Do Down Comforters Cause an Allergic Reaction?

There is a whole lot of controversy centered on allergies in the bedding industry. You will read pros and cons on down bedding as well as synthetic comforter products. It seems no category is immune from discussion. How much of this is a marketing ploy remains unanswered. Yet it is known there has been a boom in sales for ‘anti-allergen’ home products. With consumers concerned about healthier lifestyles, going green, and buying organic there is not much wiggle room for defending goose down. Or is there?

The number one myth about down is it causes allergic reactions. If you were to compare a down pillow to a synthetic pillow, you would quickly learn feathers are not the problem.

The Case for Down Bedding

All the symptoms you are experiencing are more likely to be from dust mites, dander and mold spores. This is the reality. Most people do not take proper care of bedding products, but conclude the problem is directly related to their down bedding when they suffer allergy attacks. When the symptoms disappear, they assume they were right. A dust mite allergy is the most common allergy, but true feather allergies more rare.

The “morning hotel illness” is unforgiving of this problem. People with allergies have noticed their allergies pop with full-on symptoms when they stay at hotels. While it may be relevant to the quality of the hotel, dust mites live in bedding, carpeting, and upholstered furniture along with other unspeakable creatures. This is the nature of hotel business with the constant influx of guests and repetitive tasks of keeping bedding clean. It wasn’t so long ago people were made aware of hotels’ regimens not including keeping the comforters washed.

Scientific studies in Europe have shown mites to cling to the surface of a comforter waiting for a feast of dead human skin. The studies revealed down is not at question for allergies, but dust mites were. Dust mite feces contain a substance called DerP1, a very potent allergen.

Those ‘Anti-Allergy’ Products

Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center did side-by-side tests of pillow types for ‘allergy-free’ claims only to discover these ‘anti-allergy’ products can cause more allergic reactions than any down or feather bedding. Porous materials used in manufacturing synthetic pillows retain more mold and dust mites than feather pillows.

The ways to test allergy problems which you may think are due to your down comforter or pillow is to use covers on all bedding products. Also reduce the amount of humidity in your home. Dust mites and mold thrive on moisture. According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Increasing a room's airflow is an effective way to cut down on dust mites.

Dust mites will thrive happily in temperatures of 68-77°F and humidity levels at 70-80%. Clean all bedding weekly, to discourage mold growth. When trying to manage allergies, many know the key is in ‘allergy avoidance’, and trying to minimize anything in the immediate environment which may be a trigger.

Studies show down alternatives can make things worse because loosely woven casings allow dust mites, dander and mold spores to collect inside. Whether it is a down or synthetic bedding product, always look for high-quality, tightly-woven fabrics.

Take the Upper Hand

Whether you have a down comforter or a synthetic ‘anti-allergy’ bedding product, you are going to want to identify the source of your misery. If you recently bought a new pillow or comforter and are suffering symptoms, then it should be simple to narrow it down to that specific type of product.

If you are truly allergic to down, then it is recommended to select an alternative comforter. Silk-filled comforters are one of the purest fibers you can find on the market. They are naturally hypoallergenic and contain absolutely no dander.

Bedding products available in today’s industry are a plethora of different fillings and materials. The truth is you just don’t know until you know. The only way to know is to try out the product if you are able to.

Goose down has been a reliable source of durable filling for a few centuries, where as technology advances are more chemically-inspired than ever in the quest for the ‘perfect material’.

It comes down to trust. Ultimately, soft goose down plumage sealed in a tight-woven fabric seems like a better place to lay your head at night, then a proposed anti-allergy product prone to microbe-home squatters.

Cheryl Howard

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Cheryl Howard

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