By: Ben Anton
One of the most common causes of indoor allergy symptoms is the house dust mite. It’s estimated that up to 85% of asthma cases—eczema and hay fever too—are caused by the fecal matter and cast-off skins of these little critters.
These allergy triggers are only a couple microns in size – invisible to the naked eye. They are abundant in almost all homes, with infestations prevalent in bedrooms and in bedding – the dead skin cells we naturally exfoliate every day are the food source for these microscopic creatures.
Protective measures can be taken to at least limit one’s exposure to dust mite populations and to reduce their effect in the home. Here are 10 steps that will help keep your allergy symptoms at bay.
1.) Encase your mattress and pillows with a zippered hypoallergenic allergen barrier that blocks any particles larger than 1 micron in size and that fully encases the mattress and pillow. Doing this will eliminate new mites from populating these areas and will lock in dust mites that are already living there, keeping you free from their allergens.
2.) At least once every week, wash your sheets in very hot water. The water should be at least 130°F. If your bedding is made of fabrics that cannot be washed in hot water, you can put it in the freezer for one to two days, which will effectively kill dust mites. Every 2 to 4 weeks, you should also wash blankets and mattress pads.
3.) It is recommended that severe allergy sufferers also completely cover their box springs and their comforters or duvets with allergen barrier encasements as dust mites can infest these two areas as well.
4.) Keep the temperature in your home and especially in your bedroom below 70°F if possible and the humidity below 50 percent because dust mites thrive in warm, humid climates. Leaving your sheets unmade each morning allows them to dry out (nighttime perspiration) and keeps the bed cooler because less heat is being trapped beneath the sheets. In addition, dust mites are photophobic, afraid of the light so are less likely to settle in an unmade bed exposed to sunlight.
5.) While encasements keep dust mites from entering your mattress and pillows, allergens and dust may still accumulate on the surface. It’s important to wipe down encasements each time that you change your sheets or remove them to be washed. You should also wash your encasements in hot water every 8 weeks or so.
6.) Always vacuum beneath your bed and mattress. Damp mop any hard flooring and use a damp rag to dust. Sweeping a dry floor may only stir up dust and allergens.
7.) If it’s in your budget to do so, remove carpeting, especially in the bedroom, and replace with hardwood flooring. Replace drapes and cloth blinds with wood or vinyl blinds. If you prefer to have carpeting, make sure to vacuum weekly.
8.) Wash children’s soft-cloth toys in 130°F water if possible, otherwise place them in the freezer for a full 24 hours to kill off dust mites, if they are non-washable.
9) Dust mites also consume the dead skin cells that Fido and FiFi exfoliate, and pet dander itself is yet another common allergen trigger that affects many people. If you or your children suffer from allergies or asthma, don’t allow cats or dogs or any other pets in the bedroom.
10) Not only can cigarette & fireplace smoke be carcinogenic, they also can exacerbate any respiratory condition. Don’t smoke in the house and if you have a fireplace in your bedroom, don’t use it.
~ Ben Anton, 2007