Even the cleanest home contains many thousands of dust mites, but unfortunately one of their favorite haunts is in beds and bedding materials; it’s estimated that round 33% of all dust mites in a typical house live in one of the mattresses. The average person loses around 10 grams of dead skin every week and it is this dead skin, or dander, that is the main food supply for these tiny creatures. If you have cats or dogs, the dead skin from your pet only helps to make the problem worse.
Dust mites tend to thrive in warmer temperatures – they prefer temperatures of 70 degrees or higher – so the problem can be much worse in a house that is kept warm, or in a room that is particularly humid. Beds, sheets and mattresses are their favorite habitat, partly because of the amount of dead skin that can usually be found there; and partly because sweat also attracts them.
Although the bed is their favorite habitat, dust mites also like to live in other warm places around the home, such as pillows, rugs and carpets and the tight space between the carpet and a concrete floor. Dust mites tend to flourish in warm and humid environments and are often more prevalent during the fall and winter months, when most houses tend to be heated more.
For many people, dust mites are not harmful, although they are the leading cause of allergies in the United States and can be particularly harmful to a child suffering from allergies. It’s actually the dried feces of the dust mites that causes symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a runny nose, watery eyes and a burning feeling in the throat. An asthma sufferer will have worse symptoms when exposed to dust mites. The symptoms are often worse at night if you are sleeping in a bed infected with dust mites; another clue that allergies are caused by dust mites and are not seasonal, is that allergy symptoms are apparent year round.
If you have a problem with dust mites in your home, particularly in beds and bedding materials, there are several effective things you can do. Dust mite covers for both pillows and mattresses are perhaps the best way of protecting yourself from dust mites; they work by trapping existing mites and minimizing exposure; and by helping to prevent any new dust mites from reaching your mattress or pillow. In addition to using them in your home, dust mite covers can also be used when staying in a hotel.
If you are buying a used mattress or used bedding, you should be particularly careful to clean everything thoroughly before use. A typical used mattress may have as many as 10 million mites inside it; and even a new mattress can be overrun by dust mites in just a few months. And if your pillow seems heavier, you may have a problem with dust mites – around 10% of the weight of a typical pillow that has been used for two years or more, consists of dust mites, their droppings and discarded skin.
Washing your bedding and pillows regularly is also effective in helping to minimize the effects of dust mites. All blankets and sheets should be washed at least every two weeks in hot water, between 130 and 140 degrees. Dust mite covers can also be washed at the same temperature. Adding a small amount of bleach to the wash will help to get rid of any dust mite allergen on your bedding. And don’t forget to wash your curtains once or twice a month – dust mites like curtains as well.
All pillows should be washed every week, regardless of their material. If you don’t want to wash a pillow, it can be fluffed in the dryer instead – make sure you dryer is on its hottest setting. Any fabric that should not be washed in hot water can be placed in the freezer for at least 24 hours to kill dust mites. All your bedding, pillows and mattresses should be left outside to air for at least an hour as often as you can - ideally several times every month. There are also various sprays available that are safe for indoor use and can be applied directly to beds, bedding and upholstery.
Consider using synthetic fabrics; although you should make sure that any such product is specifically designed to prevent dust mites. You may also want to purchase one of several different types of allergy control bed or mattress. The fabric used in this type of mattress is extremely dry and repels dust mites; the cover is manufactured from micro-fiber encased material that also helps to keep mites out of the bedding. Many people who regularly use an allergy control bed or mattress also claim that they are softer and more comfortable than other materials.
It’s impossible to be rid of dust mites completely; and if you are lucky enough not to suffer from allergies, you probably won’t even be aware of them, as they are invisible to the naked eye. But for an allergy sufferer, it’s important to make sure that your home is as safe and comfortable as possible.