Allergy to memory foam mattress: how to find out

Do you think you are allergic to memory foam? In this article about this material, from what the allergy and the most common symptoms arise.

Allergies cause great inconvenience to many people and it is not at all easy to identify the triggering cause. The reaction may be only a slight skin irritation, but sometimes the complaints are so severe that they affect physical well-being and quality of life.

The allergic reaction occurs when the immune system recognizes a substance, usually harmless, as a danger to the body and activates a response in order to eliminate it. In this article we will analyze if memory foam mattresses can cause allergies.

What are memory foam mattresses made of?

The basic material for making a memory foam mattress is polyurethane foam. Depending on the model, other materials are also added to improve comfort and breathability. Therefore it is possible to find products that incorporate layers of refreshing gel and latex or with wool or cotton filling.

However, viscoelastic foam is always wrapped in a coating that can contain natural or synthetic fibers or a mix of both. Furthermore, chemicals are often added to ensure adequate flame retardant properties in order to comply with current safety regulations.

As a result, we are often faced with a list of materials and chemicals that we are not familiar with and can raise doubts about possible health risks. In particular, the concerns relate to chemicals such as methylene aniline, vinylidene chloride and formaldehyde that we might find in memory foam mattresses.

Are polyurethane foam mattresses toxic?

Materials of synthetic origin are always surrounded by a certain skepticism and we often wonder, rightly, if they are safe for our health. Memory foam is certainly no exception given its composition with polymeric materials and other substances.

At one time the fears could have been justified but today, thanks to the technological levels reached and very strict safety regulations, we can rest assured. All the more so if we buy high-level products made by Italian companies that have been on the market for years.

Nor should we forget the numerous consumer protection certifications. For example, by purchasing a branded mattress we have the guarantee that the polyurethane foam has been produced respecting both environmental sustainability and high health safety standards.

How can a memory foam mattress cause allergic reactions?

Allergic reactions are triggered by multiple factors. A particular smell or the accumulation of dust can trigger a response from our immune system.

Likewise, certain substances present in a memory foam mattress represent potential dangers. Below we will talk about the most common triggers and how to intervene to mitigate or eventually eliminate the problem.


Especially when a memory foam mattress is new it can generate odors depending on the materials and chemicals present. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are formed which, spreading into the environment, can cause severe allergic reactions.

Technological development has led major manufacturers to eliminate the most dangerous and potentially toxic fumes. In any case, to sleep peacefully, suggest always choosing products made in the EU or the United States.

They represent countries where regulations are very strict and prohibit or limit the use of harmful substances such as formaldehyde and methylene chloride.

To reduce the problem of volatile organic compounds, it is necessary to leave the new mattress in the open air for at least 24 hours before placing it in the bedroom. Having a certain sensitivity and predisposition to allergies to certain substances, it is advisable to check the chemical composition of the materials during the purchase phase.

Alternatively we can opt for natural latex mattresses or other types that guarantee hypoallergenic properties. If, on the other hand, we have discovered that we have a mattress with allergic substances, we just have to replace it or use a mattress cover 100% cotton or other natural fabrics. The additional coating could act as a barrier and limit or completely eliminate the emission of organic compounds.


The powder is mostly composed of epithelial cells that detach from the skin. A person can lose up to 40,000 cells every hour. Dust mites find in these cells, accumulated on the surface of the pillow and mattress, an abundant source of nourishment to proliferate undisturbed.

As many will already know, the excretions of these microorganisms are often the cause that triggers allergic reactions. The immune system reacts upon contact with the substance by producing antibodies as if it were a common disease and causing symptoms such as redness, swelling of the eyes, profuse tearing, frequent sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, etc.

Can dust mites live in a memory foam bed?

In general, there is no material that prevents the proliferation of mites. Wherever they find nourishment, these microorganisms are able to live and reproduce. If anything, there are types of mattresses that limit the problem.

We often hear about how latex is a great solution for allergy sufferers. This is partly true thanks to the increased breathability which eliminates excess moisture and makes the environment less hospitable for dust mites. However, the epithelial cells still settle on the surface and attract microorganisms.

From this point of view there is not much difference between a memory foam mattress and a natural latex one, in both cases we must try to regularly clean the removable cover (if present) and vacuum the surface.

The situation changes for a spring model. The interior spaces created by the spring systems become a sort of welcoming home for the mites that can proliferate in complete freedom.

Regardless of the type of mattress, an effective solution to limit the problem is to use a hypoallergenic cover. Furthermore, let’s not forget to wash the cushion cover every 2/3 weeks and vacuum the surface daily.

Memory foam allergy symptoms

There are some symptoms that indicate a probable allergic reaction to substances contained in the memory foam.

Nose and eye irritation

Frequent sneezing, runny nose, intense watery eyes, as well as swollen and red eyes are all possible symptoms of an allergic reaction. Unfortunately they are also the signals that characterized many other common pathologies. Therefore it is not at all easy to understand immediately that you are struggling with an allergy. Most of the time we think we have a common cold or the onset of a flu syndrome.


Dizziness can be accompanied by nausea and headache or even fainting. Also in this case the cause is the presence of some substance dispersed in the domestic environment. If symptoms occur when we get close to the mattress or just in the bedroom it is very likely that the viscoelastic foam support is the culprit. Sometimes it is enough just to enter the house to feel dizzy and unwell, so it is very difficult to identify the responsible person in the newly purchased mattress.


The sense of discomfort in the stomach with possible retching may indicate the presence of an organic compound in the air that our immune system does not tolerate. Usually the symptom manifests itself within a very short time after the installation of the new mattress.

Skin rashes

They are a classic symptom of an allergic reaction. Contact with an irritant may be the cause, but it can often be the immune system’s response to dust mites.

Alternatives to memory foam

The memory foam mattress can be quite comfortable, however if there are problems of allergies to certain chemicals present, it is advisable to find an alternative.

The fastest and most effective way is to buy a model made of only hypoallergenic materials. A natural latex mattress is a valid solution, even if it does not protect you from any allergies to dust mites.

If the allergic reaction is not particularly strong, it may be sufficient to place a topper to insulate from direct contact with the viscoelastic foam layer.

In the same way, even the use of a mattress pad in organic latex or 100% natural fibers could create an effective barrier of protection from organic compounds and at the same time not compromise the quality of the support.


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