Did you know that little ol’ dust mites could provoke allergies and even asthma?
Dust mites are microscopic creatures, related to ticks and spiders, that live in house dust. The proteins in dust mite body parts and feces cause allergic reactions in people who have become sensitized to dust mite proteins.
Dust mite allergen also triggers asthma attacks and is one of the most common causes of asthma attacks worldwide. This is primarily because dust mites are found nearly everywhere, especially indoors. Dust mite allergen can also be inhaled while it is airborne, though it tends to settle quickly.
All homes contain some amount of dust mites. Because dust mites feed on dead human skin, the allergen tends to be concentrated in mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets – and even your baby’s stuffed animals. Additionally, our furry or feathered friends contribute dander to the dust and increase the food source for mites. Make sure your pets receive regular baths.
If your baby or young kid has allergies to dust mites, symptoms can include:
- Typical allergy or hay fever symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose or congestion, sore throat, sinus pain, itchy or watery, red eyes, headache.
- Asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest.
- Eczema or skin rashes in infants and young children.
How can you protect your allergy-pronte kids from household dust mites?
Take these easy steps to minimize exposure to dust mites:
1. Eliminate or encase dust mite havens:
- Remove Carpets: Wall-to-wall carpeting and padding are a significant dust mite traps, which release the allergen when disturbed by foot traffic and other movements on them. Hardwood, tile and linoleum are much safer options. If you can’t live without carpet, choose natural fiber area rugs that can be cleaned easily.
- Encase mattresses in dust mite-proof covers. Fabric encasements should be washed in very hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit), while plastic encasements should be washed or damp sponged, every two weeks.
- Replace pillows filled with feathers, down or foam with synthetic fillings such as Dacron.
- Keep stuffed toys off beds. An excellent substitute is a little cotton blanket which can be washed regularly.
2. Keep dust mite exposure low by thoroughly cleaning, especially in homes with young babies.
- Wash your sheets, blankets, mattress pads and pillowcases in very hot water (130 degrees F) every week. Curtains should also be washed regularly, though not necessarily as often as bedding.
- Limit the number of stuffed animals, and wash them once a month in hot water (130 degrees F), and dry thoroughly in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.
- Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture at least twice weekly. Keep your child in another room during and for several hours after vacuuming, because dust may leak out of the vacuum through the exhaust and remain airborne. Substitute multi-layered vacuum bags for regular single layer bags, and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency, or HEPA, filter. Do not use a bagless vacuum, as dust mite allergen will be released when the collection container is removed for emptying.
- Damp-wipe dusty surfaces and mop floors weekly, especially in homes with small children, who spend much of their time on the floor.
- Avoid steam-cleaning bedding, upholstery and curtains. While the steam will kill mites, it fosters future mite growth by increasing humidity in the fabrics.
3. Ventilate your home.
- Dehumidify: Reduce indoor humidity to 30-50% by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier. Don’t put an aquarium, humidifier or other source of water in your bedroom.
- Clean or replace filters on furnaces and air conditioners regularly, as recommended by the manufacturer. Install filters on air ducts, if appropriate.
- Use an air purifier only as a last resort. These devices can help somewhat, but are ineffective if other measures have not been taken. Since dust mite allergen dust does not remain airborne for long, air purifiers are unlikely to remove much dust from the room.
NOTE: Avoid using anti-dust-mite carpet treatments that contain tannic acid or benzyl benzoate, both of which are skin, eye and respiratory irritants that can make asthma symptoms worse.