- A new BMJ case report delves into the story of a 43-year-old man who started feeling incredibly ill after buying a feather duvet and pillows.
- He reported feeling fatigued, breathless, and sick for three months, and doctors initially misdiagnosed him with a respiratory tract infection.
- The man actually had hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a disease where the lungs become inflamed due to an allergic reaction. More specifically, he had “feather duvet lung,” a serious form of bird allergy that causes difficulty breathing.
When you invest in new bedding, it’s natural to assume it will only make your life better. But a new BMJ case report delves into the story of a 43-year-old man who started feeling incredibly sick after buying a feather duvet and pillows.
The man went to the doctor after feeling fatigued, breathless, and sick for three months, and was diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection. His symptoms improved for a bit, but then came back later that month. At that point, they got so bad that he needed to take two weeks off from work.
A month after he saw his doctor, the man’s breathlessness got even worse. His initial blood tests and chest X-ray seemed normal, but he was having trouble breathing just walking between rooms in his house. His doctor consulted a specialist, and took a closer look at certain aspects of his lifestyle. Among other things, the man was a non-smoker, he had a small amount of mold in his bathroom shower, owned a cat and dog, and had recently swapped out his bedding for a feather duvet and feather pillows.
But follow-up blood work found something interesting: The man was exposed to avian protein, which is found in birds—but he didn’t own any birds. His doctor did a little digging and diagnosed him with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a disease where the lungs become inflamed due to an allergic reaction. More specifically, the man had feather duvet lung, a serious form of bird allergy that causes difficulty breathing that can worsen over time with a dry cough, weight loss, and fever.
Wait, is this kind of reaction common?
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is incredibly rare, and it only happens in about two out of every 100,000 people, says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist/immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network. “It is not extremely common, but can be deadly if not addressed,” she says.
Still, it’s also common for people to have an allergy to something they don’t realize, Dr. Parikh says. “Usually allergies are under-diagnosed and many times both patients and physicians don’t realize they can present in various ways with varying severity,” she says.
People usually think of symptoms like coughing and trouble breathing with allergies, but they can also lead to feeling lightheaded and dizzy, like this man experienced. “The dizziness occurs from inadequate oxygenation to your brain,” Dr. Parikh explains.
If you’re dealing with breathlessness or a cough that won’t quit, Dr. Parikh says you should get it checked out ASAP—especially if you’re dealing with this for more than three to five days. “Cough is the most common sign of asthma or any lung condition,” she says. “If you have breathlessness, that means it has become even more serious.”
Getting deathly ill from your duvet is rare, but Dr. Parikh says it’s still a good idea to avoid feather or down comforters if you struggle with allergies, just to be safe.
As for the man in the case report? He swapped his feather duvet with hypoallergenic bedding and was treated with oral corticosteroids. His symptoms “improved rapidly” within the first month of his treatment (even before he started the medication) and he was “completely well” six months after his diagnosis. The patient also wrote in the case report that his condition “doesn’t affect me at all now and my life is pretty much as it was before.”
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