Dust Mites and Childhood Asthma
Dust mites are a common cause of childhood asthma. One recent article by a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer listed dust mites as the number three trigger of childhood asthma attacks. Some experts even believe that as many as two out of three children with childhood asthma are allergic to dust mite allergens.
Dust Mite Allergens
Dust mites can be found in nearly every home – no matter how clean they might be. A dust mites doesn’t bite and it is not a parasite. Most of us live our entire lives without even thinking about dust mites.
The trouble with the dust mite is their fecal matter and body parts and their partially digested dust particles – which contain allergens that can trigger a childhood asthma attack. It is impossible to get rid of these allergens without getting rid of the dust mites in your home that produce them. In fact, getting rid of dust mites in your home could actually eliminate childhood asthma symptoms.
Controlling Dust Mites
The first thing you can do to reduce childhood asthma symptoms caused by dust mite allergens is to encase your child’s mattress and pillows in dust-proof (allergen impermeable) covers. This keeps dust mites from infesting the mattress or pillow and the resulting allergens from reaching your child’s body and face. As an alternative, you can replace the child’s regular mattress with an air mattress or a natural latex mattress, as dust mites cannot infest either of these. If you do choose a dust-proof cover, be sure to wipe it off with a damp cloth at least once a week.
Second, wash your child’s bedding in very hot water. Most experts say the water should be at least 130 degrees F. If the water in your house is not that hot, you can take the bedding to a laundromat. An alternative is to wash the bedding in the hottest water possible and then dry it for 30 minutes in your dryer’s hot cycle.
The next step in controlling dust mites involve your child’s stuffed toys. Be sure to choose washable stuffed toys and keep them off your child’s bed and sleeping areas. Wash the toys weekly in hot water, the same way you wash his or her bedding. As an alternative, you can put the stuffed toys in your freezer for 48 hours, as this will also kill the dust mites.
Carpeting is usually the largest dust reservoir in your home. So be sure to vacuum your child’s bedroom regularly, especially around the bed. If possible, use a vacuum with a double-layer microfilter bag or a HEPA filter.
Dust your child bedroom twice a week with a damp cloth. Never use a dry cloth as this will just stir up the allergens.
Other Options For Controlling Dust Mites
How high is the humidity in your home? Dust mites love warm, moist areas. You can buy a hygrometer at your local hardware store or online and measure your home’s relative humidity. If it’s more than 50%, consider buying a dehumidifier or air conditioner to reduce the moisture to less than 50% relative humidity in your child’s bedroom. Studies have shown that air-conditioned homes have ten times fewer dust mite allergens than those that are not air-conditioned.
Does your child’s bedroom have wall-to-wall carpeting or a big rug? Then another good way to reduce the dust mite population is to get rid of the carpeting or rug and replace it with hard surface flooring, such as linoleum, tile or wood.
How about the furniture in your child’s room? If it’s overstuffed – upholstered – or fabric covered, you should replace it with leather covered or wooden furniture – as both of these are much easier to dust and dust mites find them to be less friendly environments.
Another issue is feathered or furry pets. Pets with fur or feathers contribute dander in the dust, which means more food for dust mites.
Chemicals For Controlling Dust Mites
There are also some chemicals you can use to kill dust mites. While none of them will kill all the mites, you can use chemicals to help control them. One of the most popular of these is a chemical called benzyl benozoate that is actually a food additive and has been proved to be very safe. You can buy this chemical in specialty stores in either spray or powder form. There is also a brand name product, The Ecology Works® DustMite and Flea Control, that has also proved to be effective in reducing dust mite populations in treated areas.
Follow these tips and you will reduce both the dust mites and your child’s childhood asthma symptoms. And what could be better than that?
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