Dust mites are microscopic pests that, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), may be the most common allergic trigger for most people. Invisible to the naked eye, dust mites are arachnids that feed off the skin that people shed in their daily lives. They live in bedding, furniture, and even stuffed toys. While it is impossible to completely rid a home of dust mites, there are things that you can do — such as using dust mite covers — that diminish the number of the pests in the home.
What are Dust Mite Covers?
Studies have shown that the majority of dust mites in the home are found in the bedroom. One step you can take to prevent an allergic reaction to dust mites is to use special covers on your mattresses and pillows (dust mite covers might also be sold as “allergen-impermeable” covers). The material of these covers has pores too small to let the dust mites, or their waste products, through into the bedding. Other options include plastic or vinyl covers, which are inexpensive but often less pleasant to sleep on.
No matter what material the cover is made of, choose a zippered version for the most effective experience. Ideally, covers should be placed on the mattress when it is brand new. Consider purchasing covers for both the mattress and box spring, as well as pillows. WebMD reports that dust mite covers have been shown to be effective in studies, even reducing the amount of asthma medication some children need.
What Dust Mites Can Do
The American Lung Association calls dust mites one of the leading indoor triggers for anyone with asthma or allergies. Over long periods of time, continued exposure to dust mites will cause the immune system to respond. This response, known as allergic rhinitis, can be mild, causing a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. A more severe reaction can result in chronic coughing, sneezing, congestion, and facial pressure. Such a reaction can even lead to a severe asthma attack.
If a doctor thinks someone in your family may have a dust mite allergy, they will perform either a skin or blood test to be sure. They may ask your loved one to take certain over-the-counter or prescriptions medicines, like antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids, to help with their allergic response to the mites. Often these don’t offer complete relief. In that case, the next step is allergy shots or immunotherapy, a long-term treatment to deal with the symptoms of a dust mite allergy.
Reducing Dust Mites in the Bedroom and Home
One way to reduce the impact of dust mites in the bedroom is to regularly wash all bed linens, including sheets and blankets, in water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature kills the mites.
Around the house, eliminating as much wall-to-wall carpet as possible can also help, in addition to using special filters for the furnace and air conditioner unit and cleaning with a certified asthma and allergy friendly vacuum.
Columbia Allergy takes a patient-focused approach that views every person as an individual with unique challenges and goals. If you are seeking treatment for asthma or allergies, contact us at any of our convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho or Washington.
This is not medical advice. If you have concerns about your allergies, please contact a medical professional for an assessment.