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Mattress or Carpet Allergy


A question: We recently moved into a new apartment. It has been newly remodeled, re carpeted and painted. I specifically picked this place so that we could avoid the problem of dust in an old building. My boyfriend starts coughing and sneezing whenever he spends any amount of time in our bedroom. It bothers me too, but to a lesser extent. We are using a futon as a bed until we can purchase a mattress and box spring. This piece of furniture has been in storage for several years and I suspect that it is the cause of the problem.

However, the smell of paint and carpet is stronger in the bedroom, so I'm wondering if some of the fibers in the carpet are causing his allergies, especially since his head is closer to the floor when he is lying down. Is this common?

We are going to try airing out the room. I have heard that it is possible to buy special mattress and pillow covers for allergy sufferers, but I have no idea about the specifics, or where I would purchase such things. As a test, would it work to cover the mattress with plastic, then put a regular mattress cover and the sheets on top? Thanks for the help.

Valerie Guth

Thanks for asking about "new" apartments and possible house dust allergies.

The situation that you have described strongly suggests that the dusty mattress/futon is causing the flare up of allergy symptoms.

Mattresses are well known to retain and support dust mites. I will have my secretary e-mail you the 800 telephone number of a company that sells allergen protective covers for mattresses. I hope that it will help reduce the nocturnal allergy like symptoms. Plastic covers are not as good as the newer allergen proof encasings which are now commercially available.

If things do not improve soon after placing the futon in a proper encasement, then you should have your mate see an Allergy Specialist in your area for an exact diagnosis of his problems.

I once had a patient who was suffering badly from allergies only because she continued to sleep on her grandmother's old mattress. Sometimes an investment in new bedding is good for the economy and good for your health as well.

Good luck. Let me know how things are going.

Steve Kagen, M.D.