| Popular Buckwheat
Pillows May Trigger Allergy
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
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