Is Your Bedding Disrupting Your Breathing?

Interstitial lung disease has many mysterious causes
Messy bedding after a night of sleep

Every day, you encounter irritants that can harm your lungs. Some are obvious, such as dust mites, smoking or exposure to car fumes. But did you know that even the bedding in your home can seriously affect your breathing?

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Feather duvet lung is an inflammatory reaction to goose or duck feathers in linens. It’s a form of lung condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which  is one of many disorders that fall under the umbrella of interstitial lung disease.

Feather duvet lung is your body’s response to long-term exposure to environmental irritants in bedding, such as feathers, that cause an inflammatory response in your lungs.  As a response, tiny air sacs in your lungs become inflamed. If you have symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough and chest pain — and sleep with down bedding ­— it’s crucial to work with your doctors to determine all the possible reasons. Your bedding could be to blame. 

Bedding may seem like an unlikely culprit for your breathing issues, but lung specialist Daniel Culver, DO, says otherwise.

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“We never cease to be amazed by some of the things that cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis in some people’s environments,” he says. Feather duvet lung is one type of a larger condition called bird fancier’s lung, one of the most common forms of hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Pet bird owners take heed: feathers and droppings can also cause inflammation in the lungs. Even arts and craft materials, such as feathers, can cause irritation.

“Diagnosing feather duvet lung is challenging and interesting, and every patient has the potential to throw you a curveball,” Dr. Culver says.

Reducing your risk

Because you spend close to one-third of your life in your bed, keeping your bedding free from items that cause irritation is important. Reactions to bedding containing goose or other feathers is a common source of feather duvet lung, hence the name! If you do have a reaction to bedding such as down linens, sometimes the best way to tackle the problem is with a few simple lifestyle changes. 

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  • Have an evaluation by a physician. If you suspect you’re having a reaction to down bedding, Dr. Culver suggests having an evaluation by a physician. “Before pitching your favorite down pillow, you should see a lung doctor first,” he explains. “If you’re diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, then I would consider alternative bedding.” Don’t fret if you must abandon down. There are many down-alternatives available that provide just as much warmth and comfort without the irritation. 
  • Do your laundry. Wash all bedding, including blankets, sheets and comforters or duvets, once a week in hot water. This kills any allergens, such as dust mites, that can cause irritation to your airways.

There are no hard and fast rules for determining your risk of feather duvet lung, Dr. Culver says. A lot of factors are at play, from how intense the exposure is to how long you’ve been living with feather-type irritants. You can also live with an irritant for some time before the condition actually develops. 

Ultimately, most interstitial lung diseases are rare, says Dr. Culver. 

“A lot of it comes down to genetics and having the right environmental irritants to set up the problems.” Dr. Culver says.

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