The Dust Mite Strategy by Carol Parr
You can’t see or hear them, but they’re there, lurking everywhere in your home… House dust mites!
They don’t bite, they don’t spread disease, they don’t live on you. However, these tiny creatures feed on your dead skin, bacteria and fungi, pet dander and pollens. They foul the place numerous times a day, absorbing your sweat and merrily making babies.
Dust mites thrive in warm and humid conditions. Your mattress, pillows, soft furnishings or carpets… Even brand new sheets will have a dust mite colony in a matter of days. Eww!
Dust mites create and release strong digestive enzymes. Some people are sensitive to these enzymes (particularly children, asthma and eczema sufferers). Even you, yourself, might be a sufferer.
Have you ever experienced these symptoms in your home?
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Red, itchy, watery eyes,
- Severe wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Skin rashes
- Asthma or eczema
Yes? It may be dust mite allergies!
Currently, medical practitioners prescribe anti-histamine and steroid medications for dust mite allergies. It’s important to realise that these drugs can cause side effects and are not long-term answers to the mite problem.
So what about getting rid of the cause – killing all the dust mites? Unfortunately, no matter how much of a “clean freak” you are, you cannot get rid of dust mites completely.
The good news is that you can significantly reduce the level of dust mite infestation in your home. How? Well, the most effective way is by taking a comprehensive approach and making the living conditions unbearable for the dust mites. Just changing one or two things is generally ineffective1.
Here are the “industry secrets” to dramatically reducing dust mites and improving your symptoms:
- Replace old mattresses, pillows, doonas (anything over 5 years old)
- Encase your mattress, pillow and doona in quality dust mite proof covers (completely zippered and tested is best)
- Keep your bed unmade during the day
- Improve ventilation and natural light by keeping doors and windows open
- Install a skylight if your room is too dark
- Maintain low humidity levels (between 40 and 55%) – hire a dehumidifier during warm, humid or wet seasons
- Remove indoor carpeting and replace with hardwood floorboards, if possible
- Replace thick carpets with washable rugs
- Wash your bedding weekly by soaking in hot water (55º Celsius +) for at least 20 minutes
- Dry in hot dry sunlight or Hot tumble-dry your bedding
- Dust surfaces weekly with a damp or micro-fibre cloth
- Vacuum carpets weekly using a HEPA filter and power head (warning: if you’re highly allergic – ask someone else to do it or wear a PP2 particulate face mask!)
If you’ve followed at least most of these steps (come on, be honest, at least 10 steps), the dust mite population in your home should be significantly reduced. Check your symptoms and see how much you’ve improved!
While we can’t see dust mites, they can certainly affect our health. Take a breather. How do you feel now?
1 Platts-Mills TA, Vaughan JW, Carter MC, Woodfolk JA. The role of intervention in established allergy: avoidance of indoor allergens in the treatment of chronic allergic disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000;106(5):787–804. (Online). Available: http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(00)39663-4/fulltext [July 17, 2015]
This article appeared in the 2016 #ESSymposium e-magazine