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Pillows: Dysfunctional Convenience

Modern society is pretty concerned about cleanliness. In the last few years there’s a lot in the media about dust mites. These disgusting little critters live in carpet, mattresses and pillows. They can cause allergies and eczema, and who knows what else! Actually, I tend to think this type of thing a bit of overreaction. The environment is full of life, teeming with it, and it’s not all beneficial. But then again, there’s been evidence to suggest that too much cleanliness leads to over sensitivity and weak immune systems, especially for children.

But back to dust mites. There’s not a whole lot you can do about the mites in your carpet and mattress, except let in sunlight as much as possible, as the mites don’t like it. For pillows it’s recommended that you wash them in hot water or get rid of them every two years. This strikes me as really not very well thought out. If you’ve ever washed or tried to wash pillows, you may have experienced problem like the pillows coming out lumpier than they went in, or they simply don’t dry properly. Me, I worry about that not drying meaning there’s now other stuff growing in there. As already mentioned, I don’t generally worry too much about germs and creepy crawlies, but then I started thinking about the link to eczema. I sleep on my stomach a lot, and push my hands under or around my pillow. My pillows are old (and unwashed). I have eczema on my hands, and the problem really got worse when I changed pillows (I used to have newer, but less comfortable pillows). So, am I rushing to put my pillow in the washer or buy a new one?
No, I’m wondering if the whole pillow setup might be a wrongheaded idea in the first place. A closed sack of feathers or other material that is relatively impermeable to light and yet permeable to moisture and bacteria and the like does not strike me as a particularly great thing to be shmushing one’s face against for eight hours a day. What does a person do when they haven’t got a pillow? They find some other sort of material, often clothes, and bunch it up in a ball to rest their head on. Though crude, this has the advantage of being easily dismantled and washed (and completely dried). I might try this for a while, putting scrap cloth in my pillow cases for a few weeks and washing in between, and see if my skin clears up at all. It would be better than using lotions and steroid cream all the time.

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