Dust mites are bugs that belong to the spider family. They are so small they can only be seen with a microscope. All homes have dust mites. Most dust mites are found in mattresses and pillows. They also live in carpets, furniture, stuffed toys, or other fabric materials.
Dust mites are a common cause of allergy problems. Dust mites live up to 4 months. Each female can lay 100 eggs. Dust mites eat dead skin flakes and produce waste called fecal pellets. One mite may produce 20 fecal pellets a day. The pellets remain long after the mite is gone. Allergy problems are mainly caused by these fecal pellets. Dust mites like to live in warm, moist places (temperature 20 – 25′ C, humidity above 50%). Anyone with a dust mite allergy should try to avoid them. This may decrease allergy problems and the need for medicine.
Decreasing Dust Mites:
- At least 1/3 of a child’s time is spent in the bedroom. Focus on this room.
- Encase the mattress and pillow with an airtight, dust mite-proof cover. Covers come in a range of prices.
- If dust mite-proof covers cost too much, wrap the mattress in heavy plastic. Seal all seams with tape. Use a fitted, washable, quilted mattress cover for comfort over the plastic. Wash it with the bedding (sheets, blankets, pillow cases).
- Place bedding over the dust-mite proof cover. Wash bedding once a week in hot water. Dry in a hot dryer for at least 45 minutes.
- Put unwashable items, such as pillows and comforters, in the dryer on the hot cycle for 45 minutes every two weeks. Replace pillows every 2-3 years.
- If possible, avoid carpets, especially in the bedroom.
- Keep humidity below 50% in the home.
- Avoid clutter in the bedroom. Remove dust collectors.
- If a child has a favorite stuffed toy that cannot be washed, place in a hot dryer for 45 minutes every two weeks.
- Vacuuming removes only surface dust. Live mites are hard to vacuum.
- Air cleaners are not helpful in removing dust mites or fecal pellets.
- Do not use a humidifier in the bedroom. If humidity in the home is high, use a dehumidifier.
- Clean all hard surfaces at least once a week with a damp cloth.
- Putting things in the freezer will kill the dust mites but it does not get rid of the fecal pellets.
- If a child has an allergy to dust mite, their bedroom should not be in the basement.
Buying a Dust Mite Cover:
- Many stores sell covers that say they protect against dust mites. Not all covers do.
- Covers must completely enclose the mattress, not just cover the top.
- Openings in the material called pores should be less than 5 microns. Less than 2 microns is best.
- Covers that allow air to move through the material are air permeable. Air permeable covers cost more, but will be more comfortable.
- Vinyl and other low cost covers can be found at most stores that sell bed linen. More expensive covers can be obtained through specialty stores.
- Speak to your Certified Asthma Educator or health care provider if you need further information.