Can't sleep because of sneezing and itchy eyes? It's the season: Tree and grass pollen counts are soaring across the U.S. right now;  and, due to global warming, allergy season is arriving earlier and lasting longer, according to Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment. Even if you're not situated in a geographical hot spot, according to the U.S. map at, you may be lying in one. That's right, the culprit may be that teeming nest of allergens created by your mattress, pillow and sheets, and, sorry, your cast-off skin cells. For what we shed is manna to microscopic dust mites, whose nano-droppings are one of the most potent allergens around. Warm, humid surroundings like your mattress, pillows and covers are mite heaven, which means hell for us.

The best way to free yourself of these pesky allergy triggers is to wash your bedding frequently, at least every two weeks, and to encase your mattress, mattress topper, pillows and comforter in a tightly woven, mite-proof barrier cloth (same principle as a comforter cover). Organic cotton is sometimes priced competitively with conventional cotton, and the choice is up to you and your pocketbook, but do in any event avoid encasements made of PVC vinyl, which is softened with toxic phthalates that are easily inhaled. The Centers for Disease control has expressed concern about our exposure to these hormone-disrupting chemicals, which are now found in all our bodies.

Below are some companies selling encasements and other bedding made of natural materials that are free of wrinkle- and stain-resistant fabric finishes containing formaldehyde and PFOS.

To monitor your local pollen counts, click here.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was moved to

Copyright Environ Press 2008