Faced with the fast growing number of allergy suffers in the United Kingdom, the consensus among experts is unclear. Why are some people susceptible to allergies when others seem immune? Why are the numbers of allergy sufferers rapidly increasing?
Nobody really knows. But there is something the doctors agree on. The most effective treatment for allergy sufferers is to completely remove yourself from the source of your allergen. This article considers an overlooked daily trigger – and how you can eliminate your suffering altogether.
Apart from certain food and some medications, common allergic triggers include plant pollen, animal dander (flakes of skin and fur) dust-mites and their droppings and mould spores. Symptoms like wheezing, itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing and general fatigue make life miserable. However there is a source of unnecessary suffering right under your nose. It’s your PILLOWS.
A decade ago the Fungal Research Trust tasked the University of Manchester to investigate the contents of our pillows. They sampled pillows between 1.5 and 20 years old, that were in constant use. They discovered 16 different fungal spores in all the pillows – bread moulds, vine yeasts, as well as moulds usually found in damp houses and bathrooms.
Unfortunately, the most damaging spores for our health were also the most common – Aspergillus fumigatus. Surprisingly, more than a million spores were found per used pillow. Aspergillus is a very common fungus, found in the air as well as household plant pots, compost, computers and ground pepper and spices. Some people have a natural immunity to it.
But having an allergy to Aspergillus results in Allergic Broncho-Pulmonary Aspergillosis – or ABPA. It is often undiagnosed. There is no cure for ABPA, but it is managed with steroids and anti-fungal drugs to try to prevent lung damage. Aspergillus inhabits the lungs and multiplies in the little air spaces. It becomes a lifelong source of irritation with coughing causing inflammation leading to scarring. ABPA was first reported in 1952. It can have a long period of infection, but cases are rising rapidly, and it has now lost its image as an unusual pathogen. In ABPA the mould is non-invasive – meaning it does not grow into the lung tissue itself.
Advice on the Aspergillus website suggests ABPA sufferers avoid damp rooms and buildings, compost heaps and avoid being outside at certain times of year. But they do not mention the pillow study and the high concentration in pillows.
According to the scientist who led the research:
“Since patients spend a third of their life sleeping and breathing close to a potentially large and varied source of fungi, these findings certainly have important implications for patients with respiratory disease – especially asthma and sinusitis.”
Professor Ashley Woodcock 2005
Even for un-allergic people, constant exposure to fungus in bed is undoubtedly harmful. Sensitivities arise through repeated exposure, which can develop into allergies, a topic explored in the article why chemical and allergic sensitivities can develop with age. Your pillows, in direct proximity to your mouth and nose, are also home to the biggest trigger of allergic reactions – house dust-mites, or more precisely their droppings. Not only are dust-mite faeces the leading cause of asthma and allergic rhinitis, they also effect eczema sufferers. A major trigger for itching in bed, they cause unpleasant flare-ups on the face and neck. Where sleep hygiene is concerned, your pillow is literally a whole new world…
“We know that pillows are inhabited by the house dust mite, which eats fungi, and one theory is that the fungi are in turn using the house dust mites’ faeces as a major source of nitrogen and nutrition along with human skin scales. There could therefore be a ‘miniature ecosystem’ at work inside our pillows.”
Professor Ashley Woodcock, 2005
That was then. NOW we know this is precisely what is going on.
Although this been known to infect the brain, kidneys and liver, it mainly occurs in the lungs and sinuses –the organs concerned with breathing. Increasingly common in all patient groups, doctors find it difficult to cure and manage. Four in a hundred patient deaths in modern European teaching hospitals have Invasive Aspergillosis. It is the most infectious cause of death in leukaemia and bone marrow transplant patients, while transplant, AIDS patients and others with compromised immune systems are most commonly brought down by the life-threatening Aspergillus pneumonia.
If Aspergillus infects the lung cavities left behind by tuberculosis (TB affects one third of the world’s population), it causes poor health and lung bleeding. An Aspergilloma may also develop in the lung – literally a ball of fungus.
While people are in hospital they may have a chance. Most hospital pillows have plastic covers and are not likely to cause problems. But when patients return home, where pillows are likely to support the potentially lethal micro-ecosystem, they are at risk of an Aspergillus infection.
Dr Geoffrey Scott, Chairman of the Fungal Research Trust, who originally commissioned the Pillow Research said ‘These new findings are potentially of major significance to people with allergic diseases of the lungs and damaged immune systems – especially those being sent home from hospital.’
Probiotics – A natural, safe solution
Everyone needs a pillow though. So what can be done? Recently a new scientific breakthrough is providing a front line of defence for pillows and mattresses. It takes the form of microscopic probiotic flora in tiny capsules, woven into the fabric that covers pillows and mattresses. It actively consumes allergens produced by dustmites and destroys the unhealthy micro-ecosystem so crucial for aspergillus to thrive. The five probiotic bacteria used have a proven allergen reduction rate of 89% in tests by the University of Ghent. The clean sleep experts at Sleepbear call their coverings Polartex®, which have also been shown to reduce allergens found in dog dander by 66.7%, and as much as 92.8% for cat allergens. Sleepbear pillows use inherently anti-allergy fillings with a luxurious loft. A proven hostile environment for fungus and dustmites, that doesn’t compromise your sleep comfort.