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About 20 years ago, researchers began to wonder what could be done in the home environment to help control the allergen triggers that cause asthmatic and allergic reactions. Because we spend 1/3 of our life in our bedroom, it seemed the natural environment on which to focus. Tests were done in which one group got zippered allergen-proof bedding encasings, while the control group had no encasings. The results of even such simple tests were dramatic.
"At the end of a 1-month study period, there was a marked and statistically significant difference in symptoms and signs of asthma between the two groups."
Murray MB, FRCP, Andrew; Ferguson MD, FRCP, Alexander. "Dust-Free Bedrooms in the Treatment of Asthmatic Children with House Dust or House Dust Mite Allergy: A Controlled Trial." Pediatrics. 1983.
And from an article published by Johns Hopkins:
"Mite population and allergen levels decreased by 90% or more within a month of placing mattress and pillow covers and treating bedding."
Eggleston MD, P. "Clinical Trials of Allergen Avoidance in Established Asthma." Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. November 2001.
Here are the facts: dust mites love the warm, humid conditions of our bedding, so much so, that the typical used mattress may have anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million mites inside! Sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and wheezing are some typical reactions to dust mite allergen. Think of your immune system as a bucket. As you breathe in allergens, your "bucket" begins filling up, but you don't experience irritating symptoms until your "bucket" overflows. Encasings are an integral part of keeping your "bucket" from overflowing.
Doctors know the residual benefit of sleeping in an allergen-free environment. In fact, according to a recent medical journal article, "studies of primary prevention of allergic disease have demonstrated that decreased exposure to allergens in infancy.may prevent the development of allergic disease."(German JA, Harper MB. "Environmental Control of Allergic Diseases." American Family Physician. August 2002) So even if you or your children have not been diagnosed with allergies or asthma, encasings are still an invaluable investment in your family's health.
How Encasings Work
Dust mites are tiny creatures, typically around 250-300 micrometers in length. By comparison, a single grain of beach sand can be more than 800 micrometers! Humans react to the proteins in the dust mite allergen (approximately 10 microns in size), made up of decomposed mite bodies and their feces. Because of the microscopic size of dust mites and their allergen, the technology used to develop and manufacture zippered "allergen proof" or "mite-proof" encasings can be complicated. However, the process by which they make users feel better is fairly simple.
First, the mites that are inside the encased pillow or mattress are trapped. Blocked from their constant food source (your shed, dead skin cells), they eventually die. In the meantime, any mite allergen is completely blocked by the encasing from getting into the air you and your family breathe. It should be noted that because zippered enclosures are not a tight enough seal to completely prevent the escape of mite allergen, some doctors recommend zipper-tape completely protect a bed from mite allergen.
There are several methods for judging the effectiveness of encasing fabrics. While some encasing products boast a tiny "pore size" as a mark of mite-resistance, the smaller the pore size, the less breathable the encasing. In addition, there is no standard for measuring pore size in non-membrane materials because the weaves all vary slightly. The best assessment of a dust mite encasing's effectiveness and comfort is to measure how much allergen is actually transferred through the material vs. how much airflow the material allows. Independent labs perform various tests to measure each of these properties.
IBT Reference Labs performs rigorous testing both on National Allergy fabrics, and the fabrics of other companies as well. The following chart shows the airflow and amount of mite allergen and cat allergen (used because it is ten times smaller than mite allergen) that passes through three of our different encasing styles versus the lab-control poly-cotton fabric.
|Test Criteria||Poly-Cotton Control Fabric*||BedCare Economy TM**(fabric same as DuraTEK)||BedCare SupremeTM**||BedCare UltraTM**||BedCare EleganceTM**|
|Barrier to Mite Allergen (nanograms transferred)||133||Less than 1.3^||Less than 1.3^||Less than 1.3^||Less than 1.3^|
|Barrier to Cat Allergen (nanograms transferred)||599||1.4||3.5^||5.0||<.31|
|Airflow (Liters per minute)||21.4||33.3||23.9||27.3||22.0|
|Actual Test Reports|
* Data taken from Vaughn JW, McLaughlin TE, Perzanowski MS, Platts-Mills TAE. Evaluation of materials used for bedding encasement: effect of pore size in blocking cat and dust mite allergen. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999; 103:227-31.
** Data from an independent test performed by IBT Reference Labs. Lenexa, KS. July 2007.
^ Amount of allergen passed through the fabric is considered to be too small to measure.
Are Allergen Proof Bedding Encasings Comfortable?
If you or your child were diagnosed with allergies 15 years ago, you may have left the doctor's office confused by all the changes you would need to make to your home environment. Perhaps the doctor suggested "plastic covers" for your family's pillows, mattresses and box springs. After a few sticky, crinkly nights on your brand new plastic covers, you may have chosen to suffer with allergic symptoms in exchange for an encasing-free, night's sleep.
The scientific evidence supporting the benefits of encasings hasn't changed, but - fortunately for allergy sufferers - the technology used to make them has! Doctors still recommend zippered, allergen-proof encasings, but the choices and comfort levels available are better than ever before.
From our inception, National Allergy has been known as the nation's premier, doctor-recommended source for bedding encasings. The first zippered mattress and pillow encasings were often made from vinyl. The problem with vinyl was the lack of breathability, making sleep hot and uncomfortable. Today, membrane-free, barrier technology has made fabrics available that are soft, breathable (as seen in the chart above), lightweight and barely detectable on the bed.
Some of our readers may remember the earliest "improved" bedding encasings, such as those made from terry cloth bonded to thick vinyl. We also introduced a polyester "Tricot-knit" fabric bonded to vinyl that was more flexible than the first generation of materials. While those newer innovations offered more comfort and flexibility, encasing-users could only dream of what would be coming off of looms in the next decade.
About 10 years ago, National Allergy introduced new membrane technology called SatinSoft ClassicTM (now called BedCare Classic) for allergen-proof encasings. This product features a silky-soft knit polyester fabric that is bonded to an ultra-thin, very lightweight Comfortechr membrane made of polyurethane. The BedCare Classic bedding encasing is much cooler and more comfortable than thick vinyl yet still adds a degree of water resistance for those who want added protection for bedding. We still carry this time-honored favorite and guarantee its comfort and mite-blocking effectiveness in all our mattress and pillow encasings.
The latest generation of allergen-proof encasings are free of membranes altogether. SofTEK2 fabric, used to make BedCare Basics encasings, replaces our original SofTek non-woven fabric. BedCare Basics is a very popular economical choice for thousands of our customers. While it does not carry the lifetime warranty of our other BedCare encasing products, SofTEK2 is our most lightweight, inexpensive material. SofTEK2, which has a 10 year warranty, is a a high-tech, non-woven, microfiber fabric that is 70% polyester microfiber and 30% nylon. Non-woven fabric manufacturers employ technology that blows fibers from different angles, one on top of another, to create an impenetrable barrier to dust mites with maximum comfort for you. Non-woven materials are used in a variety of industries and professions from home furnishings to hospitals.
The BedCare Supreme, BedCare Ultra, and BedCare Elegance materials take membrane-free, barrier-weave technology to the next level. The image at right is BedCare Supreme magnified to show this barrier-weave technology. These woven allergen-proof encasings are offered with a lifetime guarantee against defects in materials and workmanship.
|Tip: If you'd like to completely replace older pillows rather than encase them, consider using our mite-proof pillows. They are made from the luxurious BedCare Supreme material which makes them mite-proof without the need for an encasing. Our customers are giving them rave reviews!|
Why are we so excited about the latest and greatest in encasing technology? Because it means our customers are sleeping better with more comfort and fewer dust mites than ever! Today, National Allergy still distributes heavy-duty, all-vinyl encasings, but these are recommended only for box springs.
The style and size choices available for encasings today can be confusing. All National Allergy encasings are made with rust-proof, zippered enclosures and reinforced seams to ensure complete quality and great protection. Here is a chart you can reference when making your next encasing purchase, or pass along to a friend or family member who suffers from allergies or asthma.
|Material||Polyester/nylon, Membrane-free, a non-woven||Polyester knit bonded to a polyurethane membrane||
Membrane-free, 100% woven polyester microfiber
|Membrane-free, 65/35 woven polyester/cotton||Membrane-free, 100% woven polyester microfiber fabric|
|Feel||Lightweight and breathable.||Silky, stretchable fabric bonded to an ultra-thin membrane.||Lightweight, incredibly soft and breathable.||Crisp, breathable, sheet-like.||Luxuriously soft, cool to the touch.|
|Cost Of A Standard Pillow Encasing||$5.99||$7.99||$9.99||$11.99||$17.99|
|Care||Machine washable||Machine washable||Machine washable||Machine washable||Machine washable|
|Ideal For...||Allergy and asthma sufferers, College students travelling, shams, guest bedrooms||Those who may desire the waterproof properties of the fabric.||Asthma sufferers, children's rooms, thick mattresses, gifts for family or friends.||Those desiring soft, sheet-like comfort. Master bed, thick mattresses.||When only the best will do. Exceptional comfort and construction.|
How Else Can I Have An "Allergy-Free" Bed?
There are a few other important steps you can take to make your sleep as allergy-free as possible. Since dust mites can still dwell in your sheets, blankets and extra pillows, wash them often, particularly in pollen season or if you have pets.
Studies show that washing fabrics at temperatures above 140øF every 1-2 weeks will kill the dust mites. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for child-safety reasons, water temperatures should be below 120øF. The best solution for eliminating dust mites and their allergen in your clothes and bedding without the wear and concern of extra-hot washings, is to wash in cold or warm water with a benzyl benzoate-based additive such as de-mite Laundry Additive. Benzyl benzoate is non-toxic and scientifically proven to kill mites. de-mite combines benzyl benzoate with tea tree oil as a subtly fragrant, effective weapon against house dust mites.
Unfortunately, not all blankets can be conveniently washed, and snuggling up to a fluffy comforter in the cold winter months could be a recipe for headaches and runny noses. Instead of having to replace your favorite comforter, you can seal it in a completely mite-proof barrier. National Allergy's comforter covers are made from the luxurious BedCare Supreme material and come in four colors.
If you have a fluffy down comforter with a removable duvet, the AllerZap Inner Liner is a lightweight option for healthier sleep. Made from the original SofTEK material with a 5 year warranty, the inner liner goes under your decorative cover to add life to your comforter and protect you and your family from dust mite allergen. Lightweight, inexpensive SofTEK2 allergy pillow covers are also ideal under decorative shams, or for use on hotel pillows when you travel!
This information is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.