Feather-filled bedding triggered 'lung disease' in a man with allergies

A man suffered severe lung inflammation after "upgrading" his bedding. [Photo: Getty]

A man developed “lung disease” after sleeping on “luxurious” feather-filled bedding.

The unnamed 43-year-old battled fatigue and breathlessness for three months towards the end of 2016.

Barely able to stand, he was eventually referred to a hospital in Kirkcaldy in Fife, Scotland.

READ MORE: Air pollution ‘can exacerbate lung disease as much as daily pack of cigarettes’

After being quizzed by doctors, they discovered he recently “upgraded” his synthetic duvet and pillow for feather-filled bedding.

Blood tests led to him being diagnosed with “feather duvet lung” (FDL). This causes severe inflammation as a result of breathing in dust from duck or goose feathers in bedding.

After a course of steroids, the man was soon back to normal.

Doctors were concerned by the "mosaic pattern" in his lungs. [Photo: BMJ Case Reports]

FDL is a form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which occurs when the lungs launch an immune response against a substance you have breathed in, according to the British Lung Foundation.

This triggers inflammation of the lung tissue, leading to breathlessness and a worsening cough.

If left untreated, the lungs can become permanently scarred.

FDL specifically comes about from “inhalation of organic dust from duck or goose feathers in duvets and pillows”, the man’s doctors wrote in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

After initially going to his GP, his symptoms were dismissed as a simple lower respiratory tract infection, like flu.

Later that month, he was forced to take 14 days off work when his fatigue became too much to bear.

His GP took a blood test, which came back normal.

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“The lack of a diagnosis was extremely distressing”, the patient said.

“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 30 minute 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.”

By December, he was struggling to catch his breath while walking from room-to-room in his house.

The man was referred to Victoria Hospital, where doctors expressed concerns over a chest scan others had dismissed.

Upon questioning, he described his house as “warm and dry”.

He also explained how he had a cat and dog, but no pet birds, and just a small amount of mould above his en-suite.

When asked about his bedding, the man admitted to recently switching from synthetic fabrics to a more luxurious feather-filled alternative.

A blood test then revealed he was allergic to “avian precipitin”, a protein in bird droppings and feathers.

READ MORE: One man on life with lung disease

Once diagnosed, the man was told to throw out his bedding immediately.

He was then treated with a high dose of steroids for one month, which was gradually reduced over a year.

His symptoms improved “rapidly” within the first month, with him feeling “completely well” by month six.

“It doesn’t affect me at all now and my life is pretty much as it was before,” the man said.

The report’s authors are calling on doctors to ask patients with hypersensitivity pneumonitis about their bedding.

Feathered duvets are said to be increasingly popular, with 7.6 million sold in the UK in the first four months of 2015 alone, they wrote.

FDL’s prevalence is unclear. It is a form of “bird’s fancier lung”, which affects up to 20% of pigeon breeders, the report’s authors wrote.

FDL can take anywhere from three weeks to five years to materialise.

Most sufferers endure laboured breathing, as well as night sweats, dry cough, weight loss and fever.

The use of steroids is “debatable”, with studies showing up mixed results as to their effectiveness.

The man is expected to have still recovered, “perhaps less quickly”, by simply throwing away his bedding, the authors wrote.

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