Doctors have warned of a risk of "feather duvet lung", a lung inflammation condition caused by breathing in dust from feather bedding, after a man suffered a severe allergic reaction to his duvet and pillows.
The report published in the BMJ looks at the case of 43-year-old Martin Taylor, a non-smoker who went to his GP after suffering with breathlessness and fatigue for a period of three months. His symptoms were initially thought to be a lower respiratory tract infection, but after an initial improvement later worsened, which led to the patient being signed off work.
"There was a rapid decline in my health and the lack of a diagnosis after four appointments at the GP surgery was extremely distressing at the time," Taylor said. "Two months after the onset of the symptoms, I was unable to stand or walk for more than a few minutes at a time without feeling like I was going to pass out. Going upstairs to bed was a 30min activity as I could only manage two stairs at a time and then needed to sit and rest. I was signed off work and spent most of the time asleep (day and night)."
Having been referred to respiratory specialists, blood tests showed he had hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a lung inflammation condition. On further investigation, they discovered he had recently swapped his synthetic bedding for a duvet and pillows containing feathers. The doctors diagnosed him with "feather duvet lung", a condition caused by the inhalation of organic dust from duck or goose feathers in duvets or pillows which they explain is a rare subgroup of "bird fancier’s lung", the most common type of HP.
"Healthcare professionals are typically taught to ask patients with respiratory symptoms whether they have pets at home, such as birds, but in the authors’ experience, history taking does not usually extend to asking about feather exposure in duvets and pillows," the authors of the case report wrote. "This is an important omission since the use of feather, rather than synthetic, bedding is common. During the last half century, feathers stuffed linens have increased massively in popularity in the UK."
Taylor was advised to get rid of his feather bedding and was treated with a course of steroids to calm the inflammation – his symptoms began to improve rapidly, and he felt completely well again within six months.
The authors note that it is not known how common feather duvet lung is because it is often missed as doctors rarely ask patients about feather bedding. They add that repeated exposure to the culprit trigger in HP can cause irreversible scarring of the lung tissue, so it's important to identify the condition quickly.