Feature Archive

Under Attack: Hidden Allergy Triggers

Mold, mites, and pet dander lurk where you'd never suspect.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Sneezing and wheezing can hit at the most unlikely times. You know you've got an allergy, but sudden attacks can be very mysterious. Richard Weber, MD, an allergy specialist with the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, reveals a few clues.

Allergy Attack: Stuffed Animals in Hot Water

Kapok (a tree native to tropical America, Africa, and the East Indies) has long been used to stuff pillows and pooh bears. The seed pods are used as stuffing for pillows, sleeping bags, and furniture upholstery. Like bird feathers and down, kapok was among allergens suspected in causing allergic reactions in both adults and kids. However, recent studies have shown that the stuffing isn't the problem -- it's the dust mites and mold.

"Turns out, even the foam rubber, synthetic stuff gets just as contaminated as down feathers," Weber tells WebMD. "In any humid climate, there's a very good chance that pillows and toys -- no matter what they're stuffed with -- will get contaminated with dust mites and mold."

Rather than tossing out those beloved items, try washing them, he suggests. Hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) and drying in a hot drier kills dust mites. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water also helps kill mites.