Richard G. Petty, MD

Fungal Contamination of Pillows

I recently came across a study from colleagues at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, that was published in the journal Allergy.

Fungal contamination of bedding was first studied seventy years ago, but there have been no reports in the last seventy years. In this new study, researchers sampled ten pillows with between 1.5 and 20 years of regular use. Each pillow was found to contain a substantial fungal load, with four to 16 different species being identified per sample and even higher numbers found in synthetic pillows. One of the most worrying things was that the microscopic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus was particularly common in synthetic pillows. And fungi as diverse as bread and vine moulds and those usually found on damp walls and in showers were also found in the pillows. Aspergillus is a very common fungus, carried in the air as well as being found in cellars, household plant pots, compost, computers and ground pepper and spices. I have treated many people with invasive Aspergillosis, a sometimes nasty illness that occurs mainly in the lungs and sinuses, although it can spread to other organs including the brain. It can be very difficult to treat, and as many as 1 in 25 patients who die in modern European teaching hospitals have the disease. In France and Germany, this is one of the occasions when unorthodox medicine is often used at the same time as high doses of antibiotics: proper integrated medicine.

Aspergillosis is a particular problem in people with compromised immune systems. Hospital pillows have plastic covers and so are unlikely to cause problems, but patients being discharged home – where pillows may be old and fungus-infected – could be at risk of infection. Aspergillus can also worsen asthma, particularly in adults who have had asthma for many years, and it can cause allergic sinusitis in patients with allergic tendencies. Constant exposure to fungus in bed could be problematic.

The moral of this story is be extra aware that pillows may harbor fungi that can cause or exacerbate allergies and more serious problems in people with other illnesses. If you have allergies, it is best to use foam rather than feather pillows. If you have synthetic pillows, wash them regularly in warm water and with a non-allergenic detergent. Dip the pillow one small section at a time in the solution and squeeze through the pillow. Once the pillow is clean, rinse it out at least three times to remove all of the soap and residue. Then lie the pillow out flat to dry, and turn it frequently. To fluff the pillow, take a couple of tennis balls and put them in the dryer with the pillow and air dry for about 30 minutes.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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