Submitted by: Ben Anton
Anyone suffering from rhinitis allergica, or bronchial asthma, knows that common household dust can be a very serious problem. What asthma sufferers might not realize is that dust mites are a huge contributing factor to their attacks. Dust mites are extremely common in most households (close to 100,000 mites can live in a single square yard of carpet!) and produce waste that can act as an allergen to those with allergy sensitivities. It s nearly impossible to make your home dust mite-free; however, there are a few steps you can take to help reduce the mite population in your home and lower your chances of experiencing an allergic reaction.
Dust Mites 101
It s important to know just what dust mites are and how they encourage common bronchial asthma symptoms. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that feed on the dead skin cells shed by humans and pets on a daily basis. Since the average human sheds off close to 10 grams of dead skin a week, beds, couches, and carpets are perfect places for dust mites to get more than enough to eat. Mites prefer moist, warm environments and are invisible to the naked eye. While the actual mite is generally harmless to most humans, the cast skins and fecal matter produced by dust mites can lead to allergic reactions that include not only asthma but eczema, hay fever, sneezing, watery eyes, and other common allergy symptoms.
Dust mites are one of the most common microscopic organisms that exist in homes. And since they thrive on dead skin cells, they are most common in beds and mattresses. Beds are where one-third of all dust mite populations live. A single mattress can be home to anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million mites, and mites and their droppings make up ten percent of the weight of a pillow that is only two years old. Adult females can lay up to 80 eggs and the cycle from birth to adult mite is only about one month. Adult mites live roughly one to three months. Dust mites not only will feed off of dead skin cells but also food crumbs, fish flakes, pet food, cereals, and many other nutrient-rich products.
Some people feel the need to test for mites microscopically by collecting fiber samples from mattresses, couches, and carpets, but this practice is unnecessary and costly. There is always an abundant food supply for mites, even in homes that are kept impeccably clean. Instead of worrying about whether or not your home is infested with dust mites (the answer: yes!), it is better to concentrate on ways to control the mite population already present.
Controlling Dust Mites
The best way to control a dust mite infestation is to use plastic or other dust mite-impervious covers on mattresses and couches. Beds are where people are closest to mites and their feces, making them not only a breeding ground for mites but also the place where most allergies begin or are exacerbated. Placing a mite-impermeable mattress cover or fitted sheet on your bed will help prevent the accumulation of human and animal skin cells on the surface of the bed, effectively removing the mites food source and eliminating the majority of the population in a short period of time.
Another great way to control mite population is to regularly wash bedding in hot (no less than 130 degrees F) water or freeze bedding and pillows for 24 to 48 hours. Using fabrics with synthetic fibers is another effective means of mite population control. Wool blankets and down pillows have much higher mite counts than nylon sheets or pillows with synthetic fillings. Even something as simple as leaving your bed unmade each morning will help. This allows the sheets to cool and dry out, making the atmosphere unpleasant for mites. Sunlight also kills mites, as will frequent damp dusting, vacuuming, and lowering levels of humidity in the home. Children s toys can be breeding grounds for dust mites, too. Freezing plush toys for at least 24 hours is a simple and effective way of keeping them dust mite free.
Yes, dust mites are horribly common, filthy organisms. They can irritate already existing skin and bronchial allergies or, over time, create entirely new ones. Luckily, by simply investing in mattress covers, keeping the home cool and dry, and regularly washing and cleaning problem areas, dust mite populations can be easily reduced and their harmful effects all but eliminated.
~Ben Anton, 2008
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