Dust Mite Allergen Information
How To Rid Your Home Of Dust Mites & Their Allergen
Dust Mites - A Common Enemy
There are over 60 million allergy sufferers in the United States, and millions of us are sensitive to dust mite allergen. Dust Mite allergy is a common trigger for eczema, sinus problems, and asthma. I have taken steps to reduce dust mite allergen in my home, and recent research indicates that controlling home allergens may have more impact than I imagined. A recent study in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology showed that timely asthma-prevention measures, including controlling a child's exposure to allergens, when a child is still in infancy may help prevent asthma in later childhood. In fact, many asthma management specialists believe dust mite reduction in the home is so important, they supply patients with free bedding encasings so they can manage their asthma by limiting their allergen exposure.
To really encourage you to get on board with a dust-reduced household, you can view a short movie of magnified dust mites in action!
Dispelling Dust Mite Myths
Before showing you how to reduce dust mites and their allergen from your home, I want to address some common misconceptions about dust mite allergy.
- "I'm allergic to dust mites." - Not exactly. You are actually allergic to dust mites' "allergen", not the mites themselves. Dust mite allergen is primarily their fecal matter that contains the protein that our bodies react to when we come in contact with it. Different dust mite treatments are available that deal with different aspects of the dust mite problem, including killing the mites themselves (thereby reducing the allergen they produce), and breaking down their waste matter so it has no allergenic effect.
- "My house seems to breed 'dust-bunnies'.it must be full of dust mites!" - Not necessarily true. The truth is that you won't find live dust mites living in the dust on your bookshelf or in that dust bunny that hides in the corners of your hardwood floors. Dust mites just can't survive on the surface of things; they need to burrow deep into bedding, upholstery, and carpeting. So while, lots of settled dust may indicate a prevalence of mites, cleanliness isn't a hard and fast measure of allergen-control!
- "My air purifier will kill the mites." - Not true. A number of air purifier companies have gone on record saying that HEPA room air cleaners are effective at catching and trapping dust mites - as if they fly. Mites don't fly and are not likely to even come into contact with a HEPA air cleaner. When stirred up by traffic or air movement, the allergenic waste particles of dust mites can be trapped by HEPA filters. However, because dust settles back down quickly when stirred up, we recommend HEPA air cleaners especially for those sensitive to airborne allergens like mold, pollen and animal dander.
- "Having my ducts cleaned should take care of the dust mites in my home." - Not true. Companies that want to sell you their duct cleaning service may perpetuate this myth. A small amount of the dust mite allergen that becomes airborne could settle in your ductwork, but ducts are far from the humid, fibrous environments where the mites live and produce their allergenic waste.
- "I think that dust mites may be biting me." - Not possible. There is no such thing as dust mite bites because dust mites are far too small to bite humans, but skin reactions to dust mite allergen may result. Dust mite waste and others allergens can trigger a reaction known as atopic dermatitis, a type of skin rash. You should see a doctor if this is a persistent condition. The appearance of dust mite bites may also come from "bed bugs." While still fairly uncommon, this new kind of pest has been popping up in some hotels and homes and may cause small bites on the skin. Bed bugs are bigger than dust mites - they can be seen with the naked eye - but they are not allergenic. They love the same, warm, humid environments that dust mites do, often hiding out in bedding. The good news is that using mite-proof encasings will also inhibit bed bugs. This Fact Sheet will tell you just about everything you might want to know about bed bugs including what control measures to take.
What Dust Mites Love
I like to believe that dust mites are the opposite from me - they thrive in warm, humid, cramped environments. I much prefer cool, dry, mountain air, in part because my allergies aren't as bad there! That said, I live in Atlanta, Georgia, an often cramped, warm, humid environment, so dust mites are a fact of life, especially in our summers.
Many people do not realize how much controlling humidity can affect a home's dust mite populations. Since dust mites are composed of 80% water and they absorb the water that they need from the air, prolonged relative humidity below 45% will slow dust mite growth until the population is eventually eradicated. Running the air conditioning can help to make homes less hospitable to dust mites, as well as mold, by lowering the temperature and humidity. For more extreme humidity, there is no better solution that National Allergy has found than a Soleus Dehumidifier.
I must confess that dust mites and I do share an affinity for cushy carpeting and a warm cozy bed. My husband and I have very little carpet in our home, but what rugs and carpet we do have, I try to vacuum regularly with our HEPA Vacuum. And to keep our bed comfortable, while making it unlivable for dust mites, we use tightly woven allergen-barrier covers for our pillows and mattresses. National Allergy has several woven materials like BedCare Elegance, BedCare Supreme, and BedCare Ultra that are cool and comfortable, and trap mites.
Room By Room Tips For Keeping Dust Mites At Bay
- Eliminate dust-mite havens: wall-to-wall carpeting, heavy drapes and curtains, stuffed animals, upholstered furniture and upholstered headboards all attract mites.
- Cover mattresses, pillows, and boxsprings. And don't forget to cover comforters or duvets with lightweight covers as well.
- Wash your sheets and blankets every 10-14 days in water hot enough to kill dust mites, about 140-degrees. If frequent hot-water washing is wearing down your linens, or you are trying to save hot water, a few tablespoons of De-mite Laundry Additive will eliminate mites in any temperature wash cycle.
- Tackle dust in the easily-overlooked places like baseboards, under the bed, the top of the ceiling fan and the blinds. Try our Dust Grabber electrostatic dust cloth - it really attracts dust like a magnet and needs no chemicals or additives! For wood furniture that you want to give a polish to, a small drop of olive oil on a cotton cleaning rag will snag particles and give the surface a shine.
Closets & Other Storage
- Keep out-of-season clothing in zippered bags and keep shoes in boxes, not in a pile on the floor.
- Give away unused clothes. If you didn't wear it at all last year, you won't wear it this year. There is something therapeutic and allergen reducing about getting rid of clothes and clutter. You're not only removing dust-collectors, but you may help others who can really appreciate those unworn coats and pants.
- Wash clothes that have been sitting in storage for many months in the attic or basement.
- Keep a close eye on your home's humidity level - both in the basement and the main floors. Using a Soleus dehumidifier will reduce mite populations and the likelihood of mold growth. (Take advantage of this moth's newsletter special and get a free humidity gauge with every dehumidifier purchase!)
- If possible use leather or vinyl furniture which is less hospitable to dust mites.
- Try throw pillows with washable covers and wash throws and blankets frequently.
- Treat carpeting and upholstered furniture with any number of dust mite treatments, like X-Mite or AllerSafe, which are designed to eliminate allergens. You can read more about these products on our Dust Mite Treatments Comparison Chart.
- Vacuum with a HEPA-filtered machine at least once a week especially if your living room is carpeted or has many rugs. Dyson vacuums are great for maneuvering around furniture and corners, while grooming carpets and rugs. You can find out more about our full line of HEPA Vacs on our Vacuum Comparison Chart.
- Keep books and clutter to a minimum. They can be major dust collectors, and make it more difficult to keep shelves tidy. Allerdust is a handy tool for dusting bookcases and other home surfaces.
I hope you have found some of these tips helpful for reducing your exposure to dust-mites. Again, we cannot overstate the importance of keeping an allergen-free home environment. As recent research has shown, guarding the school and home environments of children is important for their development into healthy teens. Likewise, as an allergy sufferer, keeping allergens out of your everyday environment is important for your health and peace of mind!
This information is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.
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