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Popular Buckwheat
Pillows May Trigger Allergy
Excerpt By E. J. Mundell, Reuter's Health

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters Health) - Though often touted as hypoallergenic, pillows containing buckwheat husks may be anything but a dream for some users.

"It's entirely possible that the buckwheat pillows themselves are causing people to have asthma or allergic rhinitis," said Dr. Stephen Fritz of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. He presented a case study here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, describing a patient who developed buckwheat allergy symptoms after pillow use.

Sales of the pillows--usually a cotton casing filled with thousands of dried brown buckwheat husks--have skyrocketed in the past few years. Manufacturers claim that the pillows conform better to the neck and head compared with standard feather pillows, providing users with better sleep and marked reductions in neck or back pain.

However, some users may not be quite so satisfied. Fritz and his colleague Dr. Bernard Gold describe the case of a 24-year-old man who came to them with worsening symptoms of both asthma and allergic rhinitis (runny, stuffy nose). After testing negative for allergies to a whole host of common triggers such as cat, dog, mold and dust mites, Fritz prescribed strong anti-asthma and allergy medications, which did little good.

Only when the patient mentioned that he had bought buckwheat pillows for himself and his girlfriend was he tested for buckwheat allergy. Testing positive, he got rid of the pillows "and his symptoms resolved in a couple days, which is quite phenomenal," Fritz told Reuters Health.

The Michigan researcher believes that allergists in the US may not be aware of the growing popularity of buckwheat pillows, or that buckwheat contains potent allergens. "Bakers can get occupational allergy from (inhaling) buckwheat flour," he explained. "We suspect that that was what was happening with our patient--there were buckwheat flour particles attached to the husks inside the pillow. He was inhaling them into his nose and respiratory system, his upper and lower airways."

Any manufacturer's claim that their buckwheat pillow is hypoallergenic needs to be taken with a grain of salt, Fritz added. "Many of them do claim that they are hypoallergenic, usually from the standpoint that they don't contain feathers, because some people are actually allergic to feathers." But users could still develop a reaction to buckwheat, he warned.

"I'm not saying they are not beneficial--I think some patients get a great deal of benefit from them," Fritz said. "But if they develop asthma or allergic rhinitis, they should go see their allergist about getting skin tested for buckwheat allergy."


Reference Source 89

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