Indoor allergies to house dust and dust mite allergies seem to be getting more and more common. Symptoms may include nasal congestion, eye inflammation, and asthma. Luckily, the body’s innate immune cells that respond quickly in allergic reactions lack long term memory and thus allergan avoidance may be helpful in combating dust and dust mite allergens. Here are some helpful facts and steps that can be taken to decrease exposure to dust and dust mites.
What are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are microscopic arachnids, relatives of spiders and ticks, that live on the dead skin cells shed by humans. They are found in pillows, mattresses, blankets, carpets, and other dark warm places away from the light. Beds are the largest source of dust mites, as they have the warmth, darkness, and moisture that the mites need to survive. A given mattress may contain over a million dust mites. Each mite lives for approximately 80 days and each female lays about 60 eggs in her lifetime.
How do Dust Mites Affect Humans?
Dust Mites do not live on humans and they are not inhaled. Their waste particles and body fragments become airborne when the material in which a dust mite lives in (ie. mattress, sofa, pillow) gets disrupted or moved. When these allergenic particles become airborne, they get inhaled and can cause allergy symptoms.
How to Reduce Exposure to Dust Mites
Since the bedroom contains the most dust mites, and that is where we spend a third of our life, efforts should focus there. Below are some tips recommended by NYC immunologist Samuel L. Grubman and Mission Allergy.
- Encase all pillows, mattresses, boxsprings, and comforters in allergen impermeable covers.
- Wash all bedding in hot water at least every 2 weeks (but do not wash allergen encasings).
- Remove all carpets and rugs from the bedroom. Do not shampoo carpets, this increases moisture and increases mite growth.
- Remove throw pillows, upholstered furniture, and stuffed toys from the bedroom.
- Remove curtains from the bedroom and replace with blinds that can be wiped.
- The home should be cleaned when the allergenic person is not present.
- Use a high quality vacuum with a HEPA filter without an exhaust that blows air out.
- Avoid having carpet, rugs and upholstered furniture in the home.
- Clean clothing frequently and keep clothing in a closet with the door shut.
- Store clean linens in sealed plastic bags.
- Keep humidity below 40%. Use air conditioning in the summer and a dehumidifier. Do not use a humidifier in the winter.
- Tannic acid, used as directed, can help denature and neutralize dust mite allergens.
Visit Mission Allergy for dust mite encasings and more information. Merck’s Singulair may be prescribed by a doctor if serious allergenic symptoms persist. Additional online resources include http://www.allergycontrol.com and http://www.natlallergy.com.
Image Source: Mission Allergy
Data Sources: Mission Allergy and Dr. Samuel Grubman
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