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Bed Covers Ease Allergies? No

The Early Show, The Early Show Medical Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports. Harry Smith
CBS/The Early Show
Bed and pillow covers designed to prevent exposure to dust mites have been recommended for several years now as a way to prevent asthma and allergies.

The covers are quite expensive, selling for $50 to $100 in this country, and marketed as a way to help sensitive individuals reduce the risk of allergic reactions.

But two new studies in the New England Journal Of Medicine find that these covers really don't provide the kind of protection we had all assumed they did. The Early Show Medical Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports.

The first study looked at adults with asthma. Some used the bed covers and some did not. In the end, there was no improvement in asthma in either group. In a second study, some people who were allergic to dust mites were given the mattress covers and some weren't. The researchers did find the covers decreased the dust mites, but not enough to improve symptoms at all.

Today's research shows that it really isn't enough to just go out and buy these covers. What it is saying is that you can't use these as a single weapon to reduce dust mites in the home.

Dust avoidance strategy
The bed covers must be used as part of a more comprehensive plan which includes eliminating carpets and reducing upholstered furniture, reducing dust-attracting clutter, and hot washing bedding and soft toys.

The reason that the covers are ineffective by themselves may be because there are so many other sources of dust. Patients must be far more aggressive at removing other sources of dust and dust mites.

First, says Senay, you need to talk to a doctor or an allergist and find out exactly what you're allergic to. The covers will not help you unless you know you're allergic to dust mites.

And if you are, the bottom line is that using bed and pillow covers as a routine part of the treatment is not worth the price without a more coordinated effort to reduce dust in the home.