Tara Gleig – Director - Bed Bug Wholesale
The Truth About Living With Dust Mites In Australia And How To Minimise Your Allergy Symptoms
There is a good chance nobody has ever told you the hard truth about dust mites, but here it is. You have them. Everybody has them. But what are they and why do we care? And what can we do about them?
What are dust mites?
Dust mites are tiny arthropods and they feed on human skin flakes. Because human skin flakes tend to accumulate in mattresses, pillows, quilts, duvets, carpets, upholstered furniture, blankets, clothes, stuffed toys and other fabric-covered items, all of these places are where dust mites tend to live. An average person sheds 1.5 grams of skin flakes every day which is enough to feed a million dust mites which are only microscopic and too tiny to see, just about all homes have them. They're on every continent except Antarctica. However, if you're allergic, you'll know they're there.
Why should we care about dust mites?
Dust mites don't bite or transmit disease, and since we can't see them and everybody has them, it's easy to assume that they're not that big of a deal. However, if you have allergies or asthma, dust mites can be a big deal for you. Their body parts and droppings cause irritation in people who have an allergy to dust mites. These little critters are one of the most common environmental asthma triggers and most of us are exposed to them all year long.
If you are wanting to find out if you are allergic to dust mites you should talk to your doctor who will ask you questions about the symptoms you have, they are likely to order an allergy test to confirm whether or not you have an allergy. Symptoms of dust mite allergies include but are not limited to sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, itchy nose, postnasal drip, coughing, chest tightness or pain, difficulty breathing & wheezing. These are all common signs of asthma and allergies. A person who is sensitive to dust mites might not have all of these symptoms, but for people with asthma, they can trigger an attack which is worth taking seriously.
Dust mites elevate asthma conditions and evidence shows that exposure to dust mite allergens can cause asthma in children. New studies also warn that dust mites may make asthma worse for adults who were not already sensitive to dust mite allergens.
What can we do to prevent exposure to dust mites?
You've probably already figured out that if every home has them, there isn't anything we can do to permanently get rid of them. But there are a lot of things you can do to reduce your exposure to dust mites and make sure they don't cause problems for people with allergies or asthma in your home. Controlling dust mites means preventing mites from growing, killing mites and then washing away the dead mites and their droppings (since dead mites and their feces can still cause allergic reactions).
Listed below are some of the key steps to reduce the dust mites in your home. Use as many of these steps as possible in your home to provide the best protection:
- Keep the humidity in your home below 50 per cent. Studies have shown that keeping humidity low may be one of the most important steps to preventing dust mites from multiplying. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can help. If you live in a dry climate, open the windows to add ventilation.
- Wash your bedding (sheets, blankets, comforters, pillowcases) in hot water once a week and make sure to dry all items completely before using them again. Water 55deg or hotter will kill dust mites.
- Use pillow, mattress and quilt encasements that create a barrier between dust mites and yourself.
- Replace carpets with smooth, cleanable floors, like wood, tile or linoleum. If this is not possible, vacuum every week with a HEPA filter vacuum or central vacuum cleaner. You may also need to clean your carpets to reduce dust mites.
- Choose washable items when possible. For instance, choose stuffed toys that can be washed in hot water and make sure to dry them completely before letting your child play with the toy again. To kill dust mites, you can also put stuffed toys in a plastic bag inside the freezer overnight.7 In general, avoid upholstered furniture or other items that provide a place for dust mites to accumulate.
- Dust often using a damp cloth and use a damp mop to clean floors. Using a dry cloth or dry broom can stir up dust and accidentally make it easier to breathe in. If the person doing the cleaning has a dust-mite allergy, he or she can also wear a filtering mask while cleaning to avoid breathing in an excessive amount of dust mite allergen. People with allergies may also want to stay out of the room for a while after cleaning to avoid breathing in dust that has been stirred up.
If this all seems overwhelming, start by reducing the humidity in your home and controlling dust mites in your sleeping areas, because that's where we get the most exposure. But the more steps you can take, the less welcome dust mites will be in your life and your home.
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