What Can I Do about Dust Mites?
Get some products to fight dust mites . . .
Those darn pests gotta go!
Humans are assailed by numerous creatures, small and large, and certainly some of the smallest are dust mites. These microscopic pests inhabit just about anywhere people and their pets hang out: beds, furniture, carpeting, drapes and stuffed toys. Dust mites feed on dead skin, commonly called dander, which people and animals shed. The Mites themselves aren’t much bother, but their feces – YUCK! – can cause allergic reactions in people.
According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, 10 per cent of Americans exhibit sensitivity to dust mites.
What can we do about these little devils? Must we live with them? Should we be happy they aren’t bedbugs and leave it at that? Or can we permanently rid ourselves of them?
Read on for more information about these pesky creatures and what you can do to get rid of them - or at least live with them without suffering allergic reactions:
What are dust mites?
The scientific name for the American dust mite is Dermatophagoides farinae. These creatures have eight legs, which makes them arachnids, like spiders and scorpions. The average adult dust mite is about one one-hundredth of an inch long or up to .3 mm. Dust mites are harmless to humans; they don’t carry disease but the protein in their droppings and discarded skin can cause allergic reactions in people. They like to live in warm, moist environments, particularly a mattress occupied by humans. They feed on human and animal skin flakes but can also eat pet food, cereals and crumbs.
Humans shed about one-fifth of an ounce of dander (dead skin) each week.
What people have allergic reactions to dust mites?
According to Darryl C. Zeldin, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, in the January 5, 2010 issue of the Wall Street Journal, 18 to 30 per cent of Americans are allergic to dust mite waste, and increasing levels of exposure can cause a large percentage of people to develop allergic reactions.
How do people come in contact with dust mite waste?
Inhaling dust mite allergens can trigger an allergic or asthmatic reaction in people. Typical household dust may contain dust mite waste. People with allergies to household dust are particularly susceptible to dust mite infestation.
Beds are prime habitat for dust mites. A typical used mattress can hold from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites. Moreover, up to 10 per cent of the weight of a used pillow can be composed of dead dust mites and their waste products.
What are the symptoms of allergies to dust mites?
When you have an allergic reaction to dust mites you’ll have symptoms similar to that of hay fever – runny nose, watering eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, cough, itchy mouth or throat, facial pressure and pain, frequent awakening and/or postnasal drip. A doctor can use skin and blood tests to confirm a suspected dust mite allergy.
Are dust mites more of a problem at certain times of the year?
Dust mites are active all year round. But their activity increases in a house or apartment that is closed most of the time and the indoor relative humidity is around 70 to 80 per cent and the temperature is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).
What can you do about dust mites?
First, in order to make sure dust mites are present, you can buy a dust mite detection kit. Otherwise, here’s a list of what you need to do:
1. Enclose mattresses with a plastic covering that keeps dust mites away from one of their primary sources of food – the human body. Dust mite-proof fitted sheets can also be used. Such barriers can also be used for the baby’s crib and pillow cases. These items can be purchased at stores that specialize in allergy products. Keep in mind, any barrier that can protect you from dust mites can also protect you from bedbugs!
2. Every two weeks wash sheets, pillows and blankets in very hot water. Cold or lukewarm water won’t kill dust mites. The temperature of the water must be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Only use synthetic fabrics or cotton in pillows, blankets or even stuffed toys, so they can be washed regularly.
4. As much as this is possible, keep the temperature in your house or apartment under 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also keep the humidity below 50 to 60 per cent at all times. Devices can be purchased to dehumidify the air.
5. Use an air purifier to keep the air dust free, a procedure that can help all allergy sufferers. But make sure you use a purifier that doesn’t emit ozone, which is poison. Also make sure your unit use HEPA filters, which are advertised to remove at least 99 per cent of dust, pollen, etcetera!
6. Don’t make your bed every day. Leaving the covers and sheets open allows the bed to dry out, which can reduce the dust mite population considerably.
7. Using the air-conditioner often tends to keep the dust mites down. So, as long as you can afford it - and if it doesn’t conflict with your “green” sensibilities - keep the air-conditioner going.
8. Clean bedding every week and wipe dusty areas with a moist cloth – never a dry one, which can spread allergens
9. Plastic mattress covers can be dusted as much as every day!
10. Remove carpeting and replace with wood, linoleum, tile or vinyl floor covering. If you must keep your carpet, vacuum it and the upholstery regularly, perhaps as much as every day. But some experts insist that having carpeting is better, because it traps mite-infested dust, keeping it from the air, so that you can’t inhale it!
11. Freezing and sunlight kill dust mites but does not remove what they bring with them. Low levels of humidity can also destroy dust mites. In fact, if you keep the humidity low in your house or apartment, you should have little or no problem with them.
12. Children’s soft toys attract dust mites, so wash them regularly in hot water or, better still, stick them in the freezer for 24 hours – before washing them. Better yet, get rid of them entirely!
13. Replace filters in heaters and air-conditioners at least once a month.
14. Some companies may offer to treat your infested mattresses with steam and ultraviolet light, but this is considered only a temporary measure, as the dust mites will soon be back. Better yet, buy a new mattress and encase it with a plastic covering – or clean the old one and then encase it in plastic.
Unless you live in a cold and/or dry climate, you probably have a least a few dust mites in your habitation. Some of the aforementioned tasks seem extreme and perhaps expensive, so do what you think you can manage to combat these tiny menacing critters.
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