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Dust Mite Allergy

SUMMARY: For most people dust mites do not cause any problems. Unfortunately, they can be a real headache for those who have asthma or allergies. Using HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, as well as other small things you can do around your home, can help keep dust mites at a minimum.

It wasn't until 1960 that doctors realized the dust mite was a major cause of the allergens in house dust and the droppings were the main source of the problem. The dust mite is a scavenger that is not able to see and cannot drink or breathe. They cannot be seen with the naked eye. Dust mites are made of 75% water and they gain moisture from the food or atmosphere. They live off of dead skin cells from humans and pets, but they are not parasitic and do not bite.

Although dust mites mostly feed on dead skin and animal dander, they also feed on bacteria, pollen and fungi. Humans shed approximately .20 ounces of dead skin a week; the mites are never lacking food. Add a furry friend to the household and the dust mites will be thriving. They are in mattresses, clothing, towels, carpets, and other frequently used furniture and rooms.

The allergy that some experience does not come from the mite itself, the allergy comes from the droppings. A house dust mite can produce up to 20 droppings a day. The droppings are so small that they can be suspended in still air for up to 20 minutes.

One square yard of a rug can contain as many as 100,000 dust mites and 42,000 can live in just one ounce of dust.

It's recommended that bedding be covered with a fabric that has pores small enough to keep dust mites and their feces out, such as zippered allergy mattress covers and allergy pillow covers. Change sheets and pillow cases weekly and wash in hot water or by using a laundry detergent that kills dust mites in all water temperatures. You can freeze pillows or stuffed animals for 24 hours to kill the mites and then wash in regular water, if you prefer.

Consider replacing carpet with laminate, linoleum or wood flooring. If that is not an option, steam cleaning the carpet on a regular basis can help as well as steam cleaning the upholstered furniture. Curtains need to be washed weekly or replaced with blinds.

Dust mites prefer warm and humid places. Lowering the thermostat to 70 degrees or below can help keep them away.

Books are one of the worst dust collectors. If you have finished reading them, consider donating or selling them. When dusting, use a damp cloth, or use furniture polish by spraying directly on the surface to help reduce the particles in the air.

Most vacuums cannot pickup particles as small as dust mites. Thoroughly cleaning once a week with a HEPA vacuum will capture 99.9% of the dust mites that it picks up. It is better to vacuum thoroughly once a week rather than lightly on a daily basis.

Allergen eliminators can help effectively control the build up of allergens. The chemical formulations are designed to kill or neutralize them. They typically only need to be used once a month or less. There are many ways to kill dust mites, but the best method is to use preventive measures to keep the dust mite infestation as low as possible.

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