Dirty linens dangerous


    By Kimberly McLean

    Pillowcase-washing season is here.

    The average person contacts more than 2.5 million new germs a day, according to disinfectant spray maker Lysol. With college hygiene sometimes lacking among students, many germs, bacteria, fungi and viruses can get trapped and breed where most college students spend nearly a fourth of their day: their bed.

    Dirty linens can lend to such problems as acne, rosacea, pink eye and the spread or relapse of the flu and other illnesses.

    Brian Bradshaw, a Provo dermatologist, said he finds most people suffer from preventable ailments and skin problems, particularly on their face, neck and back, because they fail to clean their bed linens enough.

    ?Perhaps the most effective way to keep your skin healthy and get over sickness is to regularly change your sheets and pillowcases,? Bradshaw said.

    In a recent study by the University of Manchester, researchers also discovered fungal spores don?t only flourish on decaying wood deep in the forest, but can be found living much closer to home ? in most people?s own beds.

    Funded by the Fungal Research Trust, researchers at the University of Manchester are warning students in particular to keep better tabs on their bunk cleanliness to avoid aspergillus fumigatus and other germs from infecting their pillows.

    Aspergillus fumigatus, the fungal species most commonly found in pillows, is a cause of allergies and can worsen asthma. The disease Aspergillosis, which has become the leading infectious cause of death in leukemia and bone marrow transplant patients, can also be developed from the fungus.

    ?Students who go weeks without washing their linens are especially at risk,? Dr. Andrew Brass who participated in the research said. ?We found millions of spores on some pillows that had been in use for less than two years.?

    Brandon Ostler, a freshman from Chandler, Ariz. studying pre-med, agreed many students just don?t take the time to be clean.

    ?When there?s so much going on with school and a social life, sometimes washing your pillowcase is the last thing on your mind,? he said.

    The research team studied samples from ten pillows between 1.5 and 20 years of regular use.

    Each pillow contained a substantial fungal load, with between four and 16 species being identified per sample. Aspergillus fumigatus was the most prevalent fungi found.

    Gary Measom, director of the School of Science and Health at Utah Valley State College, said Aspergillus could worsen asthma and cause more allergies in people who already have allergic tendencies.

    ?Constant exposure to fungus in bed could be problematic,? he said. ?Almost one-fifth of college-age students already have asthma or another respiratory problem so since people spend about a quarter of their lives in bed, they are sleeping and breathing close to a potentially large source of fungi.?

    Dr. Geoffrey Scott, chairman of the Fungal Research Trust said, ?The best way I know of to avoid such problems is to practice good hygiene, wash bedding frequently and change bedding from time to time also.?

    Scott said using a bleach-based laundry detergent would also be advantageous to killing the fungal population thriving in pillowcases and bedding.

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