If you have year-round allergy symptoms, as so many people do, you might want to undertake some detective work to see if you can identify the source. That way, you might be able to avoid those things that make you sniffle without relying on daily drug treatment to control red itchy eyes and nasal congestion or sinus headaches. Of course, if the problem is your pet, you won’t want to get rid of him or her, but you might banish him from the bedroom. Be sure to evaluate your pillow as a possible problem. You might be surprised how often it can host troublesome mites.
Is Your Pillow Causing Your Allergy Woes?
Q. I love the pillow I’ve been sleeping on for five years. However, I’m beginning to suspect it might be causing me trouble.
When I go to sleep each night, I can breathe perfectly through my nose. When I wake up in the morning, my mouth is dry and my nose is congested. My eyes are also irritated. Can you recommend an antihistamine or a safe nasal spray I can use before getting into bed?
A. Before you try any medications, you may want to invest in a new pillow. It doesn’t take long for a pillow to become a breeding ground for microscopic organisms including fungi, bacteria and dust mites. The mites produce proteins that trigger allergy symptoms and even asthma in susceptible people.
Controlling Dust Mites With a Dehumidifier:
To control dust mites, first invest in a dehumidifier. These creatures (Dermatophagoides species) prefer humid homes, so keeping the humidity in your home (or even just your bedroom) at 50 percent or lower will discourage them (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Oct. 2015). Once you have your new pillow, make sure it gets aired out every day, if possible, so moisture from your sleeping body can dissipate.
Cover the Pillow and Wash the Cover:
Using microfine fiber covers for your pillow and mattress can be helpful (Journal of Asthma, Oct. 2016). In addition, laundering pillow covers and pillowcases every week, with a long soak in hot soapy water, helps reduce the numbers of mites (Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, June, 2002). “Hot” water is at least 130 degrees F.
Set Up Your Bedroom to Discourage Dust Mites:
Streamline your cleaning by getting rid of wall-wall carpets, upholstered furniture and drapes on the windows. Window shades that roll down are less likely to harbor dust mites. If at all possible, have someone without dust mite allergies clean the bedroom at least once a week. If that is as impractical as it sounds, wear a filtering mask when you do those chores and allow the dust that gets stirred up during cleaning to settle before bedtime. Unfortunately, while these tactics sound sensible, most have not been thoroughly studied (Clinical and Translational Allergy, Jan. 6, 2020). Nonetheless, we suggest that you trade in your pillow and put an allergen-impermeable cover on the new one to try to reduce your symptoms.