House dust mites are microscopic, eight-legged creatures that live with us whether we welcome them or not. Studies have shown that up to 10% of the weight of a 6 year old pillow consists of live and dead dust mites. Our beds can house up to 10 million mites and up to 2.5 billion droppings over a 5 year period.
The main concern surrounding dust mites is the fact that many people are allergic to them.
Symptoms associated with dust mite allergies include
- watery eyes,
- nasal stuffiness,
- runny nose,
- stuffy ears,
- respiratory problems,
- eczema and
- (in severe cases) asthma.
Many people notice the above symptoms when they are cleaning their houses – especially basements or storage rooms. The dust mite allergen is their tiny feces and body fragments which are components of dust. These particles are so minute that they can become airborne, so people inhale them when dust is flying around.
We cannot eliminate dust mites completely because house dust mites feed on human skin scales, pollen, fungi, bacteria and animal dander. And humans are known to continually shed skin and lose about 1/5 ounce of dead skin per week. That’s a lot. Also, dust mites don’t need to drink to survive, they absorb water from the air and the environment. Dust mites thrive in very warm temperatures (75-80 degrees F) and high humidity levels — 70-80 percent relative humidity. One study showed that when humidity is 60 percent or lower, the dust mite population stops growing and dies out.
To eliminate dust mite allergens, we can take 2 actions:
- reduce exposure to dust and
- reduce dust mite populations
To reduce dust and exposure to dust:
Vacuuming — The most important and the easiest tool for managing house dust and dust mites is the vacuum cleaner. Regular, thorough vacuuming of carpets, furniture, curtains, textiles and other home furnishings that trap dust will help keep dust mites in check. There are upright, cylinder and hand held vacuum cleaners. There are vacuum cleaners with water filters or disposable paper bags. Some studies have found they perform equally well. But there are people like my mother, who believe that the former is a better option. She thinks a water vacuum removes a greater range of particle sizes than paper-bag types. There are also vacuums with highly efficient filters (HEPA) designed for use by people with allergies to dust. I personally prefer to run a vacuum cleaner around my house rather than wipe and mop. Give me a choice, and I would like something like the Dyson DC06 robot, a vacuum cleaner that can navigate logically without much prompting. According to the Dyson website, it has “3 on-board computers, 50 sensory devices, and 60,000 hours of research to create efficient, methodical robot cleaning.” For something simpler, go to the Dyson parts and accessories section to get a party clean up kit for a speedy cleaning up job.
Dusting— Always dust furniture before you vacuum so the dust has time to settle on the floor, where it can be picked up by the vacuum. Best to dust with a damp cloth rather than with a feather duster. You don’t want to inhale those flying dust particles, and that would be quite uncomfortable if you have sinus or asthma or eczema. As an eczema sufferer, I minimize contact with alcohol, fragrance and of course, dust.
Air purifier – A researcher at the University of Texas-Austin found a HEPA air filter was much more effective at removing dust than ion-generating air purifiers which make particles electrically charged to remove them from circulating air.
Chemicals — Benzyl benzoate or tannic acid may reduce levels of dust mites. Be careful though as these chemicals can worsen allergies in some people.
To reduce dust mite population:
Lower Humity — Reduce humidity levels to less than 50 percent inside your home, especially in the bedroom.
Separate your sleeping quarters from pets’ — Pets with fur or feathers contribute to the dander in the dust and increase the food source for mites. If you have a pet, fix their sleeping quarters as far from yours as possible. Make sure their bedroom is furnished in such a way that allows for easy cleaning.
Reducing air infiltration — Airing your house, by opening the windows, is nice; except it allows entry of pollen, which is another allergen as well as food for dust mites. In some climates, humid air actually helps to multiply the population of dust mites.
Cleaning — Wash all bedding weekly. Research has shown laundering with any detergent in warm water (77 degrees F) removes nearly all dust mite. If you cannot launder, dry clean at least once a year. Shampoo, steam clean or beat non-washable carpets once a year.
Appropriate furniture/furnishing — Avoid overstuffed furniture because it collects dust. Also avoid wool fabrics/rugs because wool sheds particles and is eaten by other insects. Best not to have carpet. If carpeting is a must, have it steam cleaned once a year to prevent a build up of dust mites.
[tags]dust mites, vacuum cleaner[/tags]