Dust mites are microscopic eight-legged creatures in the family of arachnids. People who are allergic to dust mites react to proteins within the bodies and feces of the mites which are found mostly in pillows, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. These particles float in the air when anyone vacuums, walks on a carpet or disturbs the bedding. Mites eat particles of skin and dander and thrive in places where there are people and animals. Having dust mites does NOT mean that you have a dirty house!!
Tips For Reducing Dust Mites:
- Encase mattresses, box springs, duvet covers and pillows with "mite-proof" covers.
- Wash all bed linens regularly (at least weekly) using hot water and dry in a hot dryer
- If possible, replace carpets with hard flooring. Throw rugs may be used if they are regularly washed or dry cleaned.
- Minimize upholstered furniture or replace with plastic or leather furniture.
- Minimized dust collecting objects (stuffed animals or decorative pillows) Soft toys can be frozen (for 16 hours) or placed in a hot tumble dryer (maximum heat setting) for one hour which will reduce dust mite levels by 90% or greater.
- Replace curtains with blinds
- Reduce indoor humidity if possible (ideally to less than 55%) and use air conditioning. Dust mites require humidity to survive. Do not use a vaporizer or humidifier. Use vent fans when cooking or in bathrooms to remove moisture.
For carpeting and rugs, use a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter or double-layered bag. It is preferable to have someone else vacuum, dust or sweep or to wear a dust mask (N95 filter mask). Stay out of the room after vacuuming for 2-3 hours and don’t clean at nighttime.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF DUST MTIE ALLERGY
- Repeated sneezing upon waking
- Worsening of symptoms when making the bed
- Feeling better when outside of the house
- Persistently stuffy nose or ears
Dust mites, which are related to ticks and spiders, are invisible to the human eye. Researchers discovered that dust mite allergies are not caused by the mite itself but by a substance in the feces of the mite. A single gram of dust may contain as many as 250,000 dust mite excreta.
Dust mites require warmth and humidity to reproduce. They feast on skin flakes shed by humans. In order to avoid light, they burrow deep into carpets and bedding where the highest number of mites can be found. They also thrive in curtains and upholstered furniture.
HOW TO CONTROL DUST MITES IN THE HOME
- Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in dust-proof covers
- Wash bedding in very hot water every 7 to 10 days
- Replace bedroom carpeting with vinyl or hardwood floors
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter system
Dust mites are microscopic insect-like creatures which are present in the home during all times of the year. Their main food source is human dander (dead skin flakes). The fecal material excreted by the dust mites is the actual allergenic substance. They tend to thrive during times of high humidity and in areas of the home where human dander is present in large amounts. Thus, dust mites are found in the greatest numbers in the bedroom, upholstered furniture, stuffed toys and carpeting. Symptoms of dust mite allergy are most often present year round, but usually worsen in the winter months. Symptoms of dust mite allergy may involve the upper airway (nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose), lower airway (cough, wheeze, shortness of breath), eyes (itching and redness) or skin (eczema).
It is quite important for dust mite allergic individuals to practice dust mite avoidance within the home. Medications or immunotherapy (allergy shots) should not be thought of as replacements for avoidance measures. There are many ways to decrease the numbers of dust mites within the home, including bedding encasements, humidity control and others listed below.
Mattresses, box springs, comforters and pillows should be encased in zippered plastic or special allergen-proof fabric covers. They are not needed for waterbed mattresses which contain no stuffing materials. Theses covers may be purchased at specialty stores or by special order from several reputable companies. For your convenience, our office provides ordering information from several sources. Bedding materials should be washed in hot water (greater than 130 degrees F) every one to two weeks.
In addition, the humidity level within your home should be kept at or below 50%. Humidifiers should not be used, and dehumidifiers may be necessary to maintain this level. Carpet shampooing is not recommended, as the residual moisture may promote dust mite growth. Carpet cleaning by a dry process, such as “Chemdry”, is a better choice.
Wall-to-wall carpeting should be kept to a minimum, as should large area rugs (unless they can be washed or dry cleaned regularly). Weekly vacuuming is essential in carpeted areas, and is best accomplished with a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner. Whenever possible, the mite-allergic individual should not be doing the housecleaning, or should wear a mask during the process. HEPA room filters, while helpful for other allergens, have not been proven effective in dust mite control. Ventilation duct cleaning has not been proven helpful either.
Nonessential books, toys and clothing should be put away in drawers or closed cabinets. Stuffed animals should be washed weekly and not be kept on the bed. Those that cannot be washed may be placed in a freezer overnight and then thoroughly vacuumed and dried. Pesticides specifically marketed for dust mite control offer only temporary relief, and have led to upper and lower airway irritation (worsening or nasal and asthma symptoms), and thus are not recommended.
Last updated : 2/10/2023