Did you know that dust mites are present in all continents except for Antarctica? Yes, even the richest homes with the best Leesa mattresses will likely have them, too, because these tiny creatures thrive on the dead skin cells of humans!
Dust mites are also among the common triggers of rhinitis and asthma in susceptible people, especially as these are present in homes the whole year-round. But everything isn’t doom and gloom when it comes to your exposure to these tiny creatures. There are several ways of reducing their impact on your life, from cleaning your mattress to controlling the humidity in your bedrooms.
Understanding Dust Mites
Often, the best way to get rid of pests is to gain a basic understanding of them, from their size to their preferred environment, and this is true for dust mites. These are microscopic creatures measuring about one-fourth to one-third of a millimeter, with eight legs and with the appearance of white bugs under a microscope.
These are well-adapted to thrive in the homes of humans because of their preferred food – about 1.5 grams of dead skin cells shed by each human every day, enough to feed about a million of the creatures each day, too. Even their preferred environmental conditions are also in line with those preferred by humans – between 68° and 77°F and between 70 and 80% humidity.
The bottom line: You can’t get rid of them completely but you can live with them without worrying about allergic reactions, among other ill effects.
Getting Allergic Reactions
Emphasis must be made that both live and dead dust mites and their wastes can cause allergic reactions in susceptible people. When you have a dust mite allergy, your symptoms may include several of all of the following:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy mouth, throat, or nose
- Postnasal drip
But you may also experience an asthma attack along with your dust mite allergy. In this case, your symptoms will likely include difficulty in breathing, usually during exhalation, chest pain or tightness, and a wheezing or whistling sound while exhaling. You may also have trouble sleeping because of these symptoms, aside from the coughing and wheezing.
The monetary and non-monetary costs, including the stress and anxiety, involved in a full-blown dust mite allergy cannot be underestimated. The more preventive measures you can take, the better for your pockets and peace of mind.
But we don’t recommend making your diagnosis on your own. You may have another underlying medical condition aside from dust mite allergy or asthma, thus, you have to seek medical attention.
In your doctor’s clinic, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and take your medical history to determine if you have a dust mite allergy or not. You may also be asked to undergo a skin and/or blood test to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
Reducing Their Impact
Let’s assume that your doctor has made a definitive diagnosis that you have a dust mite allergy. Since dust mites are most likely to live in your bedroom, particularly on your mattress, you should start preventive measures here.
- Cover your mattresses and pillows with allergen-impermeable, dust-proof covers, which can be bought at stores. You can choose either plastic covers or fabric covers depending on your budget and preference.
- Wash your mattress protector, sheets and blankets with detergent, bleach and hot water on a weekly basis. Experts recommend water at least 130°F to kill dust mites. Change the bedding and pillowcases on a weekly basis, too.
- Remove fabrics on ceilings, walls and windows that can become breeding places for dust mites. Wall-to-wall carpeting, curtains and drapes, and down-filled pillows and covers, even upholstered furniture are favorites among these tiny creatures. Roll-type shades are the better options for curtains, drapes and blinds.
- Use special HEPA filter vacuum cleaners instead of regular vacuum cleaners when cleaning your mattress and bedroom. These are especially designed to reduce the risk of dust mites and their waste from being spread in the air. While regular vacuum cleaners may seem to do the job, they actually don’t because dust mites live in the deepest part of mattresses and the like; their suctioning capacity isn’t up to the task.
- Clean your bedroom using a face mask to reduce the risk of dust mite inhalation. Better yet, you can ask someone without a dust mite allergy to do the job. Even after the cleaning has been done, you may want to keep out of your bedroom for a few hours afterwards to let things settle down first.
You should also apply these tips in other parts of your home where dust mites may also like to congregate. You should ideally wash rugs in detergent and hot water; keep your home’s humidity level at less than 50%; and use a HEPA filter.