Every household in America has this in common, no matter their ethnicity, income level, or if they live in the suburbs or country. Every homeowner shares their domicile with microscopic creatures that feed on shed human skin cells, bacteria, pet dander, fungi, and pollen. They don’t need to consume water since they absorb it from the environment and prefer temperatures between 70 – 80 degrees. Dust mites are relatives of ticks and spiders, that spend their lives living close to humans.
Many people think they are allergic to dust when in fact, it is not the dust, but the dust mite excrement and body parts, that are the true allergen. Common symptoms include watery eyes, runny nose, eczema, and asthma. Because they burrow in furniture, bedding, and pillows, their waste particles become airborne when people walk on the carpeting, place their head on a pillow, or sit on the couch.
The best defense against this allergen is to reduce exposure to them by reducing dust mites numbers. The ideal place to begin is the bedroom as humans spend up to one-third of the life sleeping. The following steps are highly recommended and have been found to reduce dust mite numbers.
- Bedroom – Encasing the mattress, box springs, and pillows in specialty covers to prevent the allergenic material from becoming airborne and therefore breathable is suggested. All washable bedding should be laundered in hot water at least every 2 weeks to kill live mites and flush accumulated allergens. Specialized comforters are available that are made with an outer fabric barrier that prevents allergens and does not require frequent washing. If feasible, remove bedroom carpeting and replace with flooring that can be mopped and replace fabric curtains with shades or blinds.
- General Cleaning – When vacuuming, use one capable of entrapping the allergens and preventing them from being exhausted. If feasible, replacing carpet with hardwood or similar floors, significantly reduces areas for allergens to accumulate, as does using non-fabric furniture. All throw rugs should be washed in hot water every couple of weeks and if shampooing large area rugs or carpeting, ensure that they are dried thoroughly as the moisture encourages dust mites.
Maintaining household humidity levels below 50 percent may prevent dust mites altogether, however, lesser decreases of humidity also limit allergen production. Research also indicates that air-conditioned environments have nearly ten times less dust mites than non-air conditioned ones.