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Coping with dust mite allergies
What you can do to reduce your exposure to dust mite allergens.
The dust in your house could be more than just unsightly. If you have allergies or asthma, it could trigger sneezing, wheezing and other symptoms.
Dust can be home to a variety of allergens, the most common of which are dust mites. These microscopic bugs, which are related to spiders, are invisible to the naked eye. For most people they're harmless. They don't bite, and they don't carry disease.
But millions of people are allergic to indoor allergens like dust mites, which are a common trigger of allergy and asthma symptoms, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
It's impossible to completely get rid of dust mites, but you can take steps to help limit your contact with them. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) and the AAAAI offer these tips:
Keep your home clean. Dust mites thrive in soft furnishings like bedding, carpet and upholstery, so it's important to keep those items clean. For example:
- Wash bedding and mattress pads every 10 days in hot water or with added bleach, and dry them on high heat.
- Vacuum weekly with a cyclonic vacuum or a vacuum with double-layered bags or a HEPA filter.
- Wash or dry-clean area rugs regularly.
Unfortunately, cleaning sends dust mite particles into the air where they may be inhaled. So, if you have allergies, wear a dust mask (such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health rated N95) when you vacuum—or let someone else do the dirty work.
Remove dust mite hiding places. Replace heavy curtains and venetian blinds with washable curtains or window shades.
If possible, replace carpet with hardwood, vinyl or linoleum. Especially try to avoid having carpet in the bedroom. On carpets or curtains that can't be removed, use a cleaning product that denatures or deactivates allergens.
When buying furniture, choose smooth, nonporous materials, such as leather, instead of upholstery.
Keep humidity low. Dust mites are uncommon in dry climates; they thrive when the relative humidity is 75% to 80%, but they die when relative humidity is below 50%. An air conditioner or dehumidifier may help reduce dust mite populations by keeping it too dry for them to survive.
In addition, avoid using humidifiers, the ACAAI advises, and use a filter on your air conditioner with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Remember to change air conditioning and furnace filters every three months.
Pay special attention to the bedroom. On average, we spend one-third of our lives in the bedroom—the room in the house with the most dust mites, according to the ACAAI. If you have dust allergies, consider trying allergen-proof, removable fabric covers for your pillows, mattresses and box springs. And don't use bedding stuffed with kapok or foam rubber.
Store toys and books. Keep stuffed animals, toys, books and knickknacks in containers. Don't let them lie around collecting dust.
Don't use insecticides. Normal household insecticides don't work on dust mites.
Talk to an allergist
If you think you may have an allergy to dust mites, talk with an allergist.