ARE DOWN DUVETS AND PILLOWS GOOD OR BAD FOR ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA?

Contrary to many preconceptions, down is the best choice for people who suffer from asthma or allergies. An allergy to down and feathers is extremely rare, and in nearly all cases the problem is a reaction to mites rather than to the down itself.

Traditionally, patients suffering from asthma have been advised to quit down duvets and pillows in favour of synthetic versions.

 

This makes no sense.

Medical studies show that synthetic pillows may contain eight times more allergens (from mites) than down- and feather-filled pillows.

Furthermore, dust mites are killed at around 57°C, so washing our down products or having them restored by our service department takes care of any problems. Putting down products in the freezer will also eliminate dust mites.

the truth is:

Synthetic content in pillows and duvets increases the risk of asthma.

Not convinced?

Let’s look at the evidence.

As far back as 1998, the matter was carefully researched by Martinus Løvik, who published a paper in the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association (Tidsskrift for den Norske Lægeforening nr. 10,1998;118:1585-7). Løvik stressed that the advice for asthma sufferers to switch from down to synthetic filling was based on tradition and belief rather than research and analysis. His article referenced two British and New Zealand studies examining the content of pillows and duvets and exploring whether that content contributed to serious asthma.

In other words:

It’s what’s inside the pillow that counts.

The research papers were: Strachan DP, Carey IM “Home environment and severe asthma in adolescence; a population based case-control study.” BMJ 1995; 311:1053-6 Kemp TJ, Siebers RW, Fishwick D, O’Grady GB, Fitzharris P, Crane J. “House dust mite allergen in pillows.” BMJ 1996; 313:916

The first article focused on British children suffering from serious breathing problems. Two key factors were shown to be significant: living with fur-coated pets increased breathing problems, while pillows filled with down had a significant protective effect in comparison with synthetic pillows.

The second paper compared the ability of down pillows and synthetic pillows to increase the risk of severe asthma. It concluded that synthetic pillows could contain as many as eight times more allergens from mites than down-filled pillows, and that it was the allergy to mites that was the major factor.

The research also highlighted that both pillows with polyester filling and pillows with down filling had the same type of pillow shell made from down-proof cotton textile. This negated earlier claims that the more loosely woven shells of down pillows made them more penetrable and therefore more susceptible to mites.

Løviks stressed that, for eight hours a day, for a third of our lives, our heads are on the pillow. Each time we lift or turn our head, dust and air are forced into and out of the pillow. Modern medical research agrees that a synthetic-filled pillow may be the biggest indoor factor when it comes to triggering allergies. In conclusion, synthetic pillows should be avoided by people with asthma/allergies. The same applies to duvets, even though pillows are closer to your airways.

Further sources to Løvik’s article:

Løvik M, Gaarder PI, Mehl R. “The house-dust mite: its biology and role in allergy. A synopsis.” Allergy 1998


Sporik R, Chapman MD, Platts-Mills TA. “House dust mite exposure as a cause of asthma.” Clin Exp Allergy 1992; 22:897-906


Omenaas E, Bakke P, Eide GE, Elsayed S, Gulsvik A. “Serum house-dust-mite antibodies and reduced FEV in adults of a Norwegian community.” Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1995; 152: 1158-63


Omenaas E, Bakke P, Eide GE, Elsayed S, Gulsvik A. “Serum house dust mite antibodies: Predictor of increased bronchial responsiveness in adults of a community.” Eur Respir J 1996; 9:919-25


Naspitz CK, Diniz C, Cândida Rizzo M, Fernández-Caldas E, Solé D. “Human scalps as a reservoir of domestic mites.” Lancet 1997; 349:404


Strachan D, Carey IM. “Reduced risk of wheezing in children using feather pillows is confirmed.” BMJ 1997; 314:518


Butland BK, Strachan DP, Anderson HR. “The home environment and asthma symptoms in childhood: two population based case-control studies 13 years apart.” Thorax 1997; 52:618-24


Kilpiö K, Mäkinen-Kiljunen S, Haahtela T, Hannuksela M. “Allergy to feathers.” Allergy 1998; 53:159-64


Linna O, Niinimaki A, Makinen-Kiljunen S. “Immunologic cross-reactivity between hen’s feather and house-dust-mite allergen extracts.” Allergy 1994; 49:795-6

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