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How to Choose Pillows and Duvets for allergies

Our Recommended Pillows and Duvets at a Glance

Pillows for allergies:

Duvets for allergies:

Dustmites in your bedding - #1 allergen for asthma and rhinitis

Dustmite allergen, found within dustmite droppings, is one of the most common triggers for asthma, eczema and rhinitis. Dustmites thrive in dark, humid areas where there is a ready food supply of dead skin scales, so pillows and duvets provide an ideal environment in which they thrive.

If you are sensitised to dustmite allergen and your allergy is triggered by inhaling it when you're in bed, getting rid of them from your bedding is important. But killing dustmites is only half the battle. For complete avoidance you need to denature and eliminate the allergen too.

Hypoallergenic or Anti-allergy?

There is now a bewildering array of pillows and duvets on the market that claim to be "hypoallergenic duvets" or "anti-allergy duvets." For anyone with an allergic condition, making the wrong choice is not only an expensive mistake but could be a serious health risk.

"Hypoallergenic" means that the pillow or duvet is less likely to trigger allergies. "Anti-allergy" means that the pillow or duvet has been treated in some way to combat the development of dustmites or offer protection against their allergen.

Synthetic or natural-fill

Since the dustmite doesn't care what your pillow is filled with, the choice of a natural fill or synthetic is entirely personal, although recent studies at St George's Hospital, London and elsewhere have shown that synthetic pillows harbour more house dustmites than those filled with traditional feather and down.

But whichever filling is used, dustmites can be killed and their allergen denatured and destroyed when bedding is washed at temperatures of 60°C and above. It is essential, therefore, that any pillows and duvets you buy can endure repeated washing at this temperature or higher.

If washed frequently (at least once every three months and preferably monthly) at a high temperature, all pillows and duvets can be kept free of dustmites and their allergenic droppings.

Unfortunately pillows and duvets filled with 100% silk or other natural fillings such as cashmere, camelhair or pure goosedown cannot be washed at 60°C, if at all. Although they can be dry-cleaned, which kills the mites and removes some of the allergen, the amount is variable (20-70%). Dry-cleaning is also an unsuitable process for anyone sensitive to chemicals.

Many pillows and duvets filled with synthetic clusters are washable but most are restricted to a 40°C wash and low temperature drying programme, which means the dustmites and their allergen will not be removed.

Synthetic fabrics and fillings are also generally too hot for anyone with eczema, so natural fillings for pillows and duvets such as cotton or wool, silk, bamboo floss or feather-and-down are a cooler choice, particularly when they have a pure cotton cover.

Pillows filled with latex chips or synthetics such as polyether foam or polyester hollofibre clusters are not recommended for anyone allergic to latex or who is sensitive to chemical based materials. Polyester covers should be avoided too as they are rarely dustmite-proof.

Synthetic-fill Pillows

We were pleased to find the Spundown brand of fibre-filled pillows and duvets that compress well into a domestic washing machine and can be washed at 60°C. We recommend them if you can tolerate synthetics.

We also like the pillows that have a hollowfibre filling treated with Healthguard™. This Eco-tex certified treatment has an anti-fungal that inhibits the development of dustmites and also acts as as an effective antibacterial against Staphylococcus aureus making them a good choice for those with eczema. Pillows treated with Healthguard™ can be washed in most domestic machines at 60°C without losing the effectiveness of the Healthguard ™ treatment. These pillows are available free of VAT.

  • Cool Touch Pillow A comfortable pillow that's a joy to sleep on for anyone who overheats during the night, is troubled with eczema, ichthyosis, hot or sweaty head problems, hot flushes, MS, the effects of chemo. etc. 100% cotton cover, filled with Smartfil®Clusters blended with 20% ProCool® fibres. Can be washed in a home machine at 60˚C.

Natural-fill Pillows

We are very impressed with the FeatherFresh boil-washable natural feather & down pillows that have been specifically created for those with asthma, eczema, rhinitis or dust allergy.

Originally made for use in hospitals where they are autoclaved and boiled for infection control, FeatherFresh Pillows can be washed at home at 60°C without going lumpy or losing their shape. You can even boil-wash Featherfresh pillows in your home machine at up to 90°C (200°F) to sterilise them.

Because the Featherfresh pillows have been created for those with asthma, eczema, you can buy them free of VAT.

These Danish-made pillows offer a top-of-the-range 100% natural pillow filled with Downafresh® certified feathers in an unbleached Eco-tex certified NOMITE® dustmite proof cotton cover. They are probably the safest natural pillow for asthma, eczema and allergies you will find. Like Featherfesh, Pure & Care Pillows have been created specifically for those with asthma, eczema, chemical sensitivity or allergies triggered by dustmites and are available free of VAT .

What about feather allergy?

For many years people thought that if you had asthma or allergies you were automatically allergic to feathers. True feather allergy is extremely rare. It has been identified only as a reaction either to quill mites in live feathers, to the protein in the droppings of pigeons, or to pigeon bloom, a waxy powder which coats the feathers of racing pigeons and that is implicated in the disease Pigeon Fanciers' Lung.

Today we know that the trigger for night-time asthma attacks, eczema flare-ups and rhinitis symptoms routinely described as "feather allergy" is an allergic reaction to the dustmite allergen in a pillow that has not been washed after several months' use. Other allergy triggers can be the oils and bacteria in a pillow or duvet filled with cheap, sometimes recycled feathers that either have not been properly washed and sterilised or to the chemicals commonly used to eradicate them.

Look for feather and down pillows or duvets with Downafresh® and/or NOMITE® accreditation. Bedding carrying these labels tells you that the cover is dustmite-proof and the filling has been properly cleaned and sterilised. You can wash pillows and duvets of this standard at home at 60°C to keep them free of dustmite allergen.

A popular pillow choice for asthma or dustmite allergy, natural latex offers a fresh, cool and comforting sleep while optimising posture.

Latex is the perfect alternative to memory foam. It offers all the specialist firm support of foam but with a breathable air flow system that prevents heat build-up through the night.

Natural latex from the rubber tree is known to be resistant to mildew and dustmites in nature and as dustmites thrive only where there is moisture build-up, latex pillows have long been believed to be inhospitable to them.

With proper air circulation through open cells, latex pillows are therefore anti-microbial and hypoallergenic making them safe and healthy.

The downsides? Latex pillows can't be washed. So to extend the life of your latex pillow use a Cottonfresh dustmite-proof protective cover that you can remove for laundering. Also be aware that latex pillows have a rubbery smell at first.

We can highly recommend our latest find - wool-filled pillows with an eco cotton cover. Wool Pillows are naturally hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and resistant to dustmites, dustmite allergen, mould and fungus. They're a good choice for asthma, eczema, chemical sensitivities and allergies.

Their cool cotton cover is unbleached, undyed, 100% pure Eco-tex certified cotton, so there are no harmful chemicals. Inside are 100% pure untreated British wool clusters that tests have shown is a filling dustmites hate.

Natural-fill Duvets for allergies

Those of you who have discovered FeatherFresh Pillows will have already experienced the health benefits of sleeping on a natural traditional pillow filled with washed and sterilised goose feather and down.

Now we've found two beautifully made duvets that offer the same opportunity to enjoy a night of safe, supremely comfortable sleep.

  • The Down & Feather Hypoallergenic Duvet is NOMITE® certified, Downafresh® certified and Eco-tex certified. It has a luxurious 90% down/10% small feather filling in a dustmite-proof cotton cover. We think you'll love it.

  • The Pure & Care 100% Natural Duvet for Allergies has all these benefits too but goes a step further with its unbleached, undyed dustmite-proof cotton cover, making it particularly beneficial for those with chemical sensitivity. Pure & Care Duvets are available free of VAT for asthma, eczema, chemical sensitivity and allergies triggered by exposure to dustmites.

  • Silk & Cotton Hypoallergenic Duvets

The SilkWash Supercool duvet has a completely natural fill of wild silk and cotton. It has been used to create a lightweight (4.5tog) duvet but is not available as a filling for pillows.

SilkWash Supercool has Eco-Tex certification and can be washed at 60°C or even boil-washed to sterilise.

It is a good choice for eczema sufferers or those with MCS looking for a cool, lightweight duvet with a natural fill.

Duvets filled with wool clusters are an excellent natural alternative to feather and down. The ones we have chosen are made in England and have an unbleached undyed cotton cover. The filling is anti-bacterial and naturally hostile to dustmites. These duvets are safe for asthma, eczema and chemical sensitivity. They're also incredibly comfortable and are a good medium weight - neither too hot nor too cold.

We particularly recommend Bamboo floss-filled duvets for eczema because they have a smooth bamboo cover that's kind to sore skin, drape over the body beautifully and wick away moisture, meaning you won't overheat. But they have found fans among those with asthma and chemical sensitivity too because of their hypoallergenic filling and completely natural, chemical-free construction.

Synthetic Duvets for allergies

There are an awful lot of man-made duvets on the market that describe themselves as hypoallergenic.The Spundown fibre-filled duvet has been made with smartfil® technology that makes it compress well into a domestic washing machine. It can be washed at 60°C and tumble dried and is a good choice if you are going to wash your bedding frequently to keep it free of dustmite or pet allergen. We recommend it if you can tolerate synthetics.

Amicor Pure™ is a modern Eco-tex certified fibre blended into the microfibre filling of these duvets. It prevents the growth of dustmites and keeps allergens below the levels that trigger asthma attacks. Amicor Pure™ also acts as an antibacterial against Staphylococcus Aureus, so it can help those with eczema in the fight against infection. Anti-allergy Duvets with Amicor Pure™ are available VAT free.

  • Fossflakes Thermo-regulating Duvets is the latest bedding to make it on to our recommended list. The feel of these beautifully made duvets is really soft and luxurious, like natural down but without the price tag. However unlike down-filled bedding which has to be dry-cleaned, you can wash a Fossflakes duvet at 60°C to keep it hypoallergenic For sleepers sharing a bed, differing body temperatures can mean one partner is boiling hot and the other pretty chilly. However the special filling in a Fossflakes duvet responds to the body temperature of each sleeper, so both you and your partner can enjoy the temperature that suits.

Our recommended Pillows for allergies:

Our recommended Duvets for allergies: