to keep your skin clean”), a swimmer (“Your skin tends to break down and is less protective”), has cuts and abrasions (“Those can more likely get infected”), has a compromised immune system or is older (“And that depends on the person since old can be 65 or 95”).
“The problem becomes when you have a pathogen that is causing an infection,” she continues. ‘The other thing that needs to be stressed is that people who have eczema and other kinds of skin conditions can be very susceptible to bacterial infections.”
And let’s not forget your favorite furry companion who might be sharing the other half of your pillow. “Dogs, by nature, are not hygienic,” stresses Roberts. “You can wash them every week, but they still go outside and sniff other dogs, so they can pretty much bring in anything.”
“Anything,” such as pollen, dirt, worms and insects, as well as Lyme disease, Leptospirosis (a bacterial infection that can lead to respiratory issues, kidney or liver damage) and Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria, also known as kennel couch (which can cause illness in children and immunocompromised individuals).
“Pets should be pets—they should have their own bed because they can be a reservoir for human diseases,” states Roberts. “Or you can give your pet a disease, like MRSA, and then the pet can give it back to you.”
And Now For The Less Germy (But Still Gross) News
Do you get the nighttime sweats? “If the sheets are pretty wet, I’d strip the bed,” says Roberts. “It just makes sense because the sheets may not dry out. Changing the sheets every day can be excessive, but it may turn out that at least once a week is necessary.”
For those who like to sleep in a bedroom that resembles the tropics (or if it’s during the warmer months and your room is not air conditioned), Roberts says that many types of bacteria can grow at room temperature, never mind a hotter one. “Again, it just makes sense to change these sheets more often,” she states. “If the sheets start smelling, that’s a darn good indication that you need to change them.”