Dust Mite Information & Facts - Know the Enemy
If you are reading this page, chances are you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with dust mite allergy. The allergens originating from dust mites are the world's second greatest cause of allergies, behind pollen, and are significant triggers of asthma attacks.
Estimates are that as high as fifteen to twenty percent of the earth’s total population is allergic to the allergens produced by dust mites.
There are two dust mites: Dermatophagoides farinae is the North American house dust mite and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus is the European dust mite.
What Does a Dust Mite Look Like?
Dust mites can be difficult to detect due to their small size. These microscopic arthropods are estimated to be are about .25–.30 millimeters in size and cannot be seen without magnification and even then, they only look like small white spider-like creatures.
Dust mites are closely related to spiders and ticks. They have eight hairy legs, no eyes, no antennae, a mouthpart group in front of the body) and a tough, translucent shell.
Adult dust mites live for about a month and female dust mites live for about 8 to 10 weeks. The female lays eggs singly or in small groups. From egg to adult takes about 3 to 4 weeks. If humans or pets live in your house, you have dust mites. No special test is needed to check, it is a fact.
Where Do Dust Mites Live?
Dust mites collect, live, and breed where food is readily available. The dust mite feeds on shed human and animal skin cells. However, if necessary dust mites will feed on fish food flakes, pet food kibble, fungi, and cereal crumbs.
Since fiber-filled surfaces collect the most dust mite food, they have the highest concentrations of dust mites and their waste products. They are most at homes in mattresses (it doesn’t matter if it is a conventional or some special foam mattress), pillows, box springs, blankets, sheets, upholstered furniture, rugs, carpets, draperies, curtains, sheets, decorative fabric panels and tapestries hung on walls, pet beds, as well as the interiors of automobiles. They like it dark, warm and moist.
Ohio State University reports that a typical used mattress may contain 100,000 to 10 million mites inside. Ten percent of the weight of a two-year-old pillow can be composed of dead mites and their droppings! Gross!
Over their life span, the mite will produce hundreds of fecal pellets. It is a protein in the fecal pellets that cause allergic reactions in humans. In addition, as the mite grows, it sheds its exoskeletons and this also contains the protein that causes allergy.
Dust mites do not bite you. You can not feel dust mites crawling on your skin. The allergic symptoms are caused by inhaling the microscopic fecal matter and shed skins. Symptoms of dust mite allergy include but are not limited to respiratory such as sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, cough, difficulty breathing, and asthma. In addition, skin symptoms such as eczema and dermatitis can result. Rashes and hives are rarely a symptom of dust mite allergy.
There are no pesticides currently labeled in the United States for the treatment of dust mites. In fact, it does little good to actually kill dust mites, as dead dust mites bodies still contain the problem causing protein and killing dust mites does nothing to remove the fecal matter.
However, benzyl benzoate and tannic acid have been shown to be effective in laboratory and field tests. Benzyl benzoate is one of the active ingredients in De-Mite laundry additive and tannic acid is the active ingredient in X-Mite carpet powder and ADS spray.
Dust mite control is all about controlling the places dust mites congregate. The fewer fiber-filled surfaces in a room or a house the fewer places for the dust mites to set up housekeeping.
The most common recommendations are to use vinyl, wood, or other hard surface blinds instead of curtains or draperies; remove all carpeting and rugs and use wood, vinyl, or tile flooring; replace all fabric upholstered furniture with leather upholstered furniture and remove all books, lamps, knick-knacks and dust catching items from a room.
However, no one wants to live in a bare bubble. So what can be done?
Effective Dust Mite Control Can Be Achieved
- Keep only one bed in the bedroom. Most important, encase the box springs, mattress, pillows and duvets in a dust mite mattress cover (zippered encasement). If a second bed must be in the room, prepare it in the same manner.
- Use only washable materials on the bed. Sheets, blankets, and other bedclothes should be washed weekly in water that is at least 130 F. Lower temperatures will not kill dust mites. If you set your hot water temperature to a lower value (which is commonly done to prevent children from scalding themselves), wash items with allergen control products like De-Mite or Allersearch Allerwash specially designed products that kill dust mite allergens in warm and cold water.
- Keep all animals with fur or feathers out of the room. People allergic to dust mites often are allergic to cats, dogs, or other animals. If you can't, treat the pet with pet-friendly allergy control products.
- If the dust-sensitive person is a child, keep toys out of the bedroom that will accumulate dust. Use washable asthma-friendly stuffed toys is possible or toys of wood, rubber, metal, or plastic, and store them in a closed toy box or chest.
- Wash curtains regularly with De-Mite or AllerSearch Lab’s Allergen Wash. If you must have draperies, treat them regularly with an anti-allergen denaturing spray such as Allersearch’s ADMS or ADS Spray
- Carpeting makes dust control impossible. Although deep pile carpets are the worst type for the dust-sensitive person, all carpets trap dust. Therefore, hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors are preferred. Treating carpets with X-Mite carpet treatment, a tannic acid-based product eliminates dust mite allergen, but tannic acid is not as effective as removing the carpet, it is irritating to some people, and must be reapplied every 90 days.
- Minimize the use of fans, as they cause dust to become airborne
- Dust frequently with damp rags or rags treated with AllerDust
- High-energy particulate absorption (HEPA) air purifiers like Austin Air Healthmate can effectively remove many allergens from the air.
- Clean, dust and vacuum bedrooms early in the day stay out of the room for 1-2 hours after cleaning.
- Vacuum with a sealed canister vacuum fitted with a post-motor HEPA filter, such as the Vapamore MR500 vacuum.
- Dust mites absorb water from the environment and from their food source. A dehumidifier may be helpful because, according to a study done by Ohio State University, house mites require humidity levels greater than 50% to thrive. Care should be taken to clean the unit frequently to prevent mold growth. However, while low humidity may reduce dust mite levels, it also may irritate the nose and lungs of some people
- Wear a dust mask when cleaning if you are the one with allergies.
It is impossible to rid your home of dust mites, but by taking these steps, you can reduce your exposure thereby reducing your allergic reactions. Also, remember that having dust mites is not a reflection of how you keep your house. Dust mites are found in the finest homes and hotels across the globe.
Wishing you the best of health,
The Allergy Store
Allergy elimination is about eliminating the allergy-causing substance in your home the best you can. Once you do this, you may be able to eliminate the need for all the medications and doctor visits. For additional information please click here to download your free copy of" You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living.