The truth behind the Dust Mite

If you suffer from allergies, you will be fully aware of the common culprits: flower and grass pollen, animal fur, food intolerance (particularly, shellfish, nuts and fruit). But are you aware that this little creature – the simple dust mite – is the most common cause of allergies caused by house dust.

These tiny, microscopic creatures belong to the family of eight-legged creatures called arachnids and thrive in warm, humid environments.

10% of the general population are allergic to dust mites – a rather scary statistic when there may be as many as 1,000 dust mites in every gram of dust!

Where do dust mites live?

Dust mites are found in pillows, carpets, mattresses and upholstered furniture. If you thought they were reserved for the home, then think again! Dust mites can be found anywhere where people congregate. They live off the skin shed by humans and animals but only if the skin has been broken down by mould first, which is why humid conditions are the worst for breeding dust mites.

How would I know if I’m allergic to dust mites?

It is not the dust mite itself which causes the allergic reaction but rather the pellets which contain an allergen known as DerP1. Typical symptoms of an allergic reaction are as follows:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sinusitis
  • Headaches (particularly in the morning after being in bed)
  • Dry persistent cough
  • Asthma
  • Itching
  • Eczema and dermatitis.

Why have I never seen a dust mite?

Due to their miniscule size (between 0.25 and 0.3 mm in length) they are not visible to the naked eye – thank goodness for that! But if you live in a carpeted home or office, use a pillow and mattress for sleeping on, then you can bet your bottom dollar, that you have daily contact with these creatures.

During their 3 month life span, each dust mite lays 20-40 eggs and produces up to 2000 droppings. This causes the dust mite allergen to increase rapidly.

How can I get rid of dust mites?

The appearance of dust mites is not the result of a dirty home or workplace. In fact a relatively dusty environment may have no dust mites present, because the atmosphere is not conducive to their habitation. Here are some tips on how to reduce the presence of dust mites:

  • Keep the environment well ventilated
  • Replace carpets with hard floors and mop regularly
  • Use dust mite proof bedding
  • Replace your feather pillows with synthetic fillers
  • Leave your bed to air in the morning
  • Wash your child’s teddies regularly or pop in a plastic bag and freeze overnight
  • Wash your bedding every week
  • Use non toxic allergy sprays to kill the dust mites
  • Vacuum carpets and floors regularly
  • Use a steam cleaner to kill dust mites in carpets
  • Replace curtains with vinyl blinds
  • Remove all sources of damp, rising damp and water leaks
  • Invest in a dehumidifier and/or air purifier.

Are you scratching yet? If yes, you’ve got some work to do!

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