THE BLOG

Pillows: A Dirty Little Secret that Affects Your Health

07/07/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Pillows, Sheets...usually there are secrets that should be kept only in the bedroom. But its time to ask you what is "in" your pillow. Did you know that this tiny little secret could affect your health? Could your pillow be the reason for your wheezing and sneezing? Could the dust mites in your pillow trigger your asthma or allergies?

Wheezing & Sneezing
How many times have you or your children been fine before you go to bed, and then you hit the pillow. In the middle of the night, you or your child wakes up with breathing difficulties. Of course, you can pop a pill and calm down the inflammation - or you can go right to the source, and try a simple solution - wash your pillow! Of course, if your pillow is older than 3 years old, you should simply replace it. Without a regular wash, the reality is a new pillow may weigh 10 oz - and after two years, it can weigh 2x that due to dust mite contamination.

When Was the Last Time You Washed Your Pillow?
Pillow Health is something that few people talk about or are aware of...until you think about the fact that we spend a third of our lives sleeping. And while we sleep, dust mites feed on our dead skin and hair. We can't get rid of the dust mite because its basic biology for humans and facilitates the skin turnover. However, the carcass of a dust mite is often a trigger for those with allergies and asthma. In fact, the American College of Asthma, Allergies & Immunology reports that 10% of us have an allergic trigger to dust mites. And during pollen season, allergic irritation can increase due to the dust mite triggers, coupled with the pollen. A focus group said that the average age of their pillows was 5 years...imagine wearing your pajamas for five years and not washing them! Yuck...

Symptoms of dust mite allergies include:
watery/itching/red eyes, runny nose, wheezing, sneezing, asthma, infantile eczema, nasal congestion, itchy mouth or throat, cough, facial pressure and pain, inability to sleep restfully, blue skin under eyes

Try this solution: wash or replace your pillows. See if your or your family's breathing improves at night. Also, make sure to get zippered hypo-allergenic pillow covers and wash the covers often in hot water. Most importantly, a new pillow might ensure that your hours of zzzz's will increase. Sleep easy...on your new pillow!
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On Earth Day's 40th Anniversary at the American Museum of Natural History, Robin Wilson was part of a panel moderated by Lynn Sherr - and other panelists, Rob Watson and Joshua Wiener. Listen to AMNH Podcast to hear about LEED, Eco-Tips & Pillow Health