Dust mite allergen information and tips
What is a Dust Mite allergy?
The most common allergic reactions to the Dust Mite Allergen are rhinitis - an inflamed, runny nose and asthma (for more on Asthma see Asthma NZ). But it may surprise you to find out that Dust Mite Allergens can irritate the skin, resulting in Eczema.
How and where they thrive
To survive, dust mites need humidity of more than 50% year round and temperatures that don't fall below freezing. The ideal conditions for their growth are 25°C and 75% relative humidity - making most of New Zealand and Auckland in particular a perfect environment for dust mites to flourish.
The main source of food for the House Dust Mite is the flakes of dead skin we (and our pets) are constantly shedding – each of us can shed as much as 600,000 dead skin cells per hour. Home furnishings - such as beds, carpets and sofas - become reservoirs of dead skin cells and other edible material, enabling the House Dust Mite to thrive.
Dust Mites and Beds
Bedtime is of particular concern for many allergy sufferers, and it is easy to see why. During the night not only do we continue to shed skin but our bodies also produce sweat and warmth in bed, thus creating the ideal warm and humid environment for the house dust mite to live in.
Many people don't realise the link between sneezing at bedtime (or upon waking), wheezing, itchy skin and dust mites. If any of these sound familiar then you may have a Dust Mite Allergy and would benefit from an Allergen Barrier solution at bedtime.
MiteGuard's barrier bedding has been proven to block the dust mite allergen to below detectable levels and is recommended by Allergy NZ and Asthma NZ.
The symptoms of a Dust Mite allergy
Frequent sneezing, a runny, stuffy, itchy nose and irritated eyes are the most common symptoms. It is also not unusual for Asthma and Eczema to be triggered by the Dust Mite Allergen.
What can I do to combat the Dust Mite Allergen in my home?
Clinical Research Studies have shown that lowering exposure to dust mite allergens can help allergy sufferers by reducing the frequency and severity of their symptoms and by reducing their need for medication.
- Regularly clean and dust using a damp cloth rather than a duster. Dusters tend to stir up the allergen, making it airborne.
- Keep humidity levels low with dehumidifiers, ventilation systems, or Air Conditioners/Heat Pumps with a dehumidify function.
- Consider polished flooring instead of carpet. Loose rugs which can be regularly cleaned will help create a more comfortable atmosphere if you prefer.
- Vacuum with a high-efficiency HEPA™ filter vacuum, making sure you clean the filters and replace the dust bad regularly.
- Regularly wash your bed linen in hot water every week (60°C is required to kill dust mites). A plumber may be able to by-pass the ‘Tempering Valve’ or you could use a front-loading washing machine.
Maintain allergen levels in soft toys.
Soft toys should be washable, but remember that hot washing is required to kill dust mites. If a regular washing schedule is adhered to from when the toys are new, allergen build up should be reduced to a minimum.
Alternatively, freezing your child’s favourite soft toys overnight every 2-3 months will kill Dust Mites.
- Invest in some MiteGuard® Allergen Barrier Bedding and Pillow Covers
In most homes the mattress and bedding are the major reservoirs of dust mite allergen.
The depth and complex construction of mattresses mean no amount of vacuuming or treatment with mite-killing sprays or powders (acaricides) will render it completely free from dust mite allergen.
Complete encasement with a specialised allergen-barrier cover such as MiteGuard® is the most effective means of protection.
Pillows are also a major source of dust mite allergen – and our noses are pressed up against them all night long! A MiteGuard® pillow cover and regular weekly hot water washing of the outer pillow case will protect you from this major source of allergen, and let you sleep much more peacefully.
Other problem areas in the house
The lounge and soft furnishings
The lounge can contain high levels of dust mites, particularly in and around soft furnishings where people spend most time sitting (and shedding skin). Unfortunately it is very difficult to reduce dust mite allergens to low levels in most types of lounge furnishings.
Frequent steam cleaning of fabric coverings can lower allergen levels but smooth coverings such as leather (if your budget will stretch to it) or vinyl are easiest to keep clean, and will retain the lowest levels of allergen. As in the bedroom, smooth flooring with loose rugs which can be regularly cleaned are ideal.
If you are lucky enough to have native timber floors hiding under your carpets, sanding and polishing them will certainly be a very attractive option. Alternatively, regular steam cleaning of carpets and use of an air conditioner or dehumidifier can reduce dust mite populations and levels of allergen in the carpet.
In older homes with timber joinery and floors, smaller domestic dehumidifiers are generally inadequate to reduce humidity to levels below 50%, which is the point required to reduce dust mite survival. However, if your home does tend to be damp or musty, a dehumidifier can be of value by reducing the growth of moulds which can affect allergy sufferers.
If you have a family history of allergies, exposure of your new born child to high levels of dust mite allergen can increase the likelihood of their developing asthma in later life. Particular attention should be made to maintaining low allergen levels in the nursery, especially during the first year of life.
For more tips on keeping the Dust Mite Allergen visit Allergy NZ's website.