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What to do if You're Allergic to Your Bed

Jun 20, 2008
Do you or your children regularly wake up with itchy, watering eyes and a runny or blocked nose? Do you sneeze when you shake out your pillows and bedclothes? If so, you could be suffering from an allergic reaction to your bedding.

A number of factors can trigger allergic reactions, such as pets, or smoking in the bedroom. But one of the most common and yet invisible causes of bedding allergies is house dust mites.

House dust mites and allergies

House dust mites are microscopic organisms that feed on human skin and can be found in everyone's home. They thrive in warm, humid places where there is plenty of food, so beds provide the ideal environment for them to live and breed in. Since we spend around a third of our time in bed, we breathe in vast quantities of these house dust mites. Most of us are blissfully unaware of their presence. Some people, however, can experience a hypersensitive reaction to proteins found in the excretion of these dust mites.

Whenever you touch or shake your bedclothes, these proteins are inhaled or come into contact with your skin. If you suffer from a house dust mite allergy, your body will produce antibodies, which release a chemical called histamine. This in turn leads to swelling and irritation of the upper respiratory passages, causing a range of symptoms:

* Hay fever
* Runny nose
* Sneezing
* Watering eyes
* Asthma
* Worsening of existing eczema

The tendency to be allergic to house dust mites often runs in families. The good news is that there are several ways in which you can protect you and your family from these pests and ensure everyone gets a good night's sleep.

The best bedding to prevent house dust mite allergies

Allergies are often made worse by bedding made from or filled with natural materials, such as feathers and wool. Synthetic materials or high quality cotton (which is tightly woven so that dust mites can't get through the cloth) are best for allergy sufferers. Synthetic materials are easy to wash and dry regularly, which can help protect you from dust mites. Bedding should be washed at a temperature of at least 60C to kill the dust mites.

Another tip for removing dust mites from your bedding is to leave your duvet, pillows and mattress out in the fresh air for an hour every day, or for as often as possible depending on the weather. You can even wrap duvets and pillows in plastic bags and leave them in the freezer for 24 hours once a month to rid them of the dust mites.

If you or your children have cushions, teddy bears, and other soft toys on your beds, these can act as dust traps, so make sure they are regularly washed and aired too. Finally, you may want to consider buying a cheap mattress so you can replace it for a new one after six months when the dust mites have infiltrated it.

House dust mites and your bedroom

Dust mites hate dry, cold air, so you can significantly reduce their numbers simply by letting fresh air into your bedroom every day. If the lower edge of your window is moist when you wake up in the morning, it suggests there is too much humidity in the air, which may be exacerbating your dust mite problem.

Don't use a spray to get rid of house dust mites, as these can worsen the symptoms of your allergy. Instead, have as little furniture as possible in the room. Wooden or plastic chairs are preferable, as there is no fabric or upholstery for the mites to live in. Reduce clutter in your room and don't leave anything lying around that gathers dust, such as dried flowers, books or old clothes.

If possible, buy plastic curtains and dust them every day. If you have rugs on the floor, wash them every week and clean your walls, woodwork and floor with a wet cloth. You can buy an allergen filter to fit on your vacuum cleaner, which you should use every day if you can, but at least twice a week. Wear a mask when cleaning to reduce your exposure to allergenic dust, and don't allow smoking in the house as this may worsen your symptoms.

Chemical allergies and organic bedding

House dust mites are not responsible for all bedding allergies. Some people are hypersensitive to the chemicals used to manufacture, treat and dye bedding and bed linen. If you suspect your allergy is caused by chemicals rather than dust mites, investing in a set of organic bedding could benefit your health. Organic bedding is made using natural farming and production methods and is not exposed to chemicals during the growing or manufacturing process. Organically manufactured textiles have less impact on the environment...which will help you sleep more easily too!
About the Author
Leigh A. Matelas is a freelance writer living in the UK. She regularly contributes articles for Taurus Beds, a leading Bed Shop in London.
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