Are you one of the millions of people in the UK who suffer from allergies? That number looks set to grow even further, due to the much cleaner environments we now live in, which mean that our immune systems aren’t as used to fighting off germs.
But have you ever considered that your allergies might be being caused due to your bedding?
While cleaning your sheets regularly will go some way to killing off these pesky mites, the filling of your duvet can play a big part in keeping you allergy free.
What causes allergies?
Allergies are caused by allergens, which trigger off a reaction. These allergens can be anything, although nuts, pollen, mould and dust are among the most common, and it’s dust which is most important when it comes to your bedding.
Essentially, an allergy occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies one of these innocuous allergens as a threat and attacks them.
You may come into contact with an allergen multiple times with no reaction, but the body may one day just decide to flag that allergen as a threat, at which point it will essentially overreact and develop antibodies which will trigger your allergic reaction.
It’s a little unclear why certain people develop certain allergies. They may be inherited from your parents, and they may come and go during your lifetime, but the one thing we know for sure is that they’re extremely annoying.
Check out the NHS page on allergies for information on what they are and how to manage them.
How your duvets and pillows might be contributing
Dust mites are tiny creates which measure about a quarter of a millimetre in length and thrive in dark and humid areas.
For this reason, they love duvets and pillows, where there are also an abundance of dead skin cells for them to feed on.
In fact, your bed may contain as many as 10million of these tiny creatures.
Dust mite droppings produce an allergen which humans are particularly susceptible to, and it is very easily inhaled while you sleep.
If you’re vulnerable to this allergen, it’ll bring on all the usual nasty symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and watering eyes.
How often does your bedding need to be changed?
As with many things, changing the duvet can often get put off for far longer than it should do.
On average, we actually leave our duvet’s on a whole two years longer than we should do according to this article from the Daily Mail.
As a general rule, we recommend changing your pillow once every two years, and once every five years for your duvet.
Not only does this mean that a dust mite infestation is much more likely, but it can put unnecessary strain on your back and neck which can lead to further health problems.
While the idea of buying a new pillow and duvet every two and five years may seem like a cost you can do without, it’s worth it if it prevents you from health problems down the line.
And anyway, surely the thought of all those little critters and dead skin cells is enough to make you want to change it up!
Choosing the right duvet
You might hear terms such as non-allergenic and hypoallergenic thrown around, but what do they mean?
- Non-allergenic: The duvet itself will not cause any allergies, but dust mites could still be present.
- Hypoallergenic: Less chance of infestation
- Anti-allergy: Should be almost 100% allergy proof, anti-allergy products will be treated with an ingredient which denatures mites or encasements which prevent them getting in.
When it comes to choosing a new duvet to combat allergies, it’s important to note that the filling of the duvet is actually of little relevance, so this comes down to personal preference. Refer to our duvet buying guide for more information on duvet fillings.
It’s worth bearing in mind some people actually have allergies to latex or feathers, so in that case it is obviously best to avoid duvets with those fillings.
Instead, it’s the outer coating of the duvet which is most important in making sure you keep the mites out.
Duvets which have special unpermeable casings and anti-bacterial treatments should be able to keep the mites at bay, providing they are regularly washed like any other duvet.
We recommend something like this Snug Cotton Anti-Allergy Duvet. This duvet has been treated with anti-allergy chemicals which should repel any dust mites, but its cotton fabric also makes it light and cool.
We also offer the Silentnight Anti Allergy Pillow which has an anti-allergy hollowfibre filling.
Of course, while anti-allergy duvets are the best options, it’s impossible to say that any duvet will be 100% free of dust mites, but these will certainly give you the best chance.
As well as the special anti-allergy duvets detailed above, did you know that wool and silk duvets are naturally resistant to dust mites?
Natural fabrics such as pure cotton are also much cooler, which can help those who suffer from eczema which can be made worse by a warm duvet.
It is worth bearing in mind that dust mites can be killed when your duvet and pillows are washed at temperatures of over 60°C, so whatever you do choose to buy, make sure you wash them regularly.
This also means that it helps to buy a duvet which can be washed at this temperature as certain materials cannot.
On the topic of washing, we recommend that bedding is washed around once every three months to keep on top of dust mites.
Other ways to prevent allergies
While buying the right bedding and taking good care of it is one of the best ways to prevent allergic reactions, there are plenty of other ways you can try to avoid the sniffles.
It goes without saying that a clean house will help you keep allergens at bay, as dust mites can also settle in places such as furniture and cushions.
Having said this, the fact that the mites are so small can make it very difficult to know where and when to clean.
Household pets are also top breeding grounds for dust mites, so if you have a dog or cat, as hard as it may be you may have to kick them out of your bed!
No matter how good your duvet is and how much you wash it, if it gets covered in dog or cat hair then your allergies are just going to continue.
Pollen is another common trigger for a few different allergies, and can affect you right through from February to the summer.
If you’re particularly sensitive to pollen, it may be best to stay indoors when the pollen count is high.
You can also purchase special anti-allergy air purifiers which will remove airborne particles and help reduce your symptoms.
To conclude, if you don’t want to purchase a new duvet, you need to be making sure that you keep it in good condition and wash it once every three months at a temperature of 60°C or higher.
If your duvet is over five years old however, we recommend changing it, and opting for one with a casing that can’t be penetrated by dust mites, specially treated fabric which repels the mites, or both.