For years I have been alerting potential duvet customers to the possible side effects of using feather and down filled bedding. Of course I was aware that the dust produced by feathers and down can cause and exacerbate breathing difficulties but as it turns out, I have been under-estimating the extent of the damage that feather and duvet bedding can cause. Until now.
In an article published by the Guardian (18 November 2019), a team of doctors headed by Dr Owen Dempsey, a consultant chest physician at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, note that prolonged exposure to the feather dust from this bedding can result in irreversible scarring to the lungs of the user.
The authors call the condition of inflamed lungs “feather duvet lung” and it presents as chronic night sweats, a dry cough and shortness of breath. His point is that when patients go to their doctors with these symptoms, the health professionals typically ask about the patient’s home conditions such as the presence of pets, especially birds, but fail to explore what the patient’s bedding is filled with. And what an important omission! Think about it. As you snuggle under your duvet, tucking it around your neck and shoulders (close to your face) to keep warm as you settle down on your soft feather pillow. And there you stay all night breathing in, at point blank range, all the dust (and indeed the resultant dust mites!) that lurk in your feather/down bedding. No wonder people wake up with breathing difficulties, blocked sinuses and dull headaches.
Interestingly Dr Dempsey points out that there several hundred different types of hypersensitivity pneumonitis of which feather duvet lung is but one. Others intriguingly include farmer’s lung, bagpiper’s lung, paprika slicer’s lung and even mummy-handler’s lung. How curious! How many people nowadays handle mummies and how on earth does one slice paprika?
Paprika-sliced bagpipes aside, there is a very easy solution with respect to feather duvet lung. Allow the feather to waft away into the dustbin and move to wool bedding. Problem solved forever. If only all our medical conditions could be so easily remedied.