Dust Mite Allergies - Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Thought you only had a limited number of creatures living in your home? Think again. Your house is also home to millions of microscopic mites and other organisms. Most of these are harmless and a serves a natural part of life, others, still serving a purpose, can be rather irritating and a source for developing allergies and trigger allergy attacks.

Among the most common organisms found in your home is the dust mite. These microscopic arachnids only around 0.25mm long, feed of dead skin and live in bedding, carpets and other household upholstery. They do much for keeping our house clean as we shed an average of 1 – 1.5 grams of skin per day!

Dust mites thrive in humid and warm environments, with beds being one of the favourite habitats. Temperature wise, there is not much to do to control their breeding, so instead you would need to concentrate on bringing down humidity levels in order to control the occurrence of mites. A dehumidifier is probably the best tool to do this. It will not only help bring down levels of humidity below those required for dust mites to reproduce, but fitted with special air filters it can also help clean the air of any existing irritants.

In themselves the mites are harmless, which is good as a normal bed mattress can contain anything from 100,000 to 10 million mites. However, their droppings are the second most common trigger of allergic reactions after pollen. Direct contact with the excrement can cause skin irritation, breathing it can trigger allergic rhinitis or even an asthma attack.

High exposure to dust mite during the first year of a child’s life can also trigger a life long allergy, and there is no cure for this, only relief. Therefore, it is even more important that dust mite levels are kept in check in homes with small children.

Dust mites like warm, dusty and humid environments. Cavities in arm chairs, sofas or the fibrous upper part of your mattress are all favourite hideouts for this creature. Carpets, rugs and pillows are other common places to find a high concentration of dust mites. And everywhere they go, they leave something behind. And, given time, there will be quite a lot left behind - studies have shown that dust mite excrement makes up nearly 10% of the weight in a two year old pillow!
So, how to combat the occurrence of these little creatures?

For starters look at your indoor environment. Warm and humid air constitutes ideal breeding ground for dust mites. So, if you think this could be a problem it would be a good idea to invest in a dehumidifier to bring down the level of humidity in your home. Lower indoor humidity should also enable you to turn the heating down, as moisture tends to conceal heat.

As for the immediate actions, frequent vacuuming of floors, carpets, mattresses and furniture is a good start. Changing and washing bed sheets, pillows and duvets in at least 60oC will also help.

High relative humidity makes ideal breeding ground for one of the most common sources of allergens normally found indoors, namely dust mites. As these mites enjoy humid environments, a dehumidifier can be an effective help in controlling their reproductive environment and occurrence of mite excrement through lowering the relative humidity in your home.