If your pets sleep in your bed with you, you are more likely to end up with outside invaders in your bed. « Dogs That Bring Ticks [which then attach] owners is a very real situation and not uncommon,” says Dr. Russo. « Similarly, cats come out and can hunt and kill other animals with potentially dangerous infections, like tularemia, and can infect owners. »
Allergens, especially dust mites, are the main cause for concern.
While bacteria and sweat aren’t likely to accumulate enough to make you sick, dust mites certainly can. Of course, not everyone is allergic to dust mites, but if you are, it’s more important to clean your sheets and duvet regularly.
« The most common types of allergens found in mattresses, pillows, duvets and blankets are dust mites », Denisa E. Ferastraoaru, MD, assistant professor of medicine in allergy and immunology and attending physician at Einstein/Montefiore and Jacobi Medical Centers, tells SELF. “Mites are small, small creatures. They live everywhere we live because they feed on our skin flakes. And they are most often found in the bedroom, she adds.
It’s kind of impossible to rid your room of dust mites — everyone gets them, no matter how clean the house, says Dr. Ferastraoaru.
Other allergens can also linger on your duvet. If you sit on your bed in your outerwear, you can transfer things like pollen, grass, and ragweed to your comforter. And if your dog or cat runs outside and then sleeps in your bed, it can also bring in these seasonal allergens. This can cause you problems, depending on your sensitivity, says Dr. Steele.
How often should you wash your duvet then?
You should generally aim to wash your comforter once a week. Some logistical challenges make it difficult to wash a large, bulky comforter as frequently, which is usually what experts recommend to keep linens fresh and minimize allergens.
Another option: put your duvet in an anti-allergic cover, and wash it once a week, Ryan Steele, DO, board-certified allergist-immunologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, tells SELF. “Adding an allergy blanket, which could also be called a dust mite blanket, will add an extra layer of protection to trap dust mites and reduce allergen counts,” says Dr. Steele.
These covers basically work by blocking dust mites on the inside duvet so they can’t come out and be inhaled, says Dr. Ferastraoaru. « The fabric is very tight and will not let dust mites and dust mite allergens through. » Even better: if you’re on the hunt for a new duvet, put an allergy cover on it before you use it for the first time to keep dust mites out, she says.
Dr. Steele recommends washing your sheets and all blankets, including pillow and duvet covers, once a week on the hottest setting possible to reduce allergen counts.
If you have seasonal allergies, use the dryer. “A lot of people like to get that fresh scent on the sheets by drying them on the outside clothesline. It might be good for the smell, but it’s a giant pollen trap,” says Dr Steele. « Using the dryer will help reduce the allergen load. »
If your allergies work despite regularly washing your sheets and duvet cover, you may need to kick your pet out of the bed, says Dr. Steele. It might be a tough transition if you’re both used to cuddling all night long, but you’ll end up sleeping more soundly if you eliminate all potential sources of allergens. It doesn’t matter who’s in bed with you, it’s worth keeping things clean.