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Experts recommend that children aged 6-10 get up to 12 hours of sleep for optimal physical and mental health. Children need up to 12 hours of shut-eye for optimal physical and mental health. But sometimes, allergies can disturb sleep.

For little ones who suffer from allergies, a runny nose or itchy skin could disturb these vital hours of sleep causing them to have restless nights.

According to Dr Thulja Trikamjee, a specialist paediatrician and certified allergist, allergy rates among children are increasing globally. External factors such as climate change, urbanisation and industrialisation exacerbate symptoms.

“In South Africa, food allergy occurs in around 2.5% of 1-3 year olds. This figure is much higher in children with moderate to severe eczema, who have food allergies in around 30-40% of cases. The prevalence of environmental allergies is much higher, and allergic rhinitis is thought to affect as many as 30-50% of individuals globally,” says Dr Trikamjee. She is also affiliated to the boards of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and World Allergy Organization.

Environmental allergies

Allergies to anything in the environment can result in disturbed sleep for both children and adults. If you are allergic, this triggers an inflammatory response in the upper respiratory tract. While sleeping, we tend to not be able to compensate for some of the congestion in our nostrils. This is why many people tend to snore or sleep with their mouths open. This alone can be very disruptive to sleep.

For more about diagnosing and treating allergies in children, read here

Microscopic culprits

“The main culprit of night time allergy is the house dust mite. They live in all our homes and love to make their own little environment in our mattresses,” says Dr Trikamjee. “People with pets indoors might also develop symptoms and reactions to dog, cat, parrot, cockroach and mouse allergen if there is exposure to these inside your home or bedroom.”  This leads to allergies that disturb sleep.

Microscopic relatives of spiders, dust mites graze on the dead skin cells of your family and pets. But just because they don’t bite to suck human blood like bed bugs do, doesn’t mean they’re harmless.

Dust mite droppings contain a protein that when inhaled or touched, causes allergy symptoms such as eczema, sneezing, itchy and runny noses, itchy eyes, and even asthma. While dust mite waste accumulates everywhere in your home, the highest concentration of this allergen can be found in beds, where warmth, moisture and an endless supply of dead skin cells create the perfect environment for massive mite colonies.

Here’s a nightmare-inducing fact: the average mattress harbours anywhere from 100 000 to 10 million mites. Pillows can be even more horrifying. Ten percent of the weight of a two-year-old pillow can be dust mites and their droppings, shed skin and carcasses.

“Constant exposure to an allergen that our body reacts to is not fun for anyone. It leaves a person with constantly itchy eyes, throat, nose and skin,” says Dr Trikamjee. “Studies have even linked uncontrolled allergies to poor school and work performance and bad driving.” Allergies certainly can disturb sleep.

Take action

However, Dr Trikamjee says that there are steps that parents can take to reduce potential triggers for their children.

  • Stuffed toys are big carriers of dust mites and allergists sometimes recommend freezing them to kill mites;
  • Regularly wipe hard surfaces in the bedroom with a damp cloth to remove dust;
  • Try to limit or not allow pets into the bedrooms or on the beds;
  • Carpets and curtains can have mites. Clean them regularly, or remove them.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, parents should ensure mattresses are kept as clean as possible.

“The mattress is the number one place that we consistently spend so many hours on, and it is therefore a huge trigger to people who are allergic to indoor allergens,” says Dr Trikamjee. She recommends Clean My Bed, an innovative new solution available to allergy sufferers in South Africa. It has sourced international technology and combined it in a unique product that has the Allergy Foundation of South Africa Seal of Approval (this approval is vital for consumers to look for when seeking products that make claims of helping or treating allergies).

Using a two-step process that involves a medical-grade HEPA 13 vacuum cleaner and a UVC (Germicidal Light), Clean My Bed is able to effectively remove dead skin cells, dust mites, dust mite fecal matter and other allergens such as pet dander.

Dr Trikamjee explains further: “Conventional cleaners and devices are unable to lift or remove allergens in our beds adequately due to the nature of the mites’ ability to stick to surfaces. The double engine and UV system that Clean My Bed offers removes dust with greater efficacy. Since dust mites live off dead skin cells, it decreases the environment conducive enough for the replication of more mites.

Removing dust mite fecal particles furthermore assists allergy sufferers as this is a major culprit in initiating allergic reactions.