WCBS Newsradio 880’s Catherine Cioffi reports that an eight-year-old boy in Ossining, NY zipped himself inside a mattress encasement, which got stuck. He died.
Police say the boy had been diagnosed with asthma, and the cover was the kind meant to keep out allergens [LoHud]. It was inside out and the zipper was apparently stuck closed.
The boy had been playing in his bedroom alone and his grandmother checked on him after noticing he’d been quiet. He was pronounced dead on Tuesday night at Westchester Medical Center.
This story is very upsetting, but provides an important warning. This family did not apparently have bed bugs, but mattress encasements that zip securely closed (never to be opened again!) are an important part of a bed bug-fighting strategy. You can’t do without them. They are not meant to be removed for 18 months, and I think they provide an important line of defense for your mattress, so I would not remove it even after that.
However, if you have children in the home, you must ensure that you educate them about the zippered cover. They must never remove it. Taping it securely might help as an added deterrent (and to make it clear to you if it ever was opened). Luckily, most children will probably be able to understand such a lesson by the time they have the motor skills to get into trouble.
Mattress encasements perform their work admirably for many people, but I wish people with children or cats with claws had the option of purchasing a mattress heat-sealed in a thick, seamless, waterproof coating. When I was in college, this was the mattress provided by the student residences. It was a normal mattress inside the transparent cover, but the cover was so thick no cat claw could puncture it, and it was not removable, so the tragedy described above could not occur.
I have searched quite a bit and tried to find such a sealed mattress, or someone who performs this service, but have only come up with mattresses made for institutions. (If you want a roughly twin-sized mattress that has no seams, and resist infestation, they’re out there.) One reader suggested I contact companies that seal mattresses for use on boats–if anyone has a lead on that, I would like more information. Many ideas generated by this site could make for fine businesses if people implemented them carefully.