Feather Allergies

Information on the causes of feather allergies and feather allergy symptoms.

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  1. What are Feather Allergies?
  2. Symptoms of Feather Allergies
  3. Diagnosing Feather Allergies
  4. Help for Feather Allergies

What are Feather Allergies?

It is quite rare to be allergic to feathers. Most people who develop symptoms conclude they are allergic to feathers because they feel better after removing down pillows and comforters from their bed. However, for most people, what they are actually reacting to is dust mites. Feathers encourage the growth and proliferation of dust mites, a very common allergy. Those with feather allergies tend to experience allergic rhinitis or “hay fever” types of reactions.

Symptoms of Feather Allergies

Exposure to feathers in those with allergies leads to hay fever symptoms including itchy, water eyes, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, sneezing, sinus pressure, cough and dark circles underneath the eyes. Those with more severe allergies may experience asthma attacks and decreased lung capacity. When feathers in bedding are the culprit, you may experience a loss of sleep and fatigue.

Diagnosing Feather Allergies

A doctor can usually diagnose a feather allergy by reviewing a patient's symptoms and determining if they coincide with exposure to down or feathers. An allergy test can also determine the true cause and rule out any other possibilities such as dust mites.

Down allergies can be tested by using a skin prick test. In this test, the doctor uses a small needle to inject a tiny amount of concentrated down extract just under the patient's skin. If the patient is allergic, the skin will have a reaction, and irritation or redness will appear at the site within 15 minutes. When skin tests can't be performed, a blood test can be used to help determine if an allergy is present.

Help for Feather Allergies

Synthetic bedding can be just as prone to dust mites as feathers are. If you have a true feather allergy, it's important to remove down comforters and pillows from the bed. However, if the allergy is a dust mite allergy, switching bedding may not completely solve the problem. Switch to hypoallergenic bedding and place protective covers over pillows and mattresses to reduce exposure. Bedding should be washed weekly in hot water.

Other ways to reduce allergens include using a HEPA air purifier and vacuum filter to cut down on dander and dust mites.

Moderate to severe allergies can be treated with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy helps the body build up a tolerance for allergens through a progressive series of shots given at regular intervals. Antihistamines can be used for periodic exposure, but are not recommended for long-term allergy management. Many allergy medications have undesirable side effects, leading people to seek out different alternatives.

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