Dust mites love your bedding. It’s warm, it’s humid and the dead skin you shed represents a veritable buffet for dust mites. In fact, you can think of your bedding as a five-star hotel for dust mites.
Here’s something that may make you go, “yuck.” There have been estimates that the typical used mattress contains from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites. As much as 10% of a two year-old pillow can be made up of the mites. And one square yard of carpet can play home to 100,000 dust mites.
The Problem With Dust Mites
The thing about dust mites is that they, in themselves, are not dangerous. Dust mites don’t bite like a flea and they are not parasites like lice.
The problem with dust mites is the waste they create with their droppings or when they die and decompose.
Dust mite droppings and body parts contain allergens that can cause an allergic reaction in some people or even trigger an asthma attack. There are estimates that dust mites may be a factor in 50 to 80 percent of asthmatics, as well as in many cases of hay fever, eczema, and other allergic ailments.
Your Bedding And Dust Mites
If someone in your household is allergic to dust mite allergens, your first concern should be dust mites in their bedding.
First, encase the mattresses and pillows in zippered, dust proof (or allergen impervious) plastic covers. As an alternative – if you just don’t want to sleep on a plastic encased mattress – replace your regular mattress with one made of natural latex or with an air mattress. These changes alone could dramatically reduce the symptoms of dust mite allergies and asthma. Next, replace wool bedding with synthetic materials.
You will also need to wash the sheets, pillow cases, blankets and any other form of bedding weekly in really hot water of at least 130 degrees F. Many homes do not have water this hot and, if yours is one of them, can take your bedding to a laundromat. Another alternative, is to wash all the bedding in the hottest water available at your home and then dry it in a dryer on the high heat setting for at least 30 minutes.
Babies Are Especially Vulnerable To Dust Mites
One little known fact about dust mite allergies is that if your child is exposed to dust mites during its first year, it can end up with a lifelong allergy. Given this, it is important you make sure your baby’s room is kept as dust free as possible. As noted above, the baby’s mattress should be encased in dust-proof plastic and its bedding washed weekly.
In addition, it’s a good idea to choose washable stuffed toys and wash them regularly in hot water. You should also keep stuffed toys off baby’s bed and try to maintain the room’s relative humidity at 50% or less. You can measure the humidity in your home with a hygrometer, which you should be able to purchase at your local hardware store.
Other Ways To Control Dust Mites
While your bedding may be their favorite home, there are some other things you can do to control dust mites and reduce the symptoms of a dust mite allergy or asthma.
Since your carpeting or rugs are also a great place for dust mites to live, it is important that you vacuum regularly and, if possible, with a vacuum that has either a HEPA filter or a double-layered microfilter bag. Some experts go so far as suggesting that you vacuum the same area of your carpeting or rugs as many as 20 times to remove the maximum amount of mites. An even better idea is to tear up wall-to-wall carpeting in bedrooms and replace it with bare floors such as tile, linoleum or wood. You might also consider removing upholstered furniture and fabric curtains, replacing them with shades or blinds.
Your bedding is a favorite home for dust mites. Being diligent in cleaning your bedding can go a long way toward reducing your exposure to dust mites and dust mite allergens.