Asthma – Dust Mites in the Home
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
What are dust mites?
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in your home. They measure about 1/100th of an inch in length. That is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. Dust mites feed off of pet and human dander (dead skin cells in the air and on surfaces in our homes). They live in every home in items such as mattresses and furniture.
Why are dust mites bad for me?
Dead skin and other waste from dust mites is a major cause of allergies and asthma. Symptoms of dust mite allergy include sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, and nasal congestion. If you have asthma, dust mites can cause you to wheeze more and need more asthma medicine. You may have more asthma symptoms at night, when you are lying in a bed infested with dust mites. Cutting down on the number of dust mites in the home is an important step if you or someone in your family has allergies or asthma.
It may not be possible to eliminate dust mites from your home entirely. The key is to minimize number and treat symptoms. There is no medical treatment for dust mites, just for the symptoms that they cause in people with allergies and asthma.
Path to Improved Wellness
Dust mites love warm, humid areas filled with dust. Bed pillows, mattresses, carpets and furniture are great places for them to live. Cleaning each one of these places can make a real difference in the number of dust mites in your home.
What do I do first?
Start in the bedroom.
- Most of the dust mites in your house live in your mattress. Put a tightly woven, dust-proof cover over your mattress. Wash your sheets and blankets in very hot water every week. Wash your pillow every week or put a dust-proof cover on it. (The pillowcase goes over the cover.)
- The water used to wash your sheets and blankets should be 54.4°C to 60°C (130°F to 140°F). This temperature is higher than you may want for your water heater, because water over 48.9°C (120°F) can burn children if they turn on the hot water by themselves. If you don’t want to set your water heater at this temperature, you can wash your sheets and blankets at commercial laundries.
- Make sure you dry sheets, blankets, and pillows completely on high heat.
- Your bedroom should have a hardwood, tile or linoleum floor instead of carpet. Dust mites can grow rapidly in carpet.
- Damp-mop any hard floor surfaces once a week
- If you must use carpet, try not to place it on concrete because the warm space between a rug and concrete is a good place for mites to live.
What else can I do?
- Vacuum your carpets, upholstery, and draperies every week.
- Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency filter. Special air filters may also help reduce dust mites in the air.
- Avoid miniblinds. Use vinyl window shades instead.
- Wash curtains, throw rugs, and blankets in hot water weekly.
- Avoid upholstered furniture. Plastic, wood, or leather furniture that doesn’t have much padding can help keep down the number of dust mites in your home.
- Reduce the amount of clutter in your home. Knick-knacks, books, and plants collect a lot of dust.
- Keep the humidity in your home low by using a dehumidifier. Keep it cool by running your air conditioner. Dust mites love warm, humid places.
- Use a damp cloth or rag to wipe surfaces where dust can collect weekly. This includes countertops, shelves, doorframes, and windowsills.
- If your children have allergies, make sure to buy them stuffed animals and toys that you can put in the washing machine.
Can allergy medicine help?
Over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines are available to help control your allergy symptoms.
If dust mites are making your asthma symptoms worse, or if you taking more of your asthma medication than usual, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may want you to switch to a new medication that can better control your symptoms.
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