If you're pretty lax about washing your bedding, let this story of a woman who had over 100 mites living in her eyelashes due to what doctors reportedly believe was a pillowcase she hadn't washed for years be the lesson that whips you into shape. As reported in a story that originally ran in a local Chinese paper on Nov. 29 (which was later picked up by outlets like the Daily Mail), a 62-year-old Chinese mother living in the central Chinese province of Hubei was taken by family members to the Hospital of Wuhan University after complaining of eye irritation and discharge. According to the story, she told doctors that her eyes had been itchy and red for nearly two years, and that she had gotten used to it while just treating it at home with eye drops. But recently, things took a turn for the worst, which is why her family had her see a doctor: Her over-the-counter eye drops were no longer cutting it, and her eyes were starting to become painful to open when the discharge would dry.
And this is when the story gets horrifying.
According to the report, doctors discovered over 100 mites living on the woman's eyelashes, with each eyelash harboring up to 12 of the little critters. Now, eyelash mites are actually fairly normal — in fact, most if not all people have some sort of mites living on their face. But, they're usually not in this amount, and they shouldn't be causing irritation as they were for this woman. After some questioning, doctors were able to figure out why the mites had gotten so out of control: The woman, who is referred to as Ms. Xu Dong in the report, admitted that she hadn't washed her pillowcase in four or five years.
Is your face itchy yet?
According to National Geographic, most of us currently have mites living on our faces. There are over 48,000 species of mites, and two in particular have an affinity for humans: They're the Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. In small amounts, these mites are OK. They live in our hair follicles and survive on our oil secretions, and are too small to see or notice. Regular washing and good hygiene keeps them from over populating our bodies and becoming an issue.
But, for this woman, the combination of poor at-home hygiene and limited ventilation in her bedroom created an environment that allowed the mites to build up to a dangerous degree. According to the local news report, doctors believe that the woman's pillowcase had become a breeding ground for the mites, and that they were shacking up on her eyelashes while she slept.
Thankfully, there's good news here: Once doctors were able to pinpoint the cause of the irritation, they could move on and diagnose her with blepharitis and conjunctivitis — in other words, inflammation of the base of the eyelashes and of the eye. Anti-mite treatment allowed her to make a full recovery, something that I'm sure the rest of us hope to make after reading this nauseating article.
But while horror stories are nothing short of scary, they do serve as severe reminders that all those little things our parents used to nag us about come from a worthy place of concern. Washing your pillow cases is surely a pain in the ass, but creating a situation where you turn your face into an all-inclusive resort for bugs is worse. Even worse, studies show that an unwashed pillow can contain dangerous amounts of bacteria that can be seriously harmful to your health. Washing your sheets once a week is the only way to fight against that natural build up of bacteria.
So, suck it up, pick a laundry day, make sure to wash your pillowcase at 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and to throw it into a hot dryer cycle to kill all germs. Sorry folks, but there are no shortcuts here. The combination of heat, sweat, oil, and dead skin cells makes your bed a very trendy place for microscopic bugs to hang out. It doesn't matter how often you shower, how fancy your sheets are, or how cute your bedding is — no one is safe unless you wash your sheets regularly.
... *Runs home to wash bedding immediately.*