This Man's Lungs Became Inflamed After Switching His Bedding—Here's Why


Feather bedding can add an extra layer of warmth and comfort to your bed — especially during the winter months. But according to a new case study, feather-filled comforters may not be for everyone.

The new report, published Monday in BMJ Case Reports, highlights the case of a 43-year-old, non-smoking man who had been experiencing “malaise, fatigue, and breathlessness” for three months. He went to his physician, who diagnosed him with a lower respiratory tract infection. He seemed to feel better after the diagnosis; however, within a few weeks his symptoms worsened.

“Going upstairs to bed was a 30 min[ute] activity as I could only manage two stairs at a time and then needed to sit and rest," he said in the case report. "I was signed off work and spent most of the time asleep."

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The man returned to the doctor and after chest X-ray and CT scan, medical experts noticed severe inflammation in his lungs. In order to determine the source of his allergy, doctors asked him about his lifestyle and any recent changes. While he didn’t own any birds, he mentioned that he had recently gotten a new feather duvet and feather pillows to replace synthetic bedding.

After conducting blood tests, doctors discovered his blood avian precipitins were strongly positive, meaning that he had developed antibodies to a compound he was breathing in from his bedding. Doctors then diagnosed him with “feather duvet lung.”

What exactly is feather duvet lung and how common is it?

According to the case report, feather duvet lung is a type of hypersensitive pneumonitis (HP), an extremely sensitive reaction of the body's immune response to an outside trigger—in this case, organic dust from feathers—that causes inflammation in the lung's air sacs and airways.

While feather duvet lung isn’t very common, there have been a handful of cases reported over the years, according to a 2010 paper in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology.

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What are the symptoms of feather duvet lung and how is it diagnosed?

Unfortunately, symptoms are non-specific and can occur hours after exposure, or take years. They can range from systemic malaise and influenza-like symptoms— like night sweats, dry cough, weight loss and fever— through to acute breathlessness occurring four to eight hours following feather antigen exposure. “It is therefore entirely probable that cases of FDL are missed, or at best, diagnosed late,” reads the case study.

Because of its “heterogeneous and non-specific presentation” it can be difficult to diagnose. Researchers pointed out that in the case of patients with respiratory symptoms, physicians are advised to ask them about any pets they have at home, but not feather exposure. Therefore, while a blood test is the best way to diagnose it, it is crucial that health care providers “take really detailed histories” of their patients to get to the root of the allergy.

What is the treatment for feather duvet lung?

According to the case study, simply removing the feather bedding from the man’s bed cleared up his symptoms quickly. “His symptoms improved rapidly within the first month, even before starting oral corticosteroids,” wrote researchers. “By 6 months, he felt completely well.”

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