WHAT ARE DUST MITES?
Dust mites are microscopic insects invisible to the naked eye. Dust mite particles are often found in pillows, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They float into the air when anyone vacuums, walks on a carpet or disturbs bedding and they settle once the disturbance is over.
These tiny creatures feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily (yum) and they thrive when temperatures are above 70 degrees F with a humidity between 70-80%. Humans on average shed 1.6 pounds of skin per year; most while sleeping.
I know what you are thinking, “Wait they eat my dead skin remains, yet they are called dust mites…Hmm where does dust come into play?” Very good question. Dead skin cells make up a large proportion of dust. For more information on dust and how to reduce dust, please click here.
DUST = SKIN CELLS
DUST MITES EAT SKIN CELLS
Therefore DUST MITES EAT DUST.
Beds and pillows are a popular destination for dust mites. Dust mites can infest multiple kinds of pillows – feather, down, microfiber, or polyester foam.
Laying in your bed with your face pressed right up against your pillow for 8 hours a day allows for full body exposure to these bed critters. You will breathe them in, ingest them and have skin contact with them.
Breathing in the dust mite particles in is what causes the allergic type reaction that people can have to them.
HOW CAN THEY HARM YOU?
Breathing in bits of dust mite is not ideal for anyone. It’s a foreign substance that anyone’s lungs will have to deal with. Healthy individuals have lungs and immune systems that can tolerate mild amounts of dust mite particles, but many people are sensitive to these tiny pests and they can cause an allergic reaction.
A house does not need to be visibly dirty to trigger a dust mite allergy reaction. The particles are too tiny to be seen and often cannot be removed using normal cleaning procedures. In fact, a vigorous cleaning can make an allergic person’s symptoms worse.
Signs and symptoms that you could be allergic to dust mites:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Red itchy or teary eyes
- Wheezing/coughing/tightness in chest
- ALL of the above symptoms are worse when you are in your home or when you wake up in the morning after a night of close encounters with the dust mites
HOW TO RID YOUR HOME OF DUST MITES?
According to the National Institute of Health Sciences, dust mites cannot be completely eliminated, but the population can be reduced by taking preventative measures. Read below for actions you can take to help decrease the dust mite populations in your home.
- Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity at about 50% or below.
- Dust mites die when the humidity drops below 50%
- If you live in a humid climate, getting a dehumidifier can really help eliminate these allergens.
- Ivation 30 Pint Energy Star Dehumidifier
- Encase your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen impermeable covers (available from specialty supply mail order companies, bedding and some department stores).
- Wash all bedding and blankets once a week in hot water (at least 130 – 140°F) to kill dust mites. Non-washable bedding can be frozen overnight to kill dust mites.
- Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials and traditional stuffed animals with washable ones.
- If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets in bedrooms with bare floors (linoleum, tile or wood) and remove fabric curtains and upholstered furniture.
- Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. Never use a dry cloth since this just stirs up mite allergens.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with either a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter to trap allergens that pass through a vacuum’s exhaust.
- Wear a mask while vacuuming to avoid inhaling allergens, and stay out of the vacuumed area for 20 minutes to allow any dust and allergens to settle after vacuuming.
Noah Farber, the director of public affairs at the Asthma Society of Canada, says it’s not possible to avoid allergens 100 per cent. “So we encourage our patient community to do everything you can to minimize exposure to triggers,” he told CTVNews.ca.
He recommended using an air purifier wherever you can. Air purifiers help eliminate dust, therefore they are both getting rid of the dust mite food supply and also getting rid of dust mite particles (dead dust mite fragments, feces and other waste products).
For more information on the best air purifiers for eliminating dust, please click here.