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Down Comforter Allergy Guide

If you find unable to breathe correctly as soon as you snuggle down, if you have a never-ending cold, you may be suffering from nighttime allergies. People who experience allergies at night usually assume it’s normal – something they need to be used to suffer, or start using antihistamines or decongestants to improve their chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

Keep reading to find out the reasons you probably are struggling with allergies. It could all be a straightforward thing – your comforter.

Can you be allergic to a down comforter?

For most people, a down feather filled comforter feels amazingly soft to sleep in. However, allergy sufferers may have a different opinion about this!

First, let’s consider what your comforter is made from if it’s stuffed with goose feathers or down. One of the most common reasons why many people shy away from buying a down comforter is because they are afraid that they will be allergic to the feathers.

It could only be that a reaction to the feathers causes your nighttime allergies symptoms. While a genuine allergy to feathers is not common, it is possible and maybe worth being tested.

How do you know if you’re allergic to down?

Below, there are the common own comforter allergy symptoms:

  • Blocked or runny nose.
  • Itchy or runny eyes.
  • Coughing or wheezing.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Possibly a sore throat.
  • Tight chest.
  • Congestion.

If so, it’s almost clear that you’re suffering an allergy. This is more common than you might think, particularly among sufferers of asthma, eczema, or allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose).

These allergic reactions can be caused by dust mites or feathers inside the comforter. The signs of both allergies are similar, so it can be challenging to determine which one is the problem.

First, perform a trial-and-error experiment on yourself. Remove all sources of down (pillows, blankets, comforter, and more) for six weeks and pay attention to any changes on your signs. If your symptoms disappear, you’re probably allergic. However, it is not confirmed that you are actually allergic to down.

Unusual Allergic Reactions To Down Comforters

If you get more severe side effects such as:

  • facial swelling
  • your airway closing up
  • hives

Then, you may have a true allergy to feathers. These reactions are rare in people who are allergic to dust and dander.

Get Tested

Dust mite allergies are so common that most doctors won’t even test for them, especially if you already have other common allergies, such as those to pollen or dust, but feather allergies are much less common. If you’re concerned that you may have an actual feather allergy, don’t be afraid to approach your doctor about getting a medical test.

Allergy tests are quite simple, typically involving pricking the skin with a small sample of the suspected allergen and comparing it to a control to determine the body’s reactivity.

It’s important to know whether or not you have a feather allergy, as those with a true allergy can suffer symptoms when handling birds or even cleaning up bird droppings. Feather allergies are also more likely to impact your breathing than a dust mite allergy, making them more dangerous. However, if you do have a feather allergy, your doctor will also be able to help you control the symptoms with medications, including over the counter options.

Can a down comforter make you sick?

While it is possible to be allergic to goose and duck feathers, the allergy may be caused by something else. Scientists believe it’s the dust on improperly cleaned down that causes allergies. The allergic symptoms, like itchy eyes and runny noses, maybe due to dust mites, dust, dander, and mold spores.

Most people do not take proper care of bedding products but conclude the problem is directly related to their down comforter when they suffer allergy attacks. If the symptoms disappear when they get rid of the down feather, they assume they were right. A dust mite allergy is the most common allergy, but true feather allergies rarer.

When you sleep, you sweat. It might not seem too gross at first glance, but human sweat is an excellent mixture of water, oils, bacteria, skin cells, and toxins the body is ridding itself of. If you’re less than hygienic about taking care of your bedding, you might find yourself coughing and sneezing more than you usually would.

Pillowcases can harbor bacteria that cause pink eye or conjunctivitis, while sheets and blankets can contribute to contact dermatitis. And even if you do wash your bedding regularly, there comes the point where it should be replaced.

So what are the problems and what can you do about them? Here are some reasons why your duvet and pillows could be making you ill.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are miniature insects that often live in bedding. Recent studies have shown that bed bugs are increasing all over the world.

They can’t fly but are good at nesting away in luggage and clothing, so you can pick them up out of your house and bring them home with you.

Signs of bed bugs include having spots of blood on your duvet and an unpleasant almond smell. If you do have bed bugs, your house will need to be treated with insecticide by a pest control company.

Dust mites

By far, the most common answer for people who suffer allergies at night only is that they’re experiencing a reaction to dust mites, tiny creatures that can happily live within our bedding and soft furnishings. These tiny organisms can cause everything from itchy eyes to an allergic cough at night, depending on how our body reacts to them.

The type of comforter you have can have a direct impact on the number of dust mites colonizing your bed. Tests have shown that under controlled conditions, synthetic comforters promote the reproduction of dust mites and the allergen associated with them.

Dust mites will thrive happily in temperatures of 68-77°F and humidity levels at 70-80%.

Don’t wash down comforters enough

This means house dust mites, pet allergens, skin scales, eggs, fungal spores, pollen, and stains build-up. Clean all bedding weekly, to discourage mold growth.

Clean bed linen

We put clean duvet covers and pillowcases over them, stopping things from getting out. ‘Washing the bedlinen at 60 degrees is not enough,’ says Professor Emberlin, who headed the research. ‘Before you put duvet covers and pillowcases back on, you should pump up your pillow and shake out your duvet. This will release all their contaminants into the air. Only then should you slip them into your nice clean linen.’

Stains and bacteria

‘New stains, such as sweat, provide an excellent base for bacteria to grow on,’ says Professor Emberlin. ‘Some bacteria can infect eczema lesions, making them much worse. They can also cause conjunctivitis.’

Your pets

Cat and dog allergens are in your duvet, even if you’re not a dog or cat owner. 50% of the duvets tested had measurable or high amounts of cat allergen, also though only 10% of their owners owned a cat.

You are creating new allergies

Some allergies can be developed in time. If the exposure to these contaminants is high enough, you could sensitize yourself to the allergens in your duvet, because you are genetically predisposed.

Is it Time to Replace Your Bedding?

New technology keeps making bedding more comfortable and inviting, and the sheer number of options can seem overwhelming, but seeking expert advice can pay off in the end. If your bedding is starting to show signs of wear and tear beyond what normal washing and care can fix, it’s time to invest in some new textiles.

When purchasing a new mattress, pillow, comforter, or any bedroom textile, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the regular care and keeping of your investment. In essence, proper care can help extend the life of your purchase and keep you feeling comfy and cozy for many nights to come. Not all mattresses, pillows, and bedding require the same amount of care, so if in doubt, contact the retailer or manufacturer for advice.

When Should I Replace My Pillows?

Pillows need to be replaced more often than mattresses: they’re thinner, less resilient, and more easily soiled. Synthetic-filled pillows generally have a lifespan of about two years with reasonable care, while down and feather filled pillows can last between five to ten years.

It’s easy to know when your pillows need to be replaced: launder and plump them, then test for resiliency. Place the pillow on the bed and make a firm indent with a finger. If it springs back, it’s still good. If not, it’s time to go shopping. Feather and down pillows that don’t have much fluff, to begin with, should be replaced when they feel limp, loose, or thin: if they drape lifelessly over your arm, it’s time to give up the ghost and go pillow shopping.

When to Replace Sheets, Blankets, Comforters, and Duvets?

If there’s been heavy soiling that can’t be remedied by laundering in hot water, or rips, and tears, which can’t be repaired or lifeless filling that no longer keeps you warm and cozy.

Scratchy, threadbare sheets need to go, freeing up space in your linen closet for more comfortable bedding. Comforters and duvets that no longer fluff up or provide lofty coverage should be shuffled off to the great beyond. Blankets that have seen better days and can’t be mended or re-used for pets or cleaning rags should also go out the door.

How to Use a Down Comforter even if I Have Allergies? Down Comforter Allergy Friendly

Fortunately, there are many ways to cut down on the number of irritating allergens, even with a real down feather comforter.

The most obvious step is to choose a feather comforter that is sanitized to remove dust, dander, and dirt from the feather filling. Choose a brand that is made in the USA or Europe. These companies have higher standards.

For people with allergies, getting comfortable in bed can be a constant struggle. Traditional down comforters and feather pillows may make you sneeze or cause your eyes to itch, while alternative products simply fail to provide the warmth and comfort of down. Is there a solution out there that will give a good night’s sleep?

Below, I have listed other actions for you not to get rid of your fluffy friend.

Wash And Wash Again, Once a Week

Although a lot of people think they have feather allergies, they’re a lot less common than you may think. In reality, most people are allergic to dust mites that live inside comforters and pillows. These are easily eradicated by washing your comforter regularly to kill the mites. As for pillows, those with dust mite allergies may need to replace their pillows more frequently, but this is a good practice in general and will enhance the quality of your sleep.

To kill dust mites and mold that may already be in your bedding, rinse your comforter once a week in water that is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For bedding that can’t be washed in hot water, use an anti-allergen detergent.

  • Washable duvets need to be cleaned at 40 degrees at least every six months for an adult’s and every three months for a child’s. This lowers bacteria by 55% and house dust mites, house dust mite allergen, and cat allergen to zero.
  • Washable pillows should be washed once every two months because they’re close to the nose and eyes.

Of course, washing a down comforter isn’t the easiest thing to do, as they can be large and unwieldy and often take a long time to dry. Luckily, with a few tricks, you can simplify the process.

  1. Start by heading to your local laundromat where you can use a front-loading washer, as most homes feature top-loading washers with agitators that may damage your comforter. If you don’t have access to a front-loading washer, be sure to arrange your comforter carefully and submerge it entirely.
  2. Once loaded, wash your comforter with warm water on the delicate setting to protect the integrity of the filler. Both hot and cold water can damage the filler, and though hot water tends to do a better job killing dust mites, restrict the application of higher temperatures to other fabrics like your duvet cover.
  3. Finally, when it’s time to dry the comforter, toss a few tennis balls into your dryer to fluff the comforter, and speed the drying process – you’ll find you get much better results than if you dried the comforter on its own.

Avoid wetting the mattress thoroughly and try not to get the interior layers of your mattress wet, or you’ll risk molding and fungus.

Add a Protective Layer if You Suffer from Down Allergy

The next action is to cover your duvet with a protective cover made especially for blocking allergens. There are protectors for your comforter, your pillows, and even your feather bed.

Look for something with a zipper – rather than a duvet with button closures – and a tight weave. The tighter the weave, the better the protection it will provide against potential down allergy.

If you already have a down comforter, then you can just add an allergy-proof cover. Keep in mind the covers aren’t cheap and will run you anywhere from $60 – $100.

You’ll want to wash this cover even more regularly than you would wash the comforter itself to reduce the likelihood of irritation. We recommend washing your comforter cover every three weeks, as frequently as you should wash your pillowcases. This may seem excessively often, but who doesn’t love the feel of freshly washed bedding?

The more barriers you’re using – and regularly washing – the more likely it is that you’ll find the problem was mites and not feathers all along.

Deter Mold Growth With Breathable Materials

Mold is a fluffy fungus that thrives in the dark and damp spaces of your bed. Organic bedding materials absorb moisture from the body more efficiently than other types of material so that they can prevent mold growth. Most organic fibers are derived from vegetables and plants that have been cultivated without the use of chemicals and pesticides, so bedding made from these materials also doesn’t irritate the sensitive skin of allergy sufferers.

Use anti-allergen fabrics like woven cotton or linen.

Are There Allergy Safe Down Comforters?

There are a couple of comforters that may meet hypoallergenic standards.

Companies like Pacific Coast use a “hyperclean” technology to clean their down comforters. A barrier fabric also keeps feathers in and allergens out.

This means it is easier to get rid of triggers that cause allergies, and your comforter will be easier to keep clean.

Another option, with the same advantages

If you continue to struggle with allergy symptoms when using a down comforter, even after doing your best to combat dust mites, you may have a true feather allergy. But don’t worry, there are still more options out there. To get the warmth of down without the bothersome symptoms, consider investing in a down alternative comforter. These comforters are designed to be warm and fluffy, just like traditionally filled comforters, but are made from synthetic materials that won’t trigger allergies or asthma.

Try Down Alternative Comforters

If you prefer not to take a chance with real down feathers, down alternative comforters filled with synthetic materials are a great choice.

Down alternative fillings mimic the soft and light texture of goose feathers. The filling inside is made from polyester and other allergen-free fabrics. These comforters are hypoallergenic and safe for even the most severe allergies.

On the plus side, down alternative comforters are less expensive than real down comforters.

However, there is no real way to exactly duplicate the plushness of real down. Some people still prefer the feel and warmth of a real down-filled comforter.

Or Try Other Comforter Materials

If you’re not into synthetic materials, another option for those with allergies is a silk comforter. Silk is naturally hypoallergenic, and you can get comforters filled with mulberry silk floss rather than down or other synthetics. It’s also incredibly luxurious, so you’ll be allergy-free while ensconced in the finest of materials. Silk-filled comforters are one of the purest fibers you can find on the market. They are naturally hypoallergenic and contain absolutely no dander.

Wool is particularly effective. This is because it is naturally hypoallergenic, meaning no chemicals are introduced. Wool works brilliantly to absorb moisture and therefore creates a dry environment that is inhospitable to dust mites, dust mite allergens, and fungal spores.

Allergy-free bedding vs. hypoallergenic bedding

There is an important distinction between these two names. ‘Hypoallergenic’ and ‘allergy-free’ both refer to the state of the product when it is brand new.

Hypoallergenic actually means less-allergenic relative to others. And, there are no government standards for labeling products as hypoallergenic.

Use Hypoallergenic Bedding

Bedding with a hypoallergenic filling is a must for allergy sufferers to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. For many people, down alternative bedding is the best choice. Down alternatives like memory foam, polyester fiber, and cotton help keep your bed free from irritants. Pillows, comforters, blankets, and pads filled with down alternative material will give you all the comfort of down feathers without making allergies worse.

Remove the Source of Pet Dander

Pet dander is often another cause of discomfort for people with allergies. All horizontal surfaces can hold pet dander, and it usually hangs in the air. If you’re allergic to pet dander, ensure that animals are barred entry to your bedroom. Use a HEPA filter vacuum and a HEPA air filter to remove any lingering particles. You can also minimize pet dander problems with allergen barrier covers that have pores under 6 microns in size.

Eliminate Excess Fabric, Upholstery, and Carpeting

Allergens like dust mites, dander, and mold spores can collect in bedroom fabric and upholstery over time. So, the first step you should take to allergen-proof your bedroom is to eliminate excess bedding or furniture that can make a cozy home for these allergens. If it’s feasible, the removal of the carpet can be beneficial as well.

Anti-allergy bedding sets

Allergy protection bedding is an essential tool in the ongoing battle against dust mites in the bedroom. While dust mites are a fact of life, using bedding with allergen barrier fabric and washing the bedding regularly will help to keep dust mites to a minimum, particularly in warm and humid weather. Fortunately, one of the many benefits of down and feather bedding is that it can be washed with great success, even in hot water.

Why does the type of comforter matter?

Experiments have shown that dust mites (and fungal spores which can be similarly problematic) thrive in warm, damp conditions. Unfortunately, this is just the kind of environment synthetic, and down comforters create. As you sleep, your temperature rises a little, and your body will perspire to cool itself down. This moisture is trapped by the comforter, providing the perfect humid conditions for dust mites to reproduce. Fast. And so, as you snuggle down into your bedcovers, you’re placing your face, and more importantly, your airways right next to those pesky dust mites. It’s no wonder then that this can make your allergies worse at night in particular.

The bad news is that even regular washing of your comforter can only cause temporary nighttime allergy relief. Tests have shown that after washing, feather, down, or synthetic bedding will be completely recolonized within six weeks, making those allergies bad at night once more.