If you wake up with itchy, watery eyes, sniffling, or with a sinus headache, you may need a hypoallergenic pillow. Your pillow and other bedding can cause allergic reactions in a number of different ways. The first thing to consider is what the pillow is made of and ensuring that you do not buy a pillow made with ingredients that you’re allergic or sensitive to. The other aspect that can affect allergic reactions is whether dust will penetrate the pillow as you use it.
Why Worry About Allergies from Your Pillow?
Pillows are made with a wide variety of ingredients including feathers, memory foam, polyester, cotton, latex, buckwheat, kapok fibers, bio-foams, wool, and synthetic materials. Some people are allergic to some of the materials used but most people are not allergic to these ingredients. Quite a few people think they’re allergic to feathers but they’re actually allergic to the dust mites that were in old feather pillows that were made without cleaning the down before they were placed inside the pillow as thoroughly as they are today.
Perhaps you’ve read that you don’t need to be concerned with dust mites in your bedding if you aren’t allergic. This is a prevalent myth. The truth is that dust mites are an allergen and increased exposure to an allergen raises the risk that the exposed individual will become sensitized to the allergen. Re-exposure to an allergen by a person who is sensitized increases the risk of developing asthma as well as other allergic diseases.
Researchers at the University of Virginia stated, “It is now clear that dust mite allergy is a key contributor to asthma in many parts of the world, and that long-term avoidance can be effective for preventing sensitization and minimizing the development and severity of respiratory disease.”
The final aspect of your pillow that requires caution is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Individuals with allergies have sensitive immune systems. VOCs can cause sensitivity or even lead to the development of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) which can arise from exposure to low levels of common contaminants. Synthetic foams made from petrochemicals emit low level VOCs that may be bothersome to individuals whose immune systems are sensitive.
It is clearly important that your pillow be hypoallergenic when you buy it but also that it remains that way after use. That’s the criteria we used to select our recommendations. It doesn’t help you much if your pillow is only hypoallergenic for your allergies when it is new.
After examining the research, there are two approaches for allergy causing contaminants in your pillows. The simple one is to use whatever hypoallergenic pillow tickles your fancy and cover it with a washable encasement in a tightly woven fine fabric with pores that are 6 microns or smaller.
The other option is to buy a hypoallergenic pillow that has properties that can reduce or eliminate exposure to dust mites and pet dander and doesn’t emit VOCs.
Pillows that are easy to keep allergy-free are:
Washable – preferably in hot water or able to dry or fluff using hot heat
Covered with tightly woven fine fabrics with pores that are 6 microns or smaller
Include antimicrobial materials in the design such as:
If feather pillows, washed to remove dust mites before use as a pillow
Hypoallergenic Dust Mite and Pet Dander Resistant Pillow Recommendations
We looked at about 100 pillows to identify ones that stand up to hypoallergenic dust mite and pet dander resistant claims. We usually list pros and cons but when it comes to allergies, we believe it is very important not to compromise so we harshly judged the pillows we evaluated and limited our recommendations to those we feel very confident about – that’s why you won’t see a lot of negatives listed in this review. The list of rejects is seven times as long as those that we included. There’s something for everyone in this list. The results are sorted by price point:
Best Hypoallergenic Pillows for Allergy Sufferers (Less than $100)
We also love that it is safe for baby. The requirements for baby safe bedding materials are different from the requirements for adults. If you will be nursing your baby propped up against pillows, be safe and get a pillow that is rated safe for your precious little one.
Kapok fibers have caused allergic reactions in some people
120-night Moneyback guarantee
Made in USA
We’re excited about the inclusion of copper in the pillow but not excited by the Kapok fiber. The good news is that with the sleep trial, you can try it and see if it is a good fit for you. Being able to adjust the loft and the 5-year warranty are additional benefits.
Claritin Ultimate Allergen Barrier ClearLoft (Back and Stomach Sleepers)
Designed with tight pores to block dust mites and pet dander
Zipper cover can be removed and washed
Other styles suitable for side sleepers are available
Limited lifetime warranty
The tight pores of the cover meet allergist recommendations for keeping pet dander and dust mites from contaminating your pillow. This one is for back and stomach sleepers but they have other styles for side sleepers and pillow preferences.
This popular pillow can be washed which will eliminate dust mites that take up residence on the cover of the pillow. The sleep trial allows you to test the pillow to see if you sleep well with it before you make a final decision.
If you want the softness and durability of a fine feather pillow, this one will do. They thoroughly steam wash the feathers before constructing the pillow, so the feathers are not likely to cause an allergic reaction. The cotton cover is tightly woven which will keep dust mites and pet dander out while keeping the down inside.
Bamboo Body U-Shaped Memory Foam Infused with Copper Ions (Pregnancy and beyond)
Naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial cover
Cover is washable
Bonus Bamboo pillow
Great during pregnancy and to support side sleepers
Experts encourage side sleepers to have support for their upper arm and between their legs to properly support their body while they sleep. This U-shaped memory foam pillow provide the pillow for your head, arm rest, and leg all in one with copper infusion that is antimicrobial and antibacterial. Add a washable cover and this U-shaped pillow will remain clean, fresh, and healthy for a long time.
Best Hypoallergenic Pillows for Allergy Sufferers (Over $150)
Dunlopillo Serenity (Combo Sleepers and Neck Pain Relief)
100% natural Talalay latex
Washable Tencel cover
Latex is naturally antimicrobial which helps the latex stay fresh and clean. The washable cover will help you keep the surface free of pet dander and dust mites. Latex is highly durable, so this pillow should provide a sweet place to rest your head for many years.
Best Hypoallergenic Pillows for Allergy Sufferers (Under $75)
Snuggle-Pedic Supreme Plush (Adjustable to suit all sleeping positions)
Fully washable (can use a hot dryer)
Made in the USA
Eco-friendly Bio-green & CertiPUR-US foam
120-night Love It or Send It Back No Cost Returns
Will customize to alter the proprietary premium shredded foam mix to change the support, firmness, weight, or buoyancy/springiness
20-year warranty from authorized sellers
This pillow can be kept clean and healthy for a long time because you can put the whole pillow in the washer and dry it on high which will kill any dust mites that have taken up residence to dine on your dead skin cells. You’ll want to wash it weekly because the goal is to keep the mites out of your pillow – not have a pillow filled with dead mites. When you wash it regularly, they don’t have time to mature and reproduce which keeps the numbers low.
We also love that the company will customize a pillow that provide the level of firmness, support, and buoyancy you prefer.
Columbia Ultimate Allergen Barrier (Back and Side Sleepers)
Small pores prevent dust mites from gaining access to your pillow
Breathable and wicks away moisture
10-year limited warranty
This feather pillow from a well-respected brand is very popular. The cover’s small pores will keep pet dander and dust mites from getting into the pillow and you can toss it into the washer to remove any that are on the outside. The 10-year warranty from a name brand is impressive. This pillow is available in other styles to suit all types of sleepers.
CertiPUR-US certification keeps the VOCs low and copper makes it antimicrobial which keeps dust mites and fungi from taking up residence in your pillow. Copper also conducts heat away from you to keep your head cool as you sleep.
Innovative design with three lofts in one pillow without removing filling
The adjustability of this CopperFresh style means you can make it just right for your individual sleep needs. If you need one to be high when you’re on your side and another lower pillow when you roll to your back, you can get two and switch between them when you roll over. Or stack two with lower lofts when you’re on your side and push one away when you’re on your back. Many people do this automatically without waking up as part of their normal nighttime routine.
SensorPEDIC Classic Contour Copper Infused Memory Foam (Back and Side Sleepers)
Copper-infused memory foam is antimicrobial
If you prefer a contoured pillow that is consistent night after night, this copper infused foam is the perfect choice. The copper infusion gives it antimicrobial and antifungal properties that will keep it fresh so it can provide a healthy place to rest your head for a long time to come.
JA COMFORTS Duck Feather and Down (Stomach and Back Sleepers)
Washable and dryable in the washing machine
Affordable feather and down pillows
An affordable washable feather pillow checks all the boxes for a feather pillow. This is a mixture of feathers and down so it won’t have the same feel as a 100% down pillow, but it will be similar. If you want the feel of down without spending as much, this one is a good buy. You can wash it so you can keep it clean and make it last for plenty of time to get your money’s worth.
AllerEase Down Alternative (Best Cheap, Back Sleepers and Petite Side Sleepers)
Wash in hot water
Tight pores block dust mites and pet dander
3-year limited warranty
Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval
This is the best budget option for a hypoallergenic pillow that you can maintain in healthy condition we could find. It even has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. The washability means you can maintain it in a healthy condition for a long time. The loft is not high enough for side sleepers unless they have small shoulders but you could stack two at this price to satisfy larger side sleepers.
Hypoallergenic vs Dust Mite and Pet Dander Resistant
Shopping for pillows that will help you win the fight against allergens including those from pet dander, fungi, and dust mite feces can be confusing. Pillows are frequently marketed as hypoallergenic because their ingredients aren’t likely to cause allergic reactions. However, that’s not the same as a pillow that resists dust mite colonization, fungi buildup, or pet dander which can get into your pillow and cause allergic reactions and lead to the development of asthma in children and adults. In non-arid areas, almost 90% of homes have dust mites. In arid areas, homes that add humidity to the indoor environment have dust mites.
There is a significant amount of misleading information in ads for pillows. One claims that “airy pillows that have excellent breathability create a dry environment in which mites, molds, and mildews are unable to thrive.” While dust mites, fungi, and molds don’t like dry environments, airflow by itself won’t ensure that the pillow remains dry. If the sleeper tends to sleep hot and the pillow absorbs the moisture, there could be plenty of moisture for these allergens to thrive. Likewise, if the humidity in the room is high, airflow won’t stop them. Keeping the humidity in the home at 50% or below will help more than airflow of humid air.
Dust Mite and Pet Dander Resistance Claims: Don’t take claims of dust mite or pet dander resistance at face value. This term isn’t legally defined and anything that delays the entry of dust mites into your pillow or helps you remove them can (and frequently is) used as an excuse to claim “dust mite resistant” in the advertising. However, when pointed questions are asked, many pillows that claim they are resistant don’t provide any more protection than loosely woven fabrics. One even had mesh sides with huge pores but claimed dust mite resistant because you could wash the cover! In choosing our recommendations, we compared the evidence based preventative measures with the actual features of about 100 pillows and eliminated any that did not meet the criteria. We didn’t let them slide. Your health is too important for compromise.
Quite a few people think they’re allergic to feathers but they’re actually allergic to the dust mites that were in old feather pillows that were made without cleaning the down before they were placed inside the pillow. Today, the feathers and down are cleaned thoroughly and dust mites that might have been on the feathers are removed before they are used. When researchers tested feather pillows where the feathers and down were cleaned with the newer cleaning methods, only 1 of the 29 allergic test subjects experienced an allergic reaction.
Buckwheat pillows have been associated with nocturnal asthma in adults and children
Latex is naturally antimicrobial.
Allergen Prevention Strategies
Preventing exposure to allergens is possible. The odds of successful avoidance of allergens is much higher when more than one strategy is implemented. These are some strategies that can help you reduce your exposure. Allergists recommend the following strategies:
Tightly woven fine fabrics that can be washed in warm or hot water and dried in the dryer should be chosen for pillow coverings and duvet covers.
Cover comforters with fine woven fabrics
If you use a plastic impenetrable cover on your mattress, use a washable mattress pad on top of the plastic cover
Wash bed linens in hot water over 130° F weekly
Wash mattress pads, blankets, and other bedding every other week
Vacuum and wet dust weekly
No stuffed animals on the bed
Don’t go to bed with wet hair because the moisture will provide a better environment for fungi and dust mites
There is a level of exposure that is considered subthreshold which means exposure at those levels does not usually cause allergies or develop into asthma.
If you have a seasonal (during humid months) or year-round runny nose and sniffles, you may have perennial allergic rhinitis. Talk with your doctor.
What are House Dust Mites?
House Dust Mites are microscopic spiders (arachnids) that are invisible to the naked eye (.33mm) who dine on human cells and fungi. They live for about two months and females lay between 40 – 80 eggs during their lifetime. Eggs take about a month to mature. House Dust Mites need humid air to survive (above 50%) because they take moisture from the air.
Avoiding allergens can prevent the development and help to reduce symptoms of allergies, asthma, and eczema. This is an important goal for quality of life and health. There were 11,057,000 doctor office visits for allergic rhinitis – one of the top twenty reasons for doctor’s visits, including check-ups, in 2010.