Unwanted Occupants: Dust Mites Love your Home for Lots of Reasons
In a world where the incidence of allergies appears to be increasing, more and more people have to avoid the allergens which cause their discomfort. That is relatively easy if it is something that can be identified, but much harder if it is something that is invisible and everywhere. One potent allergen that is difficult to avoid is the dust mite.
What Is a Dust Mite?
Far too small to be visible to the human eye, dust mites are relatives of ticks and spiders, and they live by eating the human skin cells that we each discard at the rate of 30,000 to 40,000 a day. Your bed is a feasting ground for them and a typical mattress may contain up to 10 million mites.
The mites thrive in warm humid atmospheres. Since they cannot drink, they rely on absorption from the atmosphere to get the water they need.
Why Are They a Problem?
Mites do not bite people. What causes the problem is their droppings and their dead bodies, which contain proteins that some people are allergic to. These are so tiny that they float around in the air and are easily inhaled.
Most people’s bodies treat this debris like any other piece of dust and expel it easily. But in some people the foreign proteins send the body into a defense overdrive, producing sneezing, coughing, and other cold-like symptoms. In severe cases, it can bring on an asthmatic attack.
How Can I Get Rid of Dust Mites?
The bad news is that you can never completely clear dust mites from your house. These things are so tiny and so ubiquitous that they will always find their way into anything other than a medically sterile environment.
The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce their numbers and lower your exposure to the problem.
Dust mites need a humidity level of at least 50%, so maintaining a level below that with a dehumidifier or air conditioner can severely restrict them.
Wash bedding regularly at 130º F or more.
Cover mattresses and pillows with allergen-resistant covers, to prevent the mites finding a safe haven beyond your reach.
Vacuum frequently. You may prefer a nice quiet vacuum cleaner as you will be doing a lot of this.
Dust with a damp cloth. A dry cloth or feather duster will just lift the dust, along with the mites and debris, into the atmosphere. After dusting leave the room empty for a while to allow floating dust to settle.
As far as possible, manage without the carpets and curtains that provide a home for the mites.
Fight the Good Fight
Nobody wants dust mites in their home, but they are always going to be there, and modern homes with their warm humid air suit the mites perfectly. By taking sensible steps to reduce the numbers, you can go a long way towards controlling the bad effects they sometimes bring with them.
Mollie Freeman has suffered from a variety of allergies since childhood. With age comes experience, and Mollie is keen to share her findings and tips with other allergy sufferers which she does through her article writing.