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House Dust Mite

Summary: The house dust mite is common and abundant. All homes have dust mites, regardless of the steps you take to get rid of them. Read how you can reduce house dust mite populations.

If you suffer allergy symptoms inside your home, especially in winter, the most likely culprit is the common dust mite. Dust mites, like their arachnid cousins the spiders, have eight legs and hard oval shells, no mouths or eyes, and a pointy pincer-like œmouthpart that makes them look quite frightening “ once you fire up your microscope to see them. They're too tiny for the naked eye. And don't worry about them biting - they don't. They merely leave behind feces and digestive acids that irritate the lining of your nose and respiratory system.

These tiny bugs mature in a month and live about three months reproducing up to 100 eggs before their demise. They eat cast off skin cells from humans and pets, but also love pet and fish food, fungus and any type of dried grains from straw to cereal. They need a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 50 percent to survive.

Inspections are not usually necessary, as it is unlikely for any home to be without them. If your bed is typical, you lie down on 10 million dust mites nightly. They are attracted to the warmth of your bed and the moisture of your perspiration.

The most effective way to know dust mites are out of control is by your physical symptoms. Hay fever symptoms, like sneezing, runny nose, itching, watery eyes, bronchial asthma, eczema, and even fatigue and depression, result from allergic reactions to dust mite leavings in ten percent of Americans, says The American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology.

The Mayo Clinic notes that while the symptoms above can be relieved with the use of antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays or decongestants drugs, their preferred treatment is to limit exposure to dust mites and the allergens they produce.

Try these methods to eliminate the majority of dust mites from your home and to control their populations (particularly in the bedroom) and your exposure to them.

Vacuum and dust as frequently as you can, as household dust is mostly composed of dead skin cells. Less clutter will make it easier. Spraying furniture polish directly on surfaces reduces airborne particles by 93 percent compared with dry dusting according to the University of Nebraska “ Lincoln Extension Office. Dust mites can hide deeply enough in pile carpets to miss the suction of the vacuum, and wool carpets produce even more dust mite delicacies.

Vacuum your mattress and choose a vinyl or latex cover to prevent sloughed skin cells from accumulating near seam bindings. Wash sheets weekly in very hot water, mattress pads and blankets at least monthly. Ten minutes in the clothes dryer is all it takes to completely kill any mites that hang on through the rinse. Replace down pillows with synthetic-filled versions and wash them in very hot water yearly. Mite-proof pillow covers are also available to keep out dust mites and other allergens, and are used underneath your regular pillow cases.

Keep upholstered bedroom furniture to a minimum and consider banning pets in the bedroom (especially the bed). Vacuum upholstery just as you would the carpet, and eliminate pet hair as far as possible (it is also a common allergen).
Open the windows and air out the house whenever the temperature drops below 60 Fahrenheit, fatally frigid for these frightful fiends.

Keep the humidity level low in your home. Only use a humidifier when a heater is in use, and don't close the door to the room where it is being used. In humid climates, air conditioners can drop the humidity even before cooling is needed.

Frequent cleaning and vacuuming, good ventilation, and temperature and humidity control are your best measures against the common dust mite and are usually adequate.  If you need more help, benzyl benzoate or tannic acid may also reduce dust mite levels, but should be applied by a professional exterminator, as Mayo Clinic notes that chemicals can worsen allergies in some people.

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