Dustmite allergen, found within dustmite droppings, is one of the most common triggers for asthma, eczema and rhinitis. Dustmites thrive in dark, humid areas where there is a ready food supply of dead skin scales, so pillows and duvets provide an ideal environment in which they thrive.
If you are sensitised to dustmite allergen and your allergy is triggered by inhaling it when you're in bed, getting rid of them from your bedding is important. But killing dustmites is only half the battle. For complete avoidance you need to denature and eliminate the allergen too.
There is now a bewildering array of pillows and duvets on the market that claim to be "hypoallergenic duvets" or "anti-allergy duvets." For anyone with an allergic condition, making the wrong choice is not only an expensive mistake but could be a serious health risk.
"Hypoallergenic" means that the pillow or duvet is less likely to trigger allergies. "Anti-allergy" means that the pillow or duvet has been treated in some way to combat the development of dustmites or offer protection against their allergen.
Synthetic or natural-fill Pillows and Duvets? Since the dustmite doesn't care what your pillow is filled with, the choice of a natural fill or synthetic is entirely personal, although recent studies at St George's Hospital, London and elsewhere have shown that synthetic pillows harbour more house dustmites than those filled with traditional fabrics such as wool and down.
But whichever filling is used, dustmites can be killed and their allergen denatured and destroyed when bedding is washed at temperatures of 60°C and above. It is essential, therefore, that any pillows and duvets you buy can endure repeated washing at this temperature or higher. If washed frequently (at least once every three months and preferably monthly) at a high temperature, all pillows and duvets can be kept free of dustmites and their allergenic droppings. Pillows filled with latex chips or synthetics such as polyether foam or polyester hollofibre clusters are not recommended for anyone allergic to latex or who is sensitive to chemical based materials. Polyester covers should be avoided too as they are rarely dustmite-proof.
Also, synthetic fabrics and fillings are generally too hot for anyone with eczema, so natural fillings for pillows and duvets such as cotton or wool, silk, bamboo floss or feather-and-down are a cooler choice, particularly when they have a pure cotton cover. Unfortunately pillows and duvets filled with 100% silk or other natural fillings such as cashmere, camelhair or pure goosedown cannot be washed at 60°C, if at all. Although they can be dry-cleaned, which kills the mites and removes some of the allergen, the amount is variable (20-70%). Dry-cleaning is also an unsuitable process for anyone sensitive to chemicals.
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