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Are pillows causing allergies for your family?

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Allergy-free sleep

Waking up in the morning with red, itchy eyes and a stuffy nose may be due to a cold, but if every member in your family suffers from chronic early morning discomfort, it's time you check your pillows. Research shows that pillows -- whether they are made from feathers or synthetic materials -- are a breeding ground for allergens, such as dust mites, bacteria, and fungi. Not only do these little microorganisms cause allergies, they are sapping the quality of your sleep. Here's what you need to know about pillow-induced allergies and a new allergen-free product that will give your family a sniffle-free good night's rest.

Little Girl with Allergies on Pillow

Pillows can cause allergies and asthma attacks

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), one in four Americans suffer from allergies or asthma. Approximately 40 million suffer from indoor and outdoor allergies, which are also deemed as the third most common and chronic disease among children under 18 years old. Further, asthma is more common in children than adults, with 50 percent of asthma cases categorized as allergic-asthma. If you've made great strides in improving the air quality in your home but your family is still suffering from allergies and asthma, your bedding could be to blame.

"The average person (adults and kids) lose up to a liter of moisture each night, and that moisture goes into your sheets and pillows," explains Julia Rosien, communications director of Natura World, an eco-conscious maker of allergen-free bedding. "Most pillows, especially synthetic, aren't breathable enough to allow the moisture to escape into the atmosphere quickly, which creates a breeding ground where allergens, dust mites and bacteria can grow." Sleeping on these contaminated pillows means your family is breathing in allergenic microorganisms for six to eight hours every night.

You'll be surprised (and grossed out!) to know that your pillow doubles in weight within 18 months of purchase – and that weight is the fecal matter of dust mites and other allergens. "Pillows are probably the biggest allergy risk for everyone – children and adults – unless they're made from a material that prevents this bacteria growth," warns Rosien. "Many allergy and asthma attacks happen during the night because you're breathing the same stale air that's filled with bacteria and allergens for hours at a time."

Time to buy allergen-free pillows

The solution to allergen-laden pillows is replacing them with pillows that are not a hot-bed for bacteria and other allergens. Pillows made from latex are particularly resistant to allergens. "Natura's Sunshine Pillow is made from granulated latex and covered in 100 percent cotton," says Rosien. Latex is naturally anti-microbial and actually acts as a natural bug repellant, warding off mites and bed bugs. Granulated latex is also naturally breathable, which eliminates excess humidity and thwarts the potential for bacterial growth.

A supportive pillow is paramount for sound sleep

Though soft, fluffy pillows -- a favorite among kids -- are a dream to lay your head on, they don't often provide adequate support for the head and neck. Pillows made with granulated latex offer the best of both worlds. "The Sunshine Pillow brings a sense of serenity to children because the granulated latex core mimics the feel of feathers and down," says Natura president Ralph Rossdeuscher. "The Sunshine Pillow provides the perfect molding support and soothing pressure relief to help kids (and adults) fall asleep."

Family-friendly tips for better sleep

Making your family's bedding allergen-free is vital in keeping your family from suffering allergies and asthma attacks. Rosien says there are a few other things you can do to ensure your family a good night's rest.

1. Create a bedtime ritual. "Bedtime rituals are important to kids – they need cues that it's time to wind down the day," explains Rosien. "Story time, baths, a healthy snack – all of those are good ideas to help children slow themselves down for sleep."

2. Wind down. Like children, grown-ups also need to wind down, especially after a hard day at work or an especially trying day with the kids. As you tuck your kids in to bed, talk or read softly to them to reinforce quiet time as well as help you take some deep breaths, relax, and ready yourself for sleep.

3. Avoid arguments. Going to bed angry is never conducive to sound slumber. One way to avert bedtime altercations is to let your children devise their bedtime rituals, explains Rosien. "Giving children ownership of their bedtime rituals empowers them to make better choices and can reduce struggles and arguments when you're trying to wind down the day," she adds.

4. Keep your family well. Flu and colds can sap the quality of your family's sleep. In addition to practicing good handwashing and bolstering your immune system with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, washing your pillows is a must. Rosien advises, "As flu season approaches, wash your child's pillow at least once a month and hang it outside in the fresh air between washings to increase the pillow's effectiveness."

The Sunshine Pillow can be found at bedding retailers throughout the US and Canada. Visit NaturaWorld.com to find a retailer near you or to order online.

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