Remember how you used to worry about monsters lurking under your bed? Well, it turns out you may have been onto something.
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Beds and bedrooms serve as a prime stomping ground for allergens such as dust mites, pet hair and mold. These hidden irritants can make your life miserable ― especially if you have asthma or allergies.
But fear not! Hypoallergenic beddings and other measures can help tame those bedroom monsters. For more, let’s turn to pediatric immunologist John McDonnell, MD.
Allergens in your bedroom
Think your house is so clean that it’s allergen-free? Think again.
Researchers who examined dust vacuumed off thousands of bedroom floors found at least one common allergen in more than 99% of the samples. Nearly 75% of bedrooms had three to six allergens detected.
“It’s not a cleanliness issue, either,” says Dr. McDonnell. “No matter how much you scrub and clean, odds are there will still be allergens hanging around somewhere in your bedroom and house.”
So, what might be skulking on your bedroom floors? The eight most common allergens are linked to:
- Two types of dust mites.
What does hypoallergenic bedding do?
Here’s a disturbing fact: You never truly sleep alone. Your mattress may house anywhere between 100,000 and 10 million microscopic dust mites, according to some estimates.
And here’s another tidbit that may keep you up tonight: If your pillow is at least two years old, roughly 10% of its weight may come from dead dust mites and dust mite poop. (Ewwwww, right?)
It seems that dust mites simply love the warm and moist environment that exists on your mattress and pillow, notes Dr. McDonnell. Plus, the setting is basically a buffet, as dust mites feed on skin flakes we shed.
(Gross side note: The skin cells you drop in a day can feed 1 million dust mites.)
We share these horrors to set up this fact: Hypoallergenic bedding is designed to stop dust mites from moving around so freely. This special bedding (such as mattress covers) acts as a physical barrier that serves several roles:
- It keeps new dust mites from setting up residence in your mattress or pillow.
- It prevents dead skin cells from getting into your bedding to add to that yummy dust mite menu.
- It traps dust mites already in your bedding to prevent them from getting to you and your flaked-off skin.
Does hypoallergenic bedding work?
The answer is yes … with an asterisk.
Research shows that using hypoallergenic mattress covers, pillow covers or blankets is an effective way to reduce your exposure to those dust mites. That’s welcome news, as the idea of those little insects roaming around is pretty creepy.
The problem? While exposure to dust mites declined, allergy symptoms didn’t significantly improve for participants. (Those findings mirrored others, too.)
“There are benefits to using hypoallergenic bedding,” says Dr. McDonnell. “But don’t expect these products to solve all of your problems. They might help a little, but only doing that isn’t going to make much of a difference.”
Other ways to reduce allergens in bedrooms
As noted above, allergens are tough to eliminate from your home. But there are things you can do to minimize allergens in your bedroom (and home) if they’re causing you trouble, says Dr. McDonnell.
Here are 10 suggestions:
- Clean sheets: Regularly wash bedding in hot water and dry it in hot heat to remove allergens. Also, don’t make your bed right away in the morning. Instead, give your sheets a chance to dry out and reduce the moisture enjoyed by dust mites and bacteria.
- Different flooring: If you’re itching to redo your bedroom, consider hard-surface flooring instead of carpeting. “Dust mites and other allergens can really hang around in carpeting,” states Dr. McDonnell.
- Rethink your decorating: Taking down drapes and removing upholstered furniture can eliminate soft surfaces where allergens thrive. (And if that’s not an option, clean these soft surfaces regularly.)
- Bath time for pets: A weekly bath can help control levels of allergy-causing dander on your furry pets. (Adding a hypoallergenic dog to your family may also be a good idea if you’re looking for a canine companion.)
- Bath time for stuffed animals, too: Kiddos love their stuffed friends, right? Well, so do dust mites. Washing stuffed animals in hot water every week can keep those pests from overpopulating. (And try to limit the number of stuffed animals in a child’s room.)
- Vacuum regularly: Suck up those allergy triggers and get them out of your space! For best results, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to catch extremely small (yet troublesome) allergen particles.
- Clear the air: An air purifier can remove allergens and other particulates from the air to help you breathe easier.
- Decrease the humidity: Consider using a dehumidifier to reduce moisture levels. “Cutting the humidity down deprives dust mites of the environment they need to survive,” explains Dr. McDonnell.
- Keep the windows closed: Avoid letting outdoor allergens inside ― especially if you struggle with seasonal allergies. “Pollens will blow right through your window screens,” he adds.
- Pest control: Don’t let a problem with mice, rats or cockroaches persist.
The bottom line on bedroom allergens
Why is addressing bedroom allergens so important? Well, it comes down to time.
“You spend a lot of hours in your bedroom,” says Dr. McDonnell. “When you’re sleeping, your immune system doesn’t get a free pass. It’s still dealing with allergens. Your body is still responding to them.”
So, if you want to rest and breathe easier, take care of those bedroom “monsters” that you always knew existed.