For 8 hours a night (give or take), your head is in constant contact with your pillow. Your eyes, nose, ears, mouth and skin are all in such close proximity. If you’re plagued by a chronically runny nose, sniffles or watery eyes, there’s a good chance you have allergies. One of the causes of your allergy symptoms may rest in your pillow.
According to an article in the Washington Post, Robin Wilson, an ambassador to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, says, “If your pillow is older than three years and has not been washed during that time, it weighs more now than when you bought it. It’s loaded with dust mites that are next to your face while you sleep. The microscopic mites cause allergies in many people.”¹
Dust mites are only one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter in size. Under a microscope they look like white bugs, and belong to the family of arthropods. Dust mites thrive in humid enviroments, especially in the home. They feed mainly on the tiny flakes of human skin that we shed each day. The body parts and the waste of dust mites are what can trigger allergies.
Dust mite allergy symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pressure and pain
- Swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes
- In a child, frequent upward rubbing of the nose²
In fact, dust mite allergy is common among children and a risk factor for developing asthma. The quicker you are to take action to reduce their exposure, the less likely your child’s symptoms will escalate into something more severe.³
So what can you do to clean up your pillow situation? Well you could go buy all new pillows. But that’s an expense most of us don’t want to incur. Your best bet might be to launder the pillows you already have. (For tips on washing all kinds of pillows – including down pillows – check out this great article from Good Housekeeping.) Washing pillows in very hot water can eliminate dust mites; if you can’t wash your pillow, placing it in the freezer for 48 hours will also kill them!
After your pillows have been cleaned and dried thoroughly, covering them with allergen-proof covers can go a long way in preventing not only dust mite infestation, but protecting your pillow from dust, sweat, pet dander and other contaminants. Most of these cases are made to be breathable, so it won’t feel like you’re sleeping on uncomfortable plastic sheeting. It might be a good idea to encase your mattress with these protective covers, as well, since they too are prone to the same types of icky things that plague your pillows.
As an added measure of protection, outfitting your home with premium air purifiers can help eliminate contaminants in the air and on surfaces. Purifiers that feature a HEPA filter are especially helpful, as these filters are designed to catch tiny particles that would otherwise be filtered through your home.