Background Higher house dust mite (HDM) allergen exposure during infancy has been associated with increased HDM sensitization. Infant bedding has been associated with the accumulation of varying levels of HDM. Prospective data on the relationship between infant bedding and the development of HDM sensitization has not been previously examined.
Objectives To determine if particular types of bedding used in infancy are associated with increased risk of house dust mite sensitization in childhood.
Methods A population-based sample (n = 498) of children born in 1988 or 1989, and who were resident in Northern Tasmania in 1997, participated in this study. These children were part of a birth cohort study (1988–95), the Tasmanian Infant Health Survey. Data on infant underbedding and mattresses was available on 460 and 457 children, respectively. The main outcome measure was HDM sensitization defined as a skin prick test (SPT) reaction of 3 mm or more to the allergens of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and/or Dermatophagoides farinae.
Results The use of either sheepskin underbedding or plastic mattress covers in infancy was associated with an increased risk of sensitization to HDM allergens at age 8 years. The adjusted risk ratio (RR) for sensitization to HDM with sheepskin in infancy was 2.27 (95% CI: 1.14, 4.55), P = 0.020. The adjusted RR for sensitization to HDM with the use of plastic mattress covers in infancy was 2.06 (95% CI: 1.22, 3.51), P = 0.007. The use of a foam mattress in infancy was not related to subsequent HDM sensitization.
Conclusion Infant's bedding plays a role in the development of HDM sensitization in childhood. Intervention studies to examine mite allergen levels and the role of underbedding on the development of HDM sensitization are required.