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Who are you sharing a bed with?

Author imageThe Mattress Warehouse

While you might not be like this art student who documented all the friends she shared a bed with in a photograph series, you are sharing your bed every night with some uninvited guests (and I don’t mean your partner or kids!). Most people are totally unaware or oblivious to the bacteria investing the places they are most vulnerable: like your mattress, pillow, and bedroom carpet and other furniture, but these little critters are more than annoying; they can cause allergies, lowered immune system and in extreme cases even death. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Humans shed skin cells, hair and sweat which various bacteria live and grow on. The most commonly known is the dust mite, which feeds on shed skin. The faeces of the dust mite are breathed in by us, causing wheezing, sneezing, and other respiratory problems. They are really quite disgusting, but nothing like the other friends you’re going to meet soon, for instance:


Also known as the Norwalk virus, Norovirus causes symptoms similar to food poisoning or even the stomach flu. It can survive in your carpet or in your bed for four to six weeks, and it becomes airborne as people walk or roll across it. If you live in areas with a prevalence of dust, the likelihood of having this virus is higher.


Generally, this one is the most dangerous during the rainier months (summer in the Highveld and winter in Cape Town), especially as you and the little ones track in bacteria-friendly dampness on your shoes and jackets. It causes a potentially deadly disease known as campylobacteriosis, which can be dangerous to people with a compromised immune system, like small children or the elderly. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus:

This penicillin-resistant monster of the bacterial world can run rampant in your carpet and mattress, especially if you have any athletes in the house.

They’ll bring it home from the gym or the locker room in that nasty gym bag you just realized you never wash, and take off their shoes before setting a nasty dirt-covered foot on the carpet… successfully tracking in whatever they brought home after sweating through practice. You don’t just walk barefoot on your carpet, you play video games, wrestle, watch TV and play games or read lying on it. Hopefully you don’t have a cut. MRSA loves those. Then it’s bedtime.

MRSA can be carried by healthy people for hours or even years. It causes red bumps that become more painful and larger over time and results in a fever and rashes. It only gets worse from there and can become untreatable, eventually leading to death.

The common bed bug:

A much less frightening parasite (but still not that appetising to hear about), is a bed bug, which feeds on human blood. They also mate by stabbing each other in the stomach, but that’s perhaps irrelevant. Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card.  Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night. They need to feed in order to grow. Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the  skin  and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed. Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the centre like flea bites do. People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves by searching out your mattress with a torch.

The rest of the bugs mentioned aren’t as easy to identify however. These are just some of the parasites and bacteria that share our mattresses, and they are actually pretty scary, but the solutions we can take to lessen their influence are not that extreme:

Vacuum your carpets regularly to keep the floor clean from parasite food.

Cover your mattress and pillows with protectors:

This prevents anything that is already in your mattress from getting to you. However, don’t think you can keep it on for a small period of time, as bed bugs can go up to 300 days without food. A mattress protector has to be a constant part of your bed, and should be washed bi-weekly to dislodge anything that’s arrived there since you covered the mattress. If you haven’t got a mattress protector because you dislike how they sound or feel, consider The Mattress Warehouse’s noise free (they make a slight crinkly sound, like a sheet), totally breathable mattress protectors. These mattress protectors are machine washable and waterproof, with a quilted or towelling finish. They’re also 100% cotton, and feel just like a sheet under you. To buy the mattress protectors and other linen online, click here, or come to our warehouse and buy at below retail prices in Midrand. Call 011 312 8613 to find out abourt our anti-bed bug beds and bases, memory foam and latex pillows and free nationwide delivery.

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