“There are a couple different ways that mattresses can contribute to allergies,” explains allergist Anjuli Mehrotra, MD. “You could be allergic to dust mites or even mold, mildew, or pet dander that can accumulate in a mattress. Or, you could react to the materials the mattress is made from.”
Allergy specialist Morris Nejat, MD, agrees that, while some people are allergic to the materials of the mattress itself, allergens can accumulate over time. “Mattresses typically cause allergies when allergens from the air get trapped inside,” says Nejat. So, if you’re experiencing a new reaction to an older mattress, it may be time for a fresh start.
While allergic reactions vary from person to person, there are a few common allergy instigators to look out for in a mattress.
Dust mites: “Dust mites are microscopic mites that live in house dust and live off of dead human skin. Some individuals are allergic to their feces,” explains Nejat.
Material allergens: Latex is a popular mattress material for its buoyant support, and antimicrobial and sustainable properties. Unfortunately, some folks have a latex allergy, which can make these mattresses unsuitable for sleeping. “Latex is a growing allergen that can cause reactions such as hives, rashes, and difficulty breathing and may be more severe than the reactions caused by dust mites,” says Mehrotra. Wool is another common material found in natural mattresses that can be problematic for folks with an allergic aversion.
Mold, mildew, or pet dander: Mold and mildew can collect in a mattress, especially in warmer climates. Pet dander, on the other hand, is an issue if you have a pet allergy and are sleeping somewhere with pets.
Synthetic materials & VOCs: Synthetic materials are particularly triggering in folks with asthma, but can cause skin irritations as well. “People with asthma may also react to VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds that can off-gas from certain mattresses,” Mehrotra adds. “It can help to find mattresses with less off-gassing with less VOC exposure.”