What are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are microscopic, eight-legged creatures, but they are not parasitic and do not bite. Dust mites are part of the arachnid family (relatives of spiders and ticks). They don't burrow under the skin, like scabies mites or live in skin follicles, like skin follicle mites. Dust mites are so small they are virtually invisible to the naked eye. They are closely associated with people and animals because they feed of dead skin.
Some people are allergic to them. Symptoms associated with dust mite allergies include sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, nasal stuffiness, runny nose, stuffy ears, respiratory problems, eczema and (in severe cases) asthma. Many people notice these symptoms when they stir dust during cleaning activities. But, dust also contains other allergens, including cat and dog dander, cigarette ash, cockroach droppings, mold spores and pollen.
How can you find out if you're allergic to dust mites? A medical doctor should be consulted for proper diagnosis.
To thrive, dust mites need warm temperatures (23-27 degrees celsius) and high humidity levels (70-80 % relative humidity). One study showed when humidity is 60 % or lower, the mite population stops growing and dies out.
What are the symptoms of dust mite allergy?
Dust mite allergies are often characterised by all year-round hayfever or allergic rhinitis: frequent sneezing, a runny, stuffy, itchy nose and irritated eyes. Asthma and eczema can also be triggered by a dust mite allergy. Symptoms often worsen when the individual comes in close proximity to disturbed dust, for example cleaning out closets or shelves, lying on the carpet, or getting into bed at night.
In New Zealand, mite numbers appear to peak in March and April, and allergens persist at high levels through to July. But numbers can be high all year round when humidity levels are high within the house hold. The lowest allergen levels are in September and October, when weather is cooler and humidity drops. But cold weather doesn't necessarily mean the end of allergy. That's because the mite faecal particles remain in the home, mixed in with dead and disintegrating mite bodies. Symptoms may also lessen in the summer because more time is spent outdoors and heaters are turned off.
How do you know you have a dust mite allergy?
The only way to be really sure is to have a skin prick test '(Skin allergy testing) or a Rast test' (Radioallergosorbent blood Test). Your family doctor can arrange this and discuss your symptoms. These test are commonly used to test for house dust mite allergy. the skin prick test involves a very small amount of the dust mite allergen being gently pricked into the skin on your arm. When an allergy is present then a raised, red and often itchy whelt or wheal is present. Often the bigger the wheal the more sensitive a person is to the allergen. Sometimes the pure allergen is injected just below the skins surface, this usually for testing allergies to drugs such as penicillin.
Why do we recommend freezing soft toys?
House dust mites cannot drink, but they still need water to survice, they get some from their food but mostly it comes from hydrophilic (water-loving) crystals in their armpits. These finely structured crystals can obtain enough water for the mite when the relative humidity in the air is above 60%. Freezing soft toys breaks down the hydrophilic crystals in the dust mite's armpits, releasing the water causing dehydration. If the soft toys are then left in the sun for six hours or put in the dryer for half an hour, the mites water supply is removed and the mite can be killed more easily.
Dust Mite Management
To eliminate dust mite allergens, first take actions to reduce dust mite populations and second, reduce exposure to dust. Allerzero
is proven to help to reduce and eliminate the dust mite population. Regularly use in laundry and apply to mattresses and other soft furnishings. A little allerzero goes a long way! There are numerous other actions you can take to lower and eliminate the dust mite populations in and around your home. Particular attention in the bedroom and living rooms where soft furnishings are found and where people spend quite a lot of their time can have significant improvements for allergy sufferers.
Reduce humidity levels (moisture in the air) to less than 50 percent inside your home, especially in the bedroom. This isn't hard to do in the winter, but can be a challenge during summer months, especially in homes without air conditioning. Studies have shown air-conditioned homes have ten times fewer dust mite allergens than non-air-conditioned homes. Using an electric blanket for eight hours each day may help reduce dust mites by helping to keep the mattress dry. Turning the electric blanket up to high for a few hours a week can help to kill dust mites.
AVOID FURRY OR FEATHERED PETS
REDUCING AIR INFILTRATION
Pets with fur or feathers contribute to the dander in the dust and increase food source for mites. If you are a pet lover, locate their sleeping quarters as far from yours as possible and furnish their sleeping area so it can be cleaned easily. Hardwood or vinyl floors with washable area rugs are ideal.
Airing out the house with open windows allows entry of pollen, which is another allergen as well as food for dust mites. In some climates, incoming air may be humid, which promotes dust mites.
SELECT APPROPRIATE FURNISHINGS
Wash all bedding weekly. Research has shown washing with any detergent in hot water (600C) helps to remove dust mite and cat allergen from bedding. If you cannot launder blankets, dry clean them once a year. Shampoo, steam clean or beat non-washable carpets once a year. Allerzero can be used in the laundry wash cycle. Add a capful to the fabric softener section.
Avoid overstuffed furniture because it collects dust. Also avoid wool fabrics/rugs because wool sheds particles and is eaten by other insects. Use washable curtains and rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. If you cannot replace carpeting, have it steam cleaned at least once a year, springtime is best. This will prevent a build up of dust mites feeding on skin cells in the carpet during the summertime. Enclose mattresses and pillows in plastic to decrease mite populations in the bed. Replace feather pillows with synthetic ones.
The most important tool for managing house dust and dust mites is the vacuum cleaner. Regular, thorough vacuuming of carpets, furniture, textiles and other home furnishings such as draperies will help keep dust mite populations low. Vacuums with a water filter are preferable to those with a disposable paper bag because a water vacuum removes a greater range of particle sizes than paper-bag types. There are vacuums with highly efficient filters (HEPA) designed for use by people with allergies to dust. It is better to vacuum thoroughly once a week rather than lightly on a daily basis. Vacuum mattresses and padded furniture thoroughly; 20 minutes for each mattress is not too long.
Dust furniture before you vacuum so the dust has time to settle on the floor, where it can be picked up by the vacuum. Do not scatter dust. Instead, dust with a damp cloth rather than dry dusting. Spraying furniture polish/dusting liquid directly on surface reduces airborne particles by 93 percent compared with dry dusting.
Sourced from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.