​Is Your Child Allergic to Their Mattress?

Posted by Pam Johnson - Head of Buying on 31st Mar 2023

​Is Your Child Allergic to Their Mattress?

Childhood allergies can cause real stress for young families. Rashes, wheezing, sneezes and red eyes. They’re all signs of allergies in your little one and they can all cause sleepless nights and anxieties for parents who already have enough on their plate.

If your child’s symptoms are flaring up overnight, there’s a good chance that the source of the problem could be right there in their bed. We don’t like to think about it anymore than you do, trust us. But the fact of the matter is that a child’s bedroom, and especially their bed, can be chock full of allergens with the potential to cause worrying symptoms. Hold onto your hats (and your breakfast), ‘cause we’re talking mould, dust mites and even bed bugs.

But before you stride upstairs and chuck that mattress straight out of the window in abject horror, let’s chat. We’ll take a tour of common bedroom allergens. We’ll talk recognising common bedtime nasties and the symptoms they’re likely to cause. And, most importantly, we’ll guide you through getting rid of, and keeping out, bed bugs, mattress dust mites and other common sources of bed allergies.

Bedrooms, Mattresses, Bed Bugs and Childhood Allergies

Young girl in bed blowing her nose with a tissue. A teddy bear sits next to her.

Unfortunately our homes can be chock full of allergens. From the pets we live with to the foods we eat and the toiletries we use, the potential cause of an allergic reaction could be just about anywhere.

What is an allergy?

Most of us have experienced some sort of allergy. Whether it’s that awful reaction you had to a hair dye, an itchy spot caused by an insect bite or sting or the regular annoyance of hay fever.

But why do allergic reactions happen? In short, an allergic reaction is where your body reacts to something that's normally harmless like pollen, dust or animal fur. While for most of us allergens such as eggs or grass pollen cause no problems, for others, their body goes into overdrive, recognising these allergens as a threat and responding accordingly. Around one in four of us here in the UK will have an allergy at some point in their lives, usually in childhood. Fortunately for most people, the symptoms are relatively mild.

If you’re concerned about an allergy in your child be sure to contact their GP for confirmation and advice on how to combat the issue.

Children and allergies

It’s official, kids are more likely to have an allergy than adults (1). Some children will eventually outgrow their allergies and some will continue into adulthood. Either way, most will learn how to effectively deal with them, whether that’s through medication or avoiding the trigger.

According to research carried out by the USA’s CDC, while younger children are more likely to experience rash-like skin reactions, older kids tend to experience respiratory symptoms. Some allergies, especially food-based allergies, can reveal themselves as an upset tummy while others can cause tiredness, headaches and even moodiness.

Common allergies and their symptoms

  • Food allergies: these can cause wide ranging symptoms, from a mild stomach upset to a more severe and life threatening anaphylactic reaction. Milk, nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish and eggs are the foods most likely to cause a response. (2)
  • Pet allergies: a common misconception is that animal allergies are caused by hair or fur. Don’t go rushing to buy a budgie just yet. It’s actually pet dander (shed skin) or saliva that causes sneezing, congestion and red eyes. This means it’s not just dogs and cats that can be culprits. (3)
  • Latex allergies: up to 5% of people in the UK are thought to have a latex allergy(4) with children who are exposed to latex regularly more likely to develop a reaction. Latex allergy symptoms can range from mild rashes or sneezing to more severe anaphylactic symptoms.
  • Pollen allergies: pollen allergies, also known as hay fever, is common throughout the UK, with up to 49% of us reporting symptoms (5), which can include congestion, itchy eyes and sneezing.
  • Dust allergies: if dust triggers symptoms like sneezing and a runny nose you may be allergic to one or more of the components that make up household dust, including pet dander, pollen or mould. You may also be allergic to the dust mites that make their home in household dust.

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How to Deal With Bed Bugs

Man's arm placing sheets into a washing machine.

Some allergies can be triggered by bed bugs. But that doesn’t mean your child’s mattress is a total lost cause. Here’s how to figure out whether you have an infestation and, if so, how to get rid of bed bugs for good.

Checking for bed bugs

If you suspect your child’s bed might be home to bed bugs, there are a few signs to look out for to confirm.

The first indication that bed bugs might be afoot will usually be bites, fairly small and red or purplish in colour. Some people will have an allergic reaction to bed bug bites, causing swelling around the affected area as well as intense itchiness. Sometimes, but very rarely, bed bug bites can cause anaphylaxis. If your child is struggling to breathe, it’s vital to seek immediate medical attention by calling 999.

Measuring in at around 5mm in length bed bugs, or cimicidae, can be pretty hard to spot. Not to worry though, another sign can be spots of blood on bedding, caused by a squashed bug. You might even catch a glimpse of droppings, tiny brownish-yellow specks.

Bed bugs treatment

Pretty certain your little one has been nibbled by bed bugs? Your first job is to keep those bites clean and soothed. As with any bite, it’s important not to scratch or pick, no matter how itchy. And while older kids might understand the importance of this, you may need to keep a closer eye on small children who can’t resist the urge.

To help soothe itchy, irritated skin, place a cool flannel on the area or try dabbing with calamine lotion, a cooling pink liquid available from your local pharmacist. A pharmacist may also be able to help out with lotions or tablets for children who are too itchy to sleep or who have had a more severe localised reaction.

Keeping cimicidae at bay

Your child’s mattress is not necessarily a lost cause. Here are a few things you can do to help banish bed bugs effectively:

  • Wash bedding at a high temperature –at least 60°C- and tumble dry on hot for at least half an hour
  • After washing, shove bedding in a plastic bag to be kept in the freezer for a minimum of three days
  • Hit the cleaning and vacuuming hard, focusing on the mattress, bed frame, headboard, carpets and skirting boards. A steam cleaner can be a great help here
  • Check and re-clean every seven days to be sure you’ve totally wiped out the lot

If these steps seem fruitless, there are chemical options you can try. However, many chemical sprays carry risks, especially to young children. Essential oils, such as thymol, citronella and geraniol, may be a more natural alternative, but these should also be used with care and under the advice of an expert.

Once your bed bug problem is under control, take measures to prevent reinfestation, including using a mattress protector and regularly cleaning mattresses and bedding throughout the house.

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Mattress Dust Mites and Allergies

A common cause of home-based minor allergies, dust mites can be found all over the house but are particularly fond of the warm, cosy interior of an unprotected mattress. Dust mites aren’t visible to the naked eye, however that doesn’t mean that you won’t know that they’re there.

Are bed bugs and dust mites the same thing?

Dust mites and bed bugs are two very different things, which unfortunately means you could have double the demons to deal with.

Microscopic mites that love hanging about in dusty spots, dust mites are a member of the spider family. They feed on shed human skin and leave an inordinate number of droppings in comparison to their body size.

Fortunately dust mites don’t bite but they can nonetheless cause allergic symptoms. And believe it or not, it’s the protein in those abundant droppings that most people react to, with asthmatics in particular at risk of a reaction.

Dust mites love nothing more than a good mattress, with the average double bed playing host to up to ten million of them at a time (6).

Are mattress dust mites the problem?

So how do you know if dust mites living in their mattress are the cause of your child’s allergies? The fact of the matter is, you probably don’t. However, dust mites are such a common cause of the immune reaction we normally think of as a dust allergy that it can be a pretty safe bet that they’re at the root of a snuffly nose, scratchy throat, itchy skin, red eyes, coughs and sneezes.

To confirm that your child’s allergy is what you think it is, be sure to pay a visit to their GP who can carry out a skin or blood test. This is especially important to do if your son or daughter is experiencing wheezing and asthma-like symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest tightness.

You May Also Like: Is Bacteria in Your Bed?

Getting rid of mattress dust mites

Positive dust mites are the problem? While it’s almost impossible to get rid of them entirely minimising the impact of mites on your life is totally doable.

Because they feed on the dead skin that comprises up to half of household dust, the best way to combat dust mites is, of course, to get rid of dust. Dust loves to collect in soft furnishings and fabrics, and so it’s vital to regularly clean your child’s bedding and vacuum their mattress. You should also run a damp cloth over bedsteads and hard furnishings. If a dust mite allergy is particularly problematic, you may choose to take up carpets and swap fabric curtains for wooden or plastic blinds.

As with bed bugs, prevention is always better than cure. Protecting a child from both critters can be as easy as using a high quality mattress cover. Creating a barrier between your little one and the mattress while also starving mites of their favourite food, a mattress protector is an affordable way to create a more hygienic sleeping surface. Bed bugs are called this as they choose to live in beds rather than this is where they begin their lives, and the culprit can often be found to be food. In fact – the mattress-making process would make it impossible for bed bugs to arrive in a new mattress. So, if you’re a fan of eating in bed, you may want to rethink this habit!

Does Your Child Need a Hypoallergenic Mattress?

Jay-Be Graffiti Art E-Sprung Mattress

Jay-Be Graffiti Art E-Sprung Mattress

Whether your child’s allergies are triggered by dust, bugs or by something else, choosing the right mattress for them and looking after it well is a must. But where do you start when it comes to choosing your little one’s mattress? And is hypoallergenic the right way to go?

Mattress materials and allergies

People can be allergic to pretty much anything, it’s just a fact of life. And that includes materials commonly used in mattress construction:

  • Latex: many modern mattresses contain latex. It’s a great choice for comfort and pressure relief but should, of course, never be chosen by those with an allergy to rubber tree sap
  • Wool: some people react negatively to the lanolin in wool. It’s a rare but very real allergy that could preclude you or your child from sleeping on a mattress made using wool stuffing
  • Isocyanate: specific chemicals used in mattress making can cause an allergic reaction too. One of the most regularly cited is isocyanate. Causing nausea, headaches and asthma-like symptoms, this chemical is sometimes used in mattress foam

The best anti-allergy mattress for kids

So what’s the very best way to protect your child from mattress-bound allergies? An anti-allergy mattress can give you the peace of mind you need that they’re sleeping safely as well as soundly.

The  Jay-Be Graffiti Art E-Sprung Mattress is created especially for children and uses hypoallergenic materials to reduce the risk of allergic reactions.

Caring for a bed to minimise allergies

Whether new or old, there are ways to minimise the allergy risk posed by a mattress. As well as using a mattress protector, cleaning bedding regularly is a must. This includes duvets and pillows which can be professionally cleaned or, in some cases, machine washed. Pillows should also be regularly replaced and mattress covers cleaned according to instructions.

Mould can be another cause of allergic reactions in the home. But did you know that it’s not only bathrooms at risk? Mattresses can be prone to mould growth too. This is why it’s so important to clean spills and leaks immediately as they happen and to ensure that mattresses are regularly aired by stripping back bedding, opening windows and letting good old fresh air do its thing.

From Hypoallergenic Mattresses to Bed Bug Advice at Bensons for Beds

We at Bensons for Beds know that you only want the very best for your family. And the very best means no microscopic creepy crawlies, deep down dust and other allergy causing unpleasantness. That’s why we’re as well informed about the problems that can be caused by a mattress as we are about all their great features and comfy benefits.

Whether online, over the phone or in one of our high street stores, we can help you to choose the best mattress for your child. We’re also on hand with help and advice on the very best products to make an existing bed better for your much loved little one, from anti-allergy mattress protectors to the best bedding to minimise the risk of sniffles and tickly noses.

Of course it’s not just the smallest member of the family we’re here for. From adjustable beds for the elderly or less mobile to wardrobes to help couples declutter, we’ve got the lot. And we won’t just help you to choose the best products from our wide and varied range. We’re also ready and raring to help you deal with the practicalities of your new buys. From sensible finance options, including the opportunity to pay in three with Klarna, to affordable home delivery options, we make furnishing your bedroom, or your child’s room, easy. We’ll even remove that problematic old mattress and recycle it so you don’t have to deal with it for a moment longer than you need to.

For more advice or to place your order simply shop online, drop into your nearest Bensons for Beds store or give our friendly team a call on 0808 144 6160.

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(1) Allergy in Children - BSACI

(2) Food allergy - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

(3) Pet_Allergy_original.pdf (leedsth.nhs.uk)

(4)  Latex allergy | Great Ormond Street Hospital (gosh.nhs.uk)

(5)  Hay Fever | Allergy UK | National Charity

(6)  Dust Mites | Size, Facts & Life Cycle | Study.com

authors profile
Pam Johnson
Head of Buying
Pam has worked within Bensons for Beds for 16 years and has a great deal of experience in both developing and sourcing new product ranges. As Head of Buying specialising in mattresses, divans and headboards, Pam is dedicated to providing solutions that help customers to get a great night’s sleep.
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