Dust Mite Environmental Control

January 11, 2010

Dust mites are tiny microscopic organisms that are not visible to the human eye. They live in upholstered furniture, beds, drapes, old clothes, stuffed animals, pillows, carpets and bedding. They live off of naturally shed human skin and need humidity to grow. Their presence in your house has nothing to do with your level of cleanliness. No matter how clean you keep things, dust mites will be present. Dust mite droppings and decaying bodies are highly allergenic. They are relatively heavy allergens and do not get aerosolized readily, however they do get aerosolized when vacuuming.

Direct contact with dust mites result in the most significant allergic symptoms. Direct contact occurs in many different ways including sleeping on a mattress containing dust mites or lying on a dust mite laden carpet. Dust mite allergy can cause nasal allergy symptoms, eye symptoms, asthma or worsening of eczema.

Exposure to dust mites can be reduced in the following ways:

1. Encase your pillow, mattress and box spring in special dust mite proof covers. Place your regular sheets and pillow cases over the dust mite proof covers. Not all products are the same. The products sold through Mission Allergy (www.missionallergy.com) are of a high quality that I can recommend.  Products can also be purchased through various on-line sources such as http://www.allergycontrol.com, http://www.natlallergy.com or http://www.achooallergy.com, or at local retail stores.

2. Wash all bedding, including blankets, in hot water (130 degrees) once a week. All stuffed animals or toys must be able to be washed in hot water as well.

3. Remove carpeting from bedroom if possible.

4. Do not lie down and especially do not sleep upon upholstered furniture or carpets. Use area rugs that can be washed weekly in hot water.

5. Use leather, vinyl or wood furniture whenever possible and especially in the bedroom.

6. Try to keep the relative humidity in your home, and especially in the bedroom, as low as possible and ideally below 40%. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can be used to help keep the humidity at a lower level. Do not use a humidifier.

7. Tannic acid, used as directed, can help denature and neutralize dust mite and pet allergens. This can be purchased through the on-line sources listed above.

8. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. The dust-mite-allergic person should not be involved in vacuuming or dusting unless absolutely necessary.

9. HEPA filtered air purifiers are helpful for animal allergen exposure in the home but are less helpful for dust mite allergy.

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