Dust mite allergy                                                

I know what you're thinking . . . eeewwwww!! They're pretty creepy looking creatures aren't they. Dust mites, who are close relatives of the tick and the spider, are microscopic (only up to 0.5mm long). They live for up to 10 weeks and a female can lay 2-3 eggs per day. They like to eat the dead skin cells which we shed, and, rather than drinking water, they absorb water from the humidity in the atmosphere. They thrive in warm, humid environments. Bedding, upholstered furniture, carpet and things like stuffed toys provide an ideal environment for dust mites. (I have given away most of my daughter's stuffed toys for this reason, but if there are a few special ones you would like to keep, just be sure to wash them regularly. Depending on how much they're being used, you would probably want to wash them once a fortnight on a Hot Wash, with some Eucalyptus washing powder and/or vinegar added in the wash.)

Approximately 80% of asthmatics and up to 30% of Australians are allergic to house dust mites.

 Dust mites do not bite like bed bugs do, but it is their foeces and dead carcuses that spark allergic reactions. Signs of dust mite allergy include; sneezing, runny nose, very itchy rash on the skin, wheezing or difficulty breathing.

 

What causes an allergic reaction?
Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance such as pollen, pet dander or dust mites. Your immune system produces proteins known as antibodies. Some of these antibodies protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify your particular allergen as something harmful, even when it isn't. When you inhale the allergen or come into contact with it, your immune system reacts and produces an inflammatory response in your nasal passages or lungs. Prolonged or regular exposure to the allergen can cause the ongoing (chronic) inflammation associated with asthma.

 

Preventative measures you can take today:

Vacuum carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, and mattresses as often as possible (at least twice a week for carpets). The most effective vacuum cleaner for removing and trapping dust is one with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. In other words a bagless vacuum with a HEPA filter is the best cleaner to use in your home if you have dust allergies. And if your allergy is quite severe, you should consider removing carpet and other dust mite 'habitats' altogether. Carpet provides a comfortable habitat for dust mites, especially if the carpeting is over concrete, which holds moisture easily and provides a humid environment for mites. If possible, replace wall-to-wall bedroom carpeting with tile, wood, linoleum or vinyl flooring. Consider replacing other dust-collecting furnishings in bedrooms, such as upholstered furniture and non-washable curtains.

 

Air purifiers collect airborne dust in your home and can help with controlling dust, but air purifiers won't remove dust mites because the mites are too heavy to remain airborne long enough to be filtered through an air purifier. Some dust mites may be airborne right after cleaning, but they quickly settle again onto surfaces.

 

Wash bedding weekly - try to wash all sheets, pillowcases and bedcovers in hot water each week to kill dust mites and remove allergens. There is also a product called 'Bosistos' dust mite wash that you can add to your load of washing, which will help to kill the dust mites. Try to wash all throw cushions and stuffed toys in hot water regularly also, as they easily collect dust. If possible have the bed of the allergy sufferer in a sun filled, north facing room. House dust mites are transparent and have no natural protection against the UV in sunlight, so direct sunlight for over 3 hours would kill the mites.

 

Use allergen-proof mattress protectors - Cover your mattress and pillows in dust-proof / dust-mite protectors. A company called 'Protect-A-Bed' have a good range, and you can either purchase them online, or I have seen their products in Target. Another company which stock a range of mattress protectors and sheets for protection from dust mites is 'Allergend'. You can purchase them online. These protection covers, made of tightly woven fabric, prevent dust mites from colonizing or escaping through the inner of mattresses or pillows, yet the covers still allow for air to flow in and out of your mattress keeping it cool.