As a freshman headed off to college you may be apprehensive about living independently for the first time. While there are few experiences as rewarding as dorm life, it can bring a host of challenges. If your living space becomes uncomfortable or unpleasant it can have a negative effect on your entire college experience.
The kitchen and bathroom are the most commonly unpleasant parts of a dorm room, but other areas can face cleanliness issues as well. One location that you may not expect is your mattress. The average college student spends somewhere between six and 10 hours a day in their bed, so it’s important that it remain a comfortable and clean space. Your mattress can host an assortment of intruders like bed bugs, mold, and bacteria that can be difficult to treat and lead to health issues like allergies and infection.
Prevent Bacterial Infections
A hidden health hazard for college students is the risk of bacterial infection. College dorms have a high population density and shared living spaces, making them ideal for these organisms to thrive. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell if your mattress is hosting dangerous, infectious diseases like bacterial meningitis or MRSA.
One way to prevent the spread of bacteria is to use a mattress made from fabric specifically designed to prevent bacteria from growing. This unfortunately is not a practical solution for most college students. An affordable alternative to a new mattress made from high-performance fabric is to use bed sheets with anti-bacterial properties.
Avoid Allergies from Mold and Mites
Like bacteria, it’s very difficult to identify a mold infestation in your mattress. Perspiration on a mattress’ surface combined with a warm environment makes the perfect setting for mold to grow. The biggest issue with mold is that once it’s visible the problem is already widespread and very difficult to resolve. It’s easier to prevent mold than treat it, and you can do things like use an air purifier or a dehumidifier in your dorm room to prevent mold from growing.
Dust mites are tiny organisms that lead to respiratory issues like asthma and year-round allergies. These bugs are too small to see with your eyes, live deep within furniture and mattresses, and feed on the skin cells you shed daily. You cannot eliminate dust mites from your dorm room, but there are ways to mitigate their harmful effects. Use a dust-proof pillow cover, wash your bedding on a weekly basis in hot water, and keep the humidity in your dorm below 50 percent.
How to Find a Bed Bug Infestation
The most fearsome issue for your mattress’ cleanliness is a bed bug infestation. These small parasitic insects are infamously difficult to find and exterminate. Not only do they lead to physical issues like itchy red welts, they can have a negative effect on your emotional and psychological wellbeing too. Adults can grow to the size of apple seeds, so they are not impossible to find.
The first sign of a bed bug problem is the welts that often appear in a linear pattern on skin that is exposed while you sleep. You may even notice small dots of red blood on your sheets. To find the infestation, look for signs like black dots of fecal matter, exoskeletal remains, and clusters of bed bug eggs. If you believe you may have an infestation, it’s important to contact your school’s facilities team immediately so they can take steps to eliminate the problem.
As with other dorm mattress issues, bed bugs are more easily prevented than treated. Be judicious about second hand furniture and clothing. Wash your clothing immediately after leaving places like a hotel or movie theatre. While it’s not possible to guarantee protection from a bed bug outbreak, these simple steps make it much less likely.
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