Dust mites are not visible to the eye, as they are only approximately a quarter of a millimetre long. They live on human skin cells, which we shed all the time. Dust mites love living in fabric items, such as bedding, fabric sofas, cushions, clothing and carpets.
People who are allergic to dust mites are usually allergic to the droppings of dust mites, not the dust mites themselves. With each dust mite producing approximately 20 of these droppings each day, it is impossible to keep your home completely allergen free, but you can reduce your symptoms by taking action.
Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms
If you have a dust mite allergy, you may suffer from the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Loss of smell
- Stuffy nose
- Wheezing or coughing
- Tightness in the chest
- Watery eyes
Tests can be carried out by a doctor to determine the cause of the allergy. This is usually a skin prick test where allergens are placed on the patient's skin using a very small pinprick. Those you are allergic to will become inflamed.
Think about how many hours you spend in bed each week. With all that time in one place, you are bound to shed enough skin cells to feed an army of dust mites. Combine that with a dust mite's ability to thrive in fabrics and warm places, your bed is a hot spot of dust mite activity.
To reduce dust mite allergens, do the following:
- Wash bedding regularly at 60°c at least once a week.
- When changing your bedding, vacuum your mattress and headboard (if it is a fabric headboard).
- Invest in anti-allergy bedding protectors (mattress protectors etc).
- Air your bed every morning. Dust mites thrive in humid environments; just pull the covers back, open the windows and let the air circulate for half an hour.
- Dust and vacuum your bedroom.
- Wash duvets and pillows every few months.
Do not sleep below a fabric canopy or anything similar. Children with a dust mite allergy should also not sleep on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed as the allergen can fall onto them.
Wood, laminate or tiled flooring is the preferred choice for dust mite allergy sufferers. Even though all flooring will still contain dust mites, they are more easily trapped (and therefore harder to get rid of) in carpet.
If removing the carpet from your home is not possible, vacuum as often as possible using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum cleaner. The high temperatures of steam cleaners will also kill off dust mites. Hard floors will also need regular cleaning.
If changing the flooring in your home, consider flooring specifically designed to reduce dust mites, such as Flotex. Otherwise go for hard flooring or short pile, tight weave carpets.
Curtains that can be washed regularly are okay to keep, as long as you continue to wash them at high temperatures on a regular basis.
Heavier curtains can either be replaced by lighter curtain or with blinds, that should be cleaned regularly.
Using a dry duster will only serve to move the dust mites around and may cause you to suffer even more whilst cleaning. Use either a damp cloth or cleaning wet wipes to dust with. Microfibre dusters may also be effective as these are able to hold onto dirt more effectively.
Remember to dust under items and not just around them. The tops of door frames, skirting boards, picture rails and window sills should not be forgotten. Adding a little eucalyptus oil to your duster may help as this deters dust mites. Make a thorough dusting of your home part of your regular cleaning routine.
A Word of Warning: Protect Yourself While Cleaning
Whenever you are cleaning, you are disturbing the allergens and throwing them into the air. This may exacerbate your symptoms. To prevent this, either get someone else to help, or wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
There are special allergy products you may wish to try that can be sprayed on carpets, upholstery or use in place of your normal laundry detergent. A reputable allergy organisation will be able to advise you on the products they endorse.
By following these steps to reduce the allergens in your home, you may reduce your symptoms. The effects are different on each sufferer. But it is only by trying the steps above that you can find out how effective they are for you.
Questions & Answers
Question: Are the black dots the dust mite's poop?
Answer: As dust mites are so microscopic, you can't see them with the naked eye, so you also wouldn't be able to see their poop.