The Number One Reason Why You’re Allergic to Your Pillow
Hello once again, friends! Here I am once again to talk about my favorite things in the world – pillows. Pillows are objects that bring comfort to our rest, but unfortunately, as I discussed in my previous article, our pillows can also make us sick.
Yes, sometimes our pillows can contain allergens that can cause the following unpleasant symptoms:
- Wheezing and difficulty of breathing
- Red, watery and itchy eyes
- Itchy skin or rashes
- Sneezing and sinus problems
None of this is any fun, right? Imagine, the very thing that’s supposed to bring us comfort is actually making us sick.
Now, I’ve talked about different things in our pillows that trigger allergies, but we need to focus on the number one cause of allergies that live inside our pillows. These are actually teeny-tiny dust mites. Yes, these are microscopic creatures that can cause BIG problems.
What on earth are dust mites anyway?
Well, to start with, these tiny creatures are from the same eight-legged animal family as spiders and ticks. They are surprisingly, and some would say annoyingly, resilient, and not only survive but thrive especially in areas that are warm and humid.
They love to make their homes in our furniture, beddings, carpets, and rugs, stuffed animals – the list goes on and on. They can also live in our clothes, and even in the fur of our pets. They are so small, to the point of being invisible to the human eye, and more than one hundred dust mites can survive on a tiny speck of dust.
Yes, they are that small, but they pack a mean punch. They most commonly cause allergic rhinitis or hay fever, eczema, and asthma but they are also linked to eczema, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), dermatitis, migraines, some stomach disorders, and even some types of pneumonia.
We tend to dismiss dust mites and just… well… tiny creatures, but did you know that along with grass, weeds, pollen, and mold, dust mites are in the top five biggest allergens all over the world? Don’t underestimate them, they are small but dangerous!
So how do you know if you’re having an allergic reaction to the dust mites in your pillow?
Of course, the best way to determine what you’re allergic to is to talk to your doctor. He or she will help you trace the allergen that you’re reacting to, and give you the best course of treatment for it.
There are also house mite test kits that you can purchase to test whether or not there are dust mite infestations in different parts of your house. Specialty stores or online shops offer these, along with dust mite sprays and powders.
Also, one possible way to tell if dust mites are the culprit is if you suddenly show allergy symptoms with a pillow you have been using for a long time. It’s possible that dust mites have recently taken residence there, and you are just now reacting to their waste matter.
It is also good to note that dust mite allergies, unlike that of pollen or other plant material, occur all year round. They especially thrive in seasons or weather that is warm and humid, but can occur any time of the year.
Experts say that all kinds of pillow material can contain dust mites, no type of filling is exempt from these creatures. But, having said, that, if you are prone to allergies, you may want to choose more hypoallergenic pillow materials such as latex, polyester fiber, memory foam, cotton, hollowfibre and microfibre.
You may want to stay away from feather and down pillows, but if these are materials that help you sleep well at night, just get yourself a fully zippable pillow protector (a mite-proof cover).
How to deal with dust mites
Fortunately, there are several simple ways to prevent dust mites from proliferating in your pillows.
- Cover your pillows. There are mite-proof covers made up of an impermeable material that will prevent your pillows from growing moist and more importantly, keep dust mites out. These can be bought at the linen section of a store, or also ordered online. Simply place your favorite pillowcases on top of the mite-proof covers, and you are good to go!
- Keep the humidity level low in your home, especially in your bedroom. Allergists recommend a humidity level of less than fifty percent. Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated with air-conditioning or an electric fan, and keep your windows open as much as possible. Keep houseplants away from your bedroom, as these add to humidity. You may also want to use a dehumidifier in your bedroom, or an air purifier.
- Sleep in an uncarpeted bedroom, as dust mites thrive in carpeting as well. If your bedroom already has a carpet, make sure you vacuum it once a week and get it shampooed a couple of times a year.
- Wash your pillows every week: If you or anyone in your family is allergic to dust mites, wash your pillows every week — using water that is at least 55 degrees Celsius, and put them in the dryer instead of air drying them.
I will say it again — clean, clean, clean!
The best way to deal with dust mites is to maintain a clean environment. This really is the bottom line: Keeping your pillows clean will prevent the buildup of dust mites.
Dr. Kerry LeBenger is an allergist based in New York City who treats a variety of allergy-related problems. In this video, he discusses what’s in your pillow and what you can do to prevent allergies.
Cleaning your pillows basically makes three things happen.
- Cleaning kills dust mites.
- Cleaning removes old dust mites from your pillows.
- Cleaning, and more importantly, keeping your pillows and beddings clean, prevents new dust mites from finding new homes and hiding places.
So don’t let stacks of magazines or books accumulate near your bed, or leave piles of used clothes in your bedroom. Since dust mites can also live in our clothes, better to keep unwashed clothing in a separate area like hampers in your laundry room or bathroom, right?
Keep in mind that the less food there is available for dust mites, the better your chances are for keeping them away. And since dust mites eat dead skin cells, vacuuming, removing dust with wet clothes, changing sheets and pillowcases often will starve these mites and make your bedroom and house an inhospitable environment for them.
How to choose a good pillow cover that’s dust mite-proof
If dust mites are your problem, especially if you live in a warm and humid area, you may want to look into buying some very good dust mite proof pillow protectors or covers. Dr. Laurinda Kwon, a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor from the Arizona Natural Health Center, shows us how to choose a good cover in this video.
Keys for choosing a good cover to protect your pillows from dust mites.
- Choose a pillow protector that completely covers your pillow, preferably one with a zipper. This way, your pillow is fully encased, and dust mites won’t make their home there.
- Make sure the material of the pillow protector is of a tightly woven fabric so that dust mites cannot pass through it. Remember that dust mites are very small, so you’ll need for the fabric to have a pore size that’s less than 5 microns, as this will guarantee that a dust mite-free environment.
- Pro-tip: Don’t take the pillowcase’s manufacturer’s word at face value. Just because it says “hypoallergenic” or a cover “protects from dust mites,” it doesn’t necessarily guarantee this. Do some homework, read product reviews, and see what really works for real people in real life.
- Wash the pillow protectors and covers often with hot water, and hang them dry or in the dryer on high heat. Use an environmentally safe detergent with few chemicals and a scent that is not too strong. People who have allergies have a heightened sensitivity to fragrances and detergents, and you don’t want to trigger them with chemicals or scents.
It is also best to store these in closed containers such as storage bins, or closet drawers that are dust-free. The worst place you can store your pillow covers is under the bed because that is a particularly hospitable place for dust mites.
If you are someone who is prone to allergies, make sure to consult with your doctor regularly concerning them. There are always new developments in the treatment of allergies with both natural and medical treatments, and it’s certain that your doctor can help you cope well with them so that you can continue to enjoy this life we have.
Say goodbye to the old…
No matter how much you love your pillows and mattresses, and even if you clean them well, you will have to say goodbye at some point. We’ve already said that pillows should be replaced every couple of years or so, perhaps a bit longer if you kept them clean. Mattresses, however, should be good for up to ten years.
Dust mites are not a pleasant subject to talk about, especially when you think of them living on your bed (and in your pillow!) but severe allergies can be life-threatening, and so the best thing is for us to know what to do to keep ourselves happy and healthy.