Allergies From Feather Pillows

Feather pillows are not common due to their cost and the prevalence of pillows stuffed with synthetic materials. According to Best Feather Pillows, some people still prefer feather pillows because they are softer than their synthetic counterparts. Feather pillows also have a longer lifespan. However, feather pillows can be problematic for allergy sufferers and can make symptoms worse.

Feather plume from down pillows. (Image: BlackSnake/iStock/Getty Images)

Cause

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) states that bird feathers are a nuisance to virtually anyone with allergies. Therefore, feather pillows are not recommended if you have allergies.

Some people are allergic to birds, and must avoid bird feathers in general. For other types of allergies, reactions are not associated with the feathers themselves, but the allergens that can get trapped in the feathers. Dust mites are the most common type of allergen that can latch onto the feathers. Animal dander, pollen, and even mold spores can also be present.

Symptoms

Dust mites and other types of allergens can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, headaches, skin rashes, coughing and wheezing. It can be difficult at first to determine whether such symptoms are attributed to your feather pillow. You may find that you have difficulties sleeping at night from coughing, for example. Also, you may wake up with these symptoms after resting your head all night on a pillow full of allergens.

Prevention/Solution

Wakeup Better explains that the key to allergies from dust mites in pillows is using pillow covers, whether you use feather or any other type of stuffing. A pillow cover is especially important if you have a feather pillow.

The ACAAI recommends that you cover a feather pillow in a plastic case in order to prevent allergen penetration. Ensure that the case has a zipper so feathers are sealed in. Your best solution is to avoid feather pillows entirely in order to keep your allergies at bay.

It is also vital that you wash your pillow in hot water twice a month. Wake Up Better recommends that you replace your pillow every three years.

Misconceptions

If you do not have a bird allergy, it does not mean that a feather pillow is appropriate for you, especially when you have other types of allergies. On the flip side, synthetic pillows will not be helpful if you do not take care of them properly.

Wake Up Better reports that a 1999 New Zealand study found that synthetic pillows can be just as allergenic as feather pillows. Despite the risk of allergens, synthetic pillows that are encased have less chance of aggravating allergies than do feather pillows.

Considerations

If your allergy symptoms persist, see an allergist for treatment. If you are already on medication, your doctor may recommend a different treatment option. One solution for ongoing allergy symptoms is allergy shots. The shots are administered once a week to help you build up a resistance to allergens like dust mites.

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