There are two types of people in this world: those who freak out about germs and those who, well, don't.
Included in that group of germophobes are a select few who recoil even at the idea of "outside" clothes touching their indoor furniture, especially their beds. Sound familiar? If this is a concern of yours, you're not alone. A recent essay has people debating the virtue of taking off street clothes before sitting on beds — and has us thinking about how many germs we really gather throughout the day and if they actually pose a danger.
The short answer? Probably not.
"Otherwise everybody would be sick all the time," Dr. Philip Tierno, Ph.D., a microbiologist and professor at NYU School of Medicine, points out.
In the essay, which was originally published in 2016 but recently re-posted by Prevention.com, the writer explains how she will allow only "clean things" to touch her bed: "No suitcases or purses; they've been on countless floors and other suspect surfaces," she wrote. "Not even me when I'm dirty; I'm the weird roomie who showers when she gets home from the bar."
Hey, we all have our things. But experts say most people shouldn't worry.
"It is very difficult to quantify the specific risk that might be associated with clothing bringing germs such as bacteria viruses or fungi into the home, particularly if it is worn onto the bed," Dr. Andy Nish, M.D., an allergist in Gainesville, Georgia, and member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, told TODAY Home in an email, adding that he doesn't know of any studies that have looked at this specifically. "But experience would tell us that the number of people that get sick from this exposure would likely be quite low.
"We do know that germs are all around us and that some of those are actually necessary for us to live," he continued. "We also know that our immune system helps us to deal with those that are not beneficial to us."
If you have a normal, stable immune response, you should be able to protect yourself.
Dr. Philip Tierno
And, as Tierno notes, having dirty clothes is hard to avoid.
"You're on public transportation, in your automobile, in other areas where you can pick up germs," he said. "Lucky for mankind, if you have a normal, stable immune response, you should be able to protect yourself against them."
He added that people should remember how we get sick — pointing out that 80 percent of infections are transmitted by direct contact (coughing or sneezing, for example) and indirect contact (say, touching an elevator button that a sick person recently touched). So ... not sitting on your own bed in daytime clothes.
Tierno does make an exception: Try to avoid snuggling on top of your comforters if they're not washed regularly, especially in hotels.
"Fold those over," he said. "So you remove the spread, and then hopefully you have clean sheets that come between you and that (top layer)."
Don't forget, the best way to protect yourself from getting sick is also the simplest: Wash. Your. Hands.
All that said, if you sleep better at night knowing the only bodies that have touched your bed were blissfully free from those icky outside clothes — well, it can't hurt.
This article was originally published on Oct. 5, 2018.