Are Dust Mites Getting the Better of You?

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Are Dust Mites Getting The Better of You?
Image by: Gabriel Andrés  source

Dust mites are the most common cause of year-round allergies and are well known asthma triggers. However, most people aren’t even aware that these creatures live and breed within their homes. Even if you regularly dust, you may still have a dust mite problem.

What are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are tiny creatures that live in and on various surfaces of your home and are partial to warm and humid conditions. Due to their size and translucency, they are unable to be seen with the naked eye. They typically measure about 0.2 of a millimetre. When looking at a dust mite under a microscope you can see that they have eight legs, are more closely related to spiders than insects.

Dust mites feed on the dead skin that we all shed on a daily basis. The average person sheds around 1.5 grams of skin each day which is enough to feed over one million dust mites. 

Dust mites do not live in dust. They can be found within carpet fibres, the fabric of your furniture, and due to their size, they can also be carried through the air. There are 13 different species of dust mites and most of these species prefer humidity levels around 80%. It has been stated that Antarctica is the only place where dust mites have not been found. 

How Dust Mites “Attack”

For some people, dust mites do not pose a major issue on a day-to-day basis. But, for many people, dust mites are a source of unending misery. Many people suffer with dust mite allergies and don’t even know what they are really allergic to. They often believe they just have generic allergies, or are allergic to dust. These are common misconceptions. Dust mites do not bite. Instead, it is a usually an enzyme found in the dust mites and their droppings themselves that people have a reaction to.

People who have a dust mite allergy may suffer symptoms such as: 

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in chest
  • Trouble sleeping

When someone has a dust mite allergy, their body is reacting to the presence of the enzymes in dust mite body parts or dust mite waste. The body sees these microscopic things as potentially deadly invaders. The enzymes can harm sensitive cells by breaching their cell walls. This causes an overreaction of the body’s immune system, which is trying to get the foreign substances out of the body. 

Dust mite allergies are quite common. A doctor may suspect a dust mite allergy if you suffer from any of the above symptoms over much of the year. An official diagnosis of dust mite allergies can be made with a blood test or a skin prick test. There is not a cure for dust mite allergies. 

While there are many different over-the-counter and prescription medicines that can control some of the major symptoms of dust mite allergies, the best treatment is to limit your exposure to dust mites. Because dust mites are so common, and thrive in the same conditions as humans generally like to live in, limiting your exposure can be difficult.

How to Control Dust Mites

Because dust mites are so small and reproduce so quickly, it is almost impossible to get rid of dust mites entirely. However, there are several steps you can take to reduce their numbers and lessen their impact: 

  • Regularly vacuum
  • Clean furniture, curtains and rugs
  • Regularly wash pillows and sheets
  • Use a mattress protector
  • Keep stuffed animals to a minimum

Dust mites cannot survive in very high or low temperatures. They also do best in a humid environment. Any washing in high temperature water will kill most dust mites.

It is important to recognise that even vigorous cleaning will only help so much. Because it is the dust mites themselves, and their waste, that people are allergic to, cleaning may have some unintended consequences. Cleaning may kill many dust mites, but it will also kick up a lot of the dead mites and their waste up into the air.

Cleaning can initially make an untreated dust mite allergy worse. Even a professional exterminator will be unable to completely eliminate all dust mites from your home. Short of moving to Antarctica, how do you control dust mites and lower risk of a dust mite allergy attack? 

Using Air Purifiers and Dehumidifiers 

Any effort to control dust mites must include either an air purifier or a dehumidifier to be successful. For best results, you will want to use both at the same time.

An air purifier will collect the dust mites and their waste from the air and keep it from cycling through the house and settling back into the carpet and other surfaces. Not just any air purifier is up to the task of screening for dust mites. 

You need to make sure that your air purifier uses a True HEPA filter. True HEPA filter air purifiers will remove 99.97% of airborne particles at 0.3 microns in size within your home, including dust mites. (0.3 micron is considered to be the most penetrating particle size for HEPA testing). Air purifiers are only effective over a limited area. You may need multiple air purifiers throughout your home to achieve the best results.

Dehumidifiers are all highly effective at killing dust mites. Because dust mite flourish best in humid environments, if you can reduce the humidity level in your home to below 50%, you can actually kill a large number of the dust mites throughout your home. You will want a larger capacity dehumidifier if you have a specific goal of reducing the humidity level in your house to low enough levels to kill dust mites. 

Using an air purifier in conjunction with a dehumidifier will produce the best results. The air purifier does not kill dust mites in the home; it just removes them and their waste from the air. The dehumidifier kills dust mites, but does not remove their carcasses and waste from the environment. 

Because dust mites are so small, they can linger in the air for a long period of time, using both a dehumidifier and an air purifier will allow you to both limit the number of dust mites in your home, and remove their potentially toxic bodies and waste from the air. 

Dust mite allergies are miserable. But, if you take the proper steps and use the right equipment in your home, you can greatly reduce allergy outbreaks and enjoy a better quality of life.

Want some help choosing the correct products for your Dust Mite problem? Give us a call on 1300 174 659

Want to learn more about Air Purifiers and the different filter technologies? Then check out our Air Purifier Buying Guide written especially for Australians. click here

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