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Down allergy & Down bags....
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Down allergy & Down bags.... on 04/19/2006 09:17:43 MDT Print View

I have a down allergy, down pillows, comforters, etc cause my eyes and throat to itch. I read on a manufacturers web site that down in sleeping bags should not be an issue due to it's high quality etc... Is there anyone out there who has a down allergy and is using a down bag?

Jeff Black
(thehikingdude) - F
Darn down on 04/19/2006 09:35:05 MDT Print View

I too have allergies to down. Recently I purchased a Montbell sleeping bag and haven't had any issues.

From their web site: MontBell chooses all gray goose down for its superior down-to-feather ratio. Then we gently rinse the feathers to rid them of allergy-causing dirt and dust.

I really can't speak to the overall comment of down bags in general. Maybe someone can chime in.

-the hiking dude

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Down allergy & Down bags.... on 04/19/2006 09:38:57 MDT Print View

Let me ask you a question.

Has your allergy been determined to actually be from the "down" (or oils left in the down), or is from the mold that sometimes grows inside of a down pillow, comforter, etc, possibly being "fed", so to speak, by sweat and oils, etc deposited on the outer surface and which sometimes makes it way through those fabrics?

Sure you wash the pillow cases and the linen covering for the down comforter often, but how about the down articles themselves?

Could this be the problem? It is for some people - i.e., mold spores, not the actual down.

Clearly, you're the best judge of this. Only mentioning it in case you haven't considered this possibility.

Anyways, just a thought. No need to feel obligated to reply, this is just for your own consideration.

I've heard of others, just recently in fact, who have had reaxtions with down sleeping bags also.

Dane Fliedner
(dfliedner) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: Down allergy & Down bags on 04/19/2006 10:13:54 MDT Print View

I actually am a pediatrician and work in an area (in Los Angeles) with a lot of asthma and allergies... my understanding is that the big issue with down is usually the dust mites which live in feathers and feed off shed skin cells. I once saw a photo of a down feather with a dye that "lit up" the dust mites-- much to my horror the entire feather was completely covered with mites. Disgusting! If it is a problem for you, it may be better to just go with synthetic materials. Otherwise, you will have to wash your down so frequently that you may ultimately destroy the down loft and alter the bag for the worse. Anyway, hope this helps.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Down allergy & Down bags on 04/19/2006 10:42:13 MDT Print View

Sure could be mites. They're everywhere (including the follicles of our eyelashes) and also a major contributor to pet allergies (mite *BEEP* apparently is one key component of animal dander).

If it is mites, and that's probably more likely than molds (read "molds" ~25yrs ago, but it was not a journal article, just a typical magazine article - so, how trustworthy??? Anyways, article contended this occurred after use and not initially, so, if true sounds like molds, but anyways - mites it is.)

....ok, if it is mites, then, a possible solution would be to "bomb" it.

Vets, pet stores, and supermarkets sell a very effective tri-valent bomb (several brands) - works on all arthropods:

tri-valent = a) contact poison, b) a long acting one that is carried back to "nest" (not applicable in this application), and c) a growth hormone inhibitor to break the life cycle.

Would need to greatly compress the bag and then set off the bomb and leave the area. The hope is that the expanding bag would draw some of the chemical laden air into its interior. Guess it all hangs on this last point - can enough air be drawn into the interior of the bag.

I've used these bombs in the house and no arthropods for 18mos. The gas seems to penetrate everywhere - closets, drawers, "knee walls", etc.

Would look into toxicity aspects, since one's face is going to be close to the bag - could wipe surface with a damp cloth. The last one we used, must had pretty low human/mammalian toxicity as there was no need to wash exposed home fixtures, linens or flat surfaces after "bombing", so might be 'ok'. Only food needed to be covered; not even plates, dishes, etc - even though cabinets were open during bombing. Also, label said it was NOT a problem for pets (in contact with and licking surfaces) or crawling infants. Worth looking into maybe?

Not sure how long before the mite allergens would break down though as the bombing is going to leave them in the bag. Also, not sure how the "washing" the bag Mfrs do before stuffing comes into play with removing the mites and their allergens.

Maybe more trouble than it's worth?

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Down allergies - plastic? on 04/19/2006 11:05:52 MDT Print View

I have severe allergies that got a lot better when I switched my old down comforter for a synthetic one. But I second the mites theory: my wool sweaters and down jacket are fine as long as they're recently washed. I don't know why the naturals seems to hold more mites or dust...

I have a new down backpacking quilt that I'm hoping to keep clean enough to use for a long time w/o washing. What do folks think would happen if I store it in a trash bag rathter than cotton sack?

Edited by johnbrown2005 on 04/19/2006 14:21:02 MDT.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Down allergies - plastic? on 04/19/2006 11:12:05 MDT Print View

>What do folks think would happen if I kept it in a trash bag rathter than cotton sack?

I think it wouldn't breathe very well. You might end up with condensation in the trash bag.

Edited by Otter on 04/19/2006 11:12:38 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Down allergies - plastic? on 04/19/2006 11:18:11 MDT Print View

>>"recently washed."

Sounds like it could be either molds or mites. Mold takes time to regrow, and mite eggs need to hatch and repopulate the down. It would be great if there was a wash-in growth hormone inhibitor. That way any eggs would not hatch and the life cycle would be broken.

If you know someone who works in a hospital or anywhere that there is a gas sterilization chamber used for when pressurized steam is inappropriate, you might get your bag sterilized. I'm having a senior moment, and i'm forgetting the gas we used to use (ethylene sometihing or other - i forget), that would take care of the mites, but I don't know about their eggs. Would the 250degF of a steam autoclave damage any materials used in a sleeping bag?

Sounds like there's a market for a product like this. Maybe even a natural botanical oil?

Edited by pj on 04/19/2006 11:25:04 MDT.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
store down in plastic on 04/19/2006 14:20:23 MDT Print View

Sorry, I meant what do you think would happen if I store the down bag in plastic trash bag so that it doesn't accumulate the household dust that seems to make me allergic...

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
It doesn't excist on 04/19/2006 14:30:44 MDT Print View


I have worked in an outdoor store for 5 years now and still have to meet the first person who is really allergic to down. Now i am not a doctor, but as far as i know down allergy doesn't excist.

The down in the high quality sleeping bags we buy/sell for outdoor use is first washed, removing all the alergens. This alergens usually are the stuff which is in the down. Mites and/or the oils. But both of these are washed out of the down.

Now if the shell of the sleeping bag is a microfibre instead of cotton (here in holland cotton is still used in sleeping bags [some people still think it is more comfortable]) this shell is so tightly woven that the skin particles we shed cannot penetrate. Thus there is no food for mites in the down and so they're not there. If an open fabric shell like coton is used there is something for mites to find in the down.

So i usually say to my customers it's ok to buy a down sleeping bag as long as it is high quality and it has a microfiber shell.

Again i'm not a doctor, but maybe you could try using a friends sleeping bag and see how it goes. If you still have problems please share. will be interseting to know.


paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: It doesn't excist on 04/19/2006 15:47:00 MDT Print View

What the Doc was saying was that it was bird mites, not human mites. Their food is remnants of fluids (blood, plasma, and serum) on the down, not the human skin cells. Fowl mites feed primarily on blood and fluids.

Don't know that washing down would get rid of 100% of the mites or blood. That said, if the down is washed well, how much microscopic remnants of blood could there be left on the down to support a large population of mites?

It's all very confusing to me concerning the mites - though mites and not molds, as I first posted, might be the major culprit. It is well known that mite *BEEP* are a major source of allergic reactions in humans, most notably, perhaps, pet allergies.

If it is mold spores, they could easily find their way through any fabric and any water vapor, sweat, or body oils, coupled with the down itself would provide sufficient nutrients for growth. Mold spores are also well known to elicit an allergic reaction in some people.

Guess we need a real expert here to set the record straight.

Edited by pj on 04/19/2006 15:50:34 MDT.

Dylan Skola
(phageghost) - F

Locale: Southern California
Sterilizing sleeping bags on 04/19/2006 17:39:59 MDT Print View

Ethylene oxide is pretty common and from what I understand wouldn't hurt anything in the bag. You would probably need a custom cycle to allow diffusion into such large dead volumes and that might be a sticking point (I'm guessing that hospital sterilizers have only preset, pre-validated cycles). I wouldn't expose any bag to 250 F steam, it tends to make plastics brittle (shell fabrics); I don't even want to think what it would do to the down.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
down not an issue for me on 04/19/2006 18:50:50 MDT Print View

According to the scratch tests, I'm allergic to down (I get shots every 3 weeks for the past 8 years). New cheap-o down pillows drive me crazy. Itchy throat within an hour or so.

Never had a single problem with my down bags. I have a WM MityLite and a Hungry Howie bag built using the kit.

They have to clean down so much just to get the 600+ fill ratings, there is probably nothing left behind to cause an issue.

Tom Smith
(masculist) - F
Killing Mites in Down on 03/05/2010 11:39:16 MST Print View

Aha, I think I found the answer here...

"Dust mites love down. So put down jackets, pillow and comforter in the dryer for 20 minutes on a moderate setting once a week. Heat kills mites and their eggs."

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Killing Mites in Down on 03/05/2010 14:37:47 MST Print View

> "Dust mites love down. So put down jackets, pillow and comforter in the dryer
> for 20 minutes on a moderate setting once a week. Heat kills mites and their eggs."

Some of this problem can be solved by resorting to sunshine. A clothes line in the sun ...


Patrick Matte
(JPMatte) - M

Locale: N. Georgia
Allergy sufferers on 03/06/2010 08:29:30 MST Print View

Allergy Relief Laundry Treatment PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator
Thursday, 07 May 2009 15:52

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This might help.e use the entire line with some of our clients. But the item listed at top is laundry specific.