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What's So Bad About Dust Mites?

February is usually the coldest month in Georgia when we all want to stay home cuddled up in bed or on the sofa under an afghan. Of course, dust mites are comfy in our beds and afghans, too. Just in case you are wondering What's So Bad About Dust Mites? our newsletter this month will explain.

Margie Bullock
& The National Allergy
Newsletter Team

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National Allergy E-Mail Newsletter

What's So Bad About Dust Mites?

The Lowdown On Dust Mites & Their Allergen

A lot of people are disgusted to hear that there are 100,000 to ten million dust mites sharing their beds, but that's not the worst part. The dust mites themselves are harmless: they don't crawl on you, they don't bite, they don't burrow under the skin, they don't carry disease, and they don't fly around in the air. So just what is so bad about dust mites? It's the dust mites' feces and the dried body parts of dust mites, politely called dust mite allergen, that negatively affect millions of people.

Click Here For More About Dust Mites Although dust mites are only 1/100th of an inch long and it takes 10X magnification to see them, these tiny arachnids can cause big trouble. Dust mites are living the life of luxury in your mattress, box spring, pillow, sofa, chairs, carpet and bedding. Even though you can't see them, you can rest assured they are there if their basic needs are being met.

Like all living things, dust mites need food, water and shelter to survive, but they are not too picky so they live just about everywhere. The exceptions would be very dry climates, high altitudes or flat, dry surfaces such as ductwork. The skin cells you shed every day are their primary food source. Moisture in the air is their source of water because they do not drink, they absorb. And your bed or favorite chair provides shelter. I'm sure you're not doing it on purpose, but you are providing dust mites with the perfect habitat.

If you have been to an allergist for testing, you know if you are allergic to dust mite allergen. If not, you may be wondering if this little critter is causing your allergy symptoms. Since the largest population of dust mites in the home is typically in the bed, you may be reacting to dust mite allergen if your allergy symptoms are worst when you first get up. Allergy symptoms such as headache, sneezing, congestion, runny nose or watery eyes tend to get worse during the night or be worse on awakening after a night spent inhaling dust mite allergen. However, the only way to know for sure that you are allergic to dust mite allergen is to visit an allergist or other doctor who does allergy testing.

In addition to causing an allergic reaction, dust mite allergen can also trigger an asthma attack. According to William F. Lyon of Ohio State University, "Estimates are that dust mites may be a factor in 50 to 80 percent of asthmatics" and "an exposure to the mites in the first, crucial year of life can trigger a lifelong allergy." In 2005, the National Environmental Education Foundation published "Environmental Management of Pediatric Asthma" that stated guidelines for using environmental controls to reduce the severity of asthma symptoms in children already diagnosed with asthma. One of the six guidelines recommends "reducing dust mites in the home."

First Things First - The Bedroom

Dust mites are in almost every home. You can't get rid of them all; so, what do you do? You avoid them by preventing contact with the dust mite allergen. This means attacking them where they live, and the bedroom is the best place to start with a dust mite allergen avoidance plan. As an allergen-fighting mom, I know firsthand that all the following measures work to make the allergy sufferer feel better. I also know that allergen avoidance is work, but the results really are well worth the time and effort.
  1. The Bed - Dust mite proof encasings are the first line of defense against dust mites. If you are only going to do one thing, covering your mattress, box spring and pillows is the thing to do.Mite Proof Encasings - First Line of Defense vs. Dust Mites Not only is the bed the dust mites' favorite spot, you spend 7 or 8 hours of each 24-hour day on that bed. That equates to 1/3 of your life. Think of baby powder. Every time you lie down, roll over, or sit on the edge of the bed to put on your shoes, dust mite allergen is poofing out of your mattress and box spring just like squeezing an open baby powder container. Encasings keep the allergen from becoming airborne so you don't breathe it in. (Note: More to follow on encasings.) When I started working at National Allergy almost 12 years ago, I was taking orders on the phone. I heard over and over how much difference encasings made. Customers were amazed that covering their mattress, box spring and pillows could make them feel so much better.

    National Allergy has recommended vacuuming encasings while on the bed about once a month and washing no more than once or twice a year simply for hygienic reasons. However, the encasing fabric does not foster dust mites, so laundering is not necessary for dust mite allergen avoidance. On the contrary, there is a lot of common sense in the opinion of Jeffrey C. May, author of My House is Killing Me! The Home Guide for Families with Allergies and Asthma and Jeff May's Healthy Home Tips: A Workbook for Detecting, Diagnosing, and Eliminating Pesky Pests, Stinky Stenches, Musty Mold, and Other Aggravating Home Problems (new in June '08). Mr. May says,"If you are trying to avoid dust mite allergen, why would you take the encasings off your pillow or mattress to wash them? In doing so, you are being exposed to high levels of dust mite allergen. If you feel compelled to launder your encasings, it would be much better to use two encasings. The inner one can be left on for permanent protection while the top encasing can be removed for laundering, and there would be virtually no risk of dust mite allergen exposure."
  2. The Bedding - All Temperature Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent Neutralizes AllergensEven though encasings have trapped a huge number of dust mites in the mattress, box springs and pillows, there are others making a home in your bedding. Not as many can live in a blanket or comforter as in a mattress, but there are more than enough to cause allergy trouble. De-Mite Laundry Additive  Eliminate Dust Mites Even In Cold WaterTherefore, you need to wash all your bedding in hot water (130-140 degrees) at least every two weeks. If you have small children or would rather not risk scalding for any reason, you may want to choose an anti-allergen detergent or laundry additive that will do the same job in any temperature. If you prefer to not wash your comforter so often, you can encase it in a comforter cover or use a mite proof inner liner inside a duvet.
  3. The Carpet - Carpet and rugs are another haven for dust mites. Every time you walk across a room, you are stirring up dust mite allergen into the air you breathe. The particles too heavy to remain airborne long. so they settle back down too quickly for air cleaners to be effective. Taking out the carpet and replacing it with a hard surface like tile or wood is the best thing to do, but sometimes the expense makes this solution impractical - or maybe you just like the warmth of carpet. And, even if you have hard floors, often you have some area rugs. The next best thing to throwing out carpet and rugs is to treat them with a product that will kill dust mites or neutralize their allergen.
    Carpet Treatments for Dust Mites
    (Click here for a product comparison chart.)
  4. The Windows - Drapes and curtains can also harbor dust mites. Either get rid of curtains and drapes and use blinds and shades, or wash the drapes or curtains at least every two weeks in hot water or an all-temperature laundry detergent or additive.
  5. The Dust - Dust mite allergen is a large component of house dust, so it is important to dust and vacuum regularly. Using Use A Mask For Dusting Jobs and vacuums that keep the dust from flying into the air is important, too. To keep dust from coming back through the exhausted air of a vacuum, switch to a HEPA vacuum or consider using high filtration bags. Using a mask for these chores is also a good idea.
  6. The Humidity - Since dust mites absorb moisture from the air, it is critical to keep a sharp eye on the relative humidity in your home. Monitor Humidity CloselyIf the relative humidity is below 30%, dust mites shrivel up and die and if the humidity is above 50%, they thrive. The trick is to keep the relative humidity around 45%. That way you do not suffer with dried out nasal passages and possibly nosebleeds, and the dust mites are controlled. A humidity gauge is very helpful in monitoring the indoor humidity. In winter, when you may want to use a humidifier to combat dry air, using a humidity gauge prevents overdoing it. In summer, a dehumidifier will help keep the relative humidity below 50%.

Choosing An Encasing - Don't Be Fooled

Mite proof encasings are recommended by doctors and health organizations including the American Lung Association, the Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. However, there are many types of mattress, box spring and pillow covers out there, Pore Size Is Important When Choosing An Encasing and they are not all dust mite proof. Be careful to pay attention to the fabric and the construction. And I'd want to see independent test data that back up product claims. The pore size of the fabric tells you how large a particle can pass through the natural gaps, or pores, in the weave of the fabric (seen in the enlargement at the right). Of course, you want these gaps in the fabric to be smaller than the allergen particles. Some fabrics, like our BedCare Classic, have a polyurethane inner membrane laminated to the fabric, which makes it completely impermeable, so the pore size of the fabric does not matter.

In 1999, the University of Virginia conducted tests to set a standard for judging the efficacy of encasing fabrics. They found that "for woven fabrics, the key factor in blocking allergens is pore size." The study also determined that "a woven fabric with an average pore size of 6 microns (æm) or less will block common indoor allergens below detectable limits." Independent testing by Porous Materials, Inc. Analytical Services Division shows how our BedCare line stacks up:

BedCare BasicsTMBedCare ClassicTMBedCare SupremeTMBedCare UltraTMBedCare EleganceTM
Mean Pore Size
4.3 æm
5.3 æm
2.9 æm
* Pore size does not apply to non-woven materials like BedCare Basics.
** Pore size does not apply to fabrics with a polyurethane barrier such as BedCare Classic

In addition, all our BedCare encasing fabrics can be used for bed bug protection. Independent laboratory test results have proven all our encasings to be effective in preventing bed bug bites through the fabric and the passage of bed bug eggs through the fabric, seams or zippers. Please be aware that encasings do not eliminate bed bugs that may be living elsewhere in the bedroom or other parts of your home; a qualified pest control professional is necessary for total removal.

At National Allergy, We Are Proud Of Our Encasings

We recognize the importance of encasings in the battle against dust mites. Therefore, we have our own manufacturing plant in north Georgia to make encasings to our precise specifications. We believe in using the best fabrics and the best sewing construction to create encasings that will last a lifetime. As a matter of fact, all of our woven-fabric encasings carry a lifetime warranty. Encasings have come a long way in comfort as well as efficacy in the past ten years. I remember perspiring profusely (Southern ladies don't "sweat") on vinyl/plastic encasings when my children were little. I would lie down in their beds to read a story and be soaking wet by the end of the book. New fabrics have eliminated this problem. With new weaving techniques, it is no longer necessary to use a vinyl encasing or an encasing with a polyurethane backing for dust mite allergen protection. However, vinyl is still available for your box springs and BedCare Classic has a thin polyurethane lining if you need for your encasing to be waterproof as well as mite proof.

We offer encasings in five equally-effective fabrics to fit every need and every budget. The comparison chart below may help you choose the best one for you.

Five Fabulous Mattress & Pillow Encasings
Remember the Special!
With Any BedCare Supreme, Ultra or Elegance Mattress Encasing
You Receive Free A 40-oz. Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent
BedCare Basics Zippered Encasings
Economical, durable, comfortable - BedCare Basics is an excellent choice. BedCare Basics is made from SofTEK2, a high-tech, non-woven fabric that is 70% polyester microfiber and 30% nylon. Extremely durable, it can be washed as often as you like and resists tears like armor. This fabric is lightweight, soft, and comfortable to give you a refreshing night's sleep as well as complete mite allergen protection. Excellent to take when traveling and for college students.
Covered by our 10-Year Warranty.
Pillow Encasings

BedCare Basics Pillow Encasings
Click to Pick Size

Mattress Encasings

BedCare Basics Mattress Encasings
Click to Pick Size
BedCare Classic Allergen Covers
BedCare Classic has the look and luxurious feel of satin and has been recommended by doctors for many years. This is the perfect choice for those who prefer an encasing that is waterproof as well as totally mite-proof. BedCare Classic is made of soft, stretchable polyester knit fabric bonded to a micro-thin, flexible polyurethane barrier on the inside. Because of this barrier membrane, this material can not be measured in terms of mean pore size. It's so soft and stretchable, there is no crinkling noise while you sleep, and the cool knit fabric keeps you comfortable while it protects you from dust mite allergen all night.
Covered by our Lifetime Warranty.
Pillow Encasings

BedCare Classic Pillow Encasings
Click to Pick Size

Mattress Encasings

BedCare Classic Mattress Encasings
Click to Pick Size
BedCare Supreme Allergy Mattress Covers
BedCare Supreme dust mite proof encasings employ state-of-the-art weaving technology to give you a lightweight, incredibly soft and breathable encasing. The result is supreme comfort and perfect protection all without the use of plastics. This 100% polyester barrier fabric is woven so tightly that it has a mean pore size of 4.3 microns! Other dust mite encasings made of fabrics like ours cost at least twice as much.
Covered by our Lifetime Warranty.
Pillow Encasings

BedCare Supreme Pillow Encasings
Click to Pick Size

Mattress Encasings

BedCare Supreme Mattress Encasings
Click to Pick Size
BedCare Ultra Mite-Proof Covers
BedCare Ultra dust mite encasings contain a generous portion (35%) of all-natural cotton made especially for us. This barrier fabric is so tightly woven that dust mite allergens can't pass through, and it has a mean pore size of 5.3 microns. Because we don't use any plastics to make it allergen-proof, air and moisture transmit readily through the fabric leaving you cool and comfortable all night long. If you like cotton, you are going to love this dust mite encasing!
Covered by our Lifetime Warranty.
Pillow Encasings

BedCare Ultra Pillow Encasings
Click to Pick Size

Mattress Encasings

BedCare Ultra Mattress Encasings
Click to Pick Size
BedCare Elegance Zippered Mattress Covers
BedCare Elegance encasings are for those who want the very finest, most luxuriously soft and cool encasings available anywhere. Because allergen protection is the number one reason to purchase pillow and mattress encasings, Elegance covers are made from a high performance, 100% polyester microfiber fabric that blocks all dust mite allergen and most other particles as small as cat dander. They offer all of this protection while remaining breathable and cool beneath your sheets, so you always sleep comfortably. And we take extra care in the design and construction of Elegance encasings with features such as inner zipper covers, bound seams and side panels to give them a perfect fit even after repeated washings. We believe you won't find a finer, more comfortable encasing anywhere at any price. Mean pore size of 2.9 microns.
Covered by our Lifetime Warranty.
Pillow Encasings

BedCare Elegance Pillow Encasings
Click to Pick Size

Mattress Encasings

BedCare Elegance Mattress Encasings
Click to Pick Size

Picking out the encasing that is right for you can be a daunting task, but our phone experts have plenty of experience guiding people through their options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to give us a call at 1-800-522-1448.

Happy Valentine's Day!

National Allergy E-Mail Newsletter
The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.

Remember that our customer service representatives have plenty of experience guiding people through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to contact us by calling one of our phone experts at 1-800-522-1448 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time. You can also e-mail us at

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National Allergy Supply, Inc.
1620-D Satellite Blvd.
Duluth, GA 30097