A guide to healthy sleeping
Anyone with asthma or eczema, rhinitis or sensitivity to chemicals knows only too well the misery of long nights spent awake with allergy symptoms: itchy or watery eyes, blocked or runny nose, coughing , wheezing, postnasal drip and hot, angry skin rashes can all ruin a decent night's sleep.
One of the most common triggers for these reactions is an allergen found in the microscopic droppings of house dustmites, minute creatures that colonise dark, warm, humid places which offer a food supply of shed skin scales. So your bed, with its mattress, pillows and duvet, padded headboard and stuffed teddy bears provides dustmites with an ideal environment in which they thrive.
Steps to take to clear your bedding of dust mites
First of all give any in-use mattresses a really good clean with a vacuum cleaner, ideally a modern HEPA model that will take in and retain house dustmite allergen. Next, enclose the mattresses in allergen proof barrier covers. These covers will prevent house dustmites already in the mattress getting out and stop new mites getting in. Of course if you buy a new mattress and enclose it in an allergen proof barrier cover you will prevent infestation from the start. Enclose pillows and duvets (whether new or in use) with similar allergen proof covers. As the pillow is home to the highest density of house dustmites and their allergen it is the most important item of bedding to cover. Encasing your pillow in an allergen proof barrier cover can bring an immediate reduction in asthma attacks and eczema flare-ups.
Choices of anti-allergy barrier covers
There is a wide selection of allergen proof barrier covers in the bedlinen sections of department stores or the catalogues of specialist mail order companies. We have looked at several different types, all of which prevent exposure to dustmite allergen, and offer the following advice:
Avoid barrier covers which have a PVC backing. They are unsuitable for anyone sensitive to chemicals and quite noisy to sleep on. Our tester with eczema found them unbearably hot and made her sweaty and itchy.
We also tested mattress and pillow covers made of polypropelene from John Lewis. These are not very robust - the pillow cover tore when we took it out of the packaging - but they provide an effective barrier to dustmite allergen and could be an inexpensive option for a guest room for example. Several testers remarked that they gave off an unpleasant odour and would not recommend them for chemical sensitivity.
The more expensive synthetic barrier covers made with a synthetic interlining or bonded membrane are unquestionably effective but our tester found them very noisy.
We also looked at pure cotton barrier covers and others made of modern breathable fabrics. These both proved to be efficient and comfortable to sleep on.
Our recommendations for hypoallergenic barrier covers
We found two styles of anti-allergy Barrier Cover which win our Best Buy award, both from The Sounder Sleep Company.
Naturelle allergen barrier covers are made of CottonFresh®, a specially woven 100% pure unbleached, undyed cotton fabric, described as "the Rolls-Royce of allergen bedding material." They can be bought free of VAT if you have asthma, eczema or dust mite allergy.
The Naturelle covers are designed to be zipped around pillows, mattresses and duvets in order to enclose them completely. CottonFresh® has all the benefits of natural breathable cotton, allowing vapour and heat to pass through, whilst the closeness of the weave keeps out the tiniest particulate allergen.
In tests at the BTTG Laboratories in Manchester and the Medical Entomology Centre at the University of Cambridge house dustmites and their allergen could not penetrate the fabric. Tests at PMI, New York showed that allergen as tiny as 3.4microns was held out.
Naturelle barrier covers also carry the Eco-Tex guarantee of textile purity so they are suitable for the chemically sensitive.
Naturelle Barrier Covers can be washed frequently at 90°C and will remain allergen proof. They are undetectable in use and incredibly cool and comfortable.We give them 5 Allergy Best Buys ticks √√√√√ for performance and comfort.
These barrier covers give an impressive performance, holding out dustmite allergen, pollen, mould spores and allergen as small as 6.3microns.
Our testers found the soft microfibre fabric comfortable and quiet and were very happy with the price. They can also be bought free of VAT if you have asthma, eczema or dust mite allergy.
"Classic" are a definite Best Buy if you are ok with synthetics.
We give them 4 Allergy Best Buys ticks √√√√ for performance and comfort.
"CottonSafe" waterproof covers are also a recommended Best Buy if you need additional protection against stains and spills
These comfortable protective covers are made of dustmite proof cotton terry with a fine, flexible non-PVC backing to make them waterproof, guarding against mould spores and damp - serious triggers for asthma and rhinitis attacks. You can buy them free of VAT if you have asthma, eczema or dust mite allergy.
Guaranteed free from antimony, phosphorous, cadmium and zinc, CottonSafe covers are so safe they've been granted the Eco-Tex guarantee of textile purity in the category "Products for Babies".
The CottonSafe pillow covers are zipped for total enclosure, while the mattress covers have elasticated sides which makes changing them easy. So they're ideal for children's beds and cots or for where bedding needs frequent laundering. A hot wash at 90° keeps these exceptional allergen barrier covers pure and fresh throughout their long life.