Dust Mites: A Microscopic Threat to Your Family’s Health

Dust Mite

Dust mites are tiny, microscopic bugs, that are commonly found in human habitats, such as your house, couch, bed or carpet. They are able thrive in our living environment, because they live off of our dead skin cells, and the dander from our pets.

Regardless of how clean we try to keep our homes, we are still vulnerable to dust mites. Cleaning alone will not counteract the problem due to the fact that the average human gives off 5-10 grams of dead skin cells each week, about 3lbs per year.

Despite the most regimented of cleaning schedules, the dust mites in your home will have plenty to sustain. The average house dust mite reproduces at an astonishingly rapid rate. The effects of this plethora of dust mites in our homes can have a significant role in causing health problems.

Dust mites excrete an average of 20 droppings of waste each day. Many people are highly allergic to these droppings, and scientists are beginning to correlate dust mites to asthma, as well as other allergic symptoms [1].

How Am I Exposed to Dust Mites?

Dust mites thrive off of dead skin. Dust mites live in our sheets, clothing, stuffed animals, carpet, upholstery, towels and furniture. While your dryer will most likely kill the dust mites (from clothing, sheets and towels), many things like furniture and carpet are more difficult to control for mites and their excrement.

Their droppings are composed of protein compounds. When we breathe in these protein substances, or when they come into contact with our skin, our body tries to protect us by producing antibodies. In turn, our antibodies release histamine which is a chemical that causes the typical swelling and red color associated with allergies.

Dust Mites: Symptoms of Exposure

Dust mites can pose a serious threat to our health as an allergen, and have been proven to trigger asthma, especially in children and the elderly. Clinical trials conducted by Cytos Biotechnology [2], showed a direct correlation between dust mites in your home and triggered allergies.

Symptoms of dust-mite triggered allergies include itchiness, infected/inflamed eczema, watering eyes, runny nose, clogged lungs, hay fever, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and even breathing problems.

Very sensitive people even report getting red, itchy bumps on their skin after lying on a dust-mite infested rug or bed. It’s easy to see why eliminating dust mites from your home could seriously improve your overall health.

Shocking Facts About Dust Mites

  • The average bed is home to anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites.
  • Pets with large amounts of fur can greatly increase the number of dust mites in your home.
  • We inhale their droppings from our pillows as we sleep, lay on carpet, or breathe in airborne dust particles.
  • Common household dust is often heavily composed of, and contaminated with the fecal pellets and cast skins of dust mites.
  • Estimates state that 80% of the material you can see floating in a sunbeam is actually human skin flakes (dust-mite food!)
  • Studies show that an estimated 50-80% of asthmatics are affected by dust mites [3]. Other allergic reactions to dust mites may even include headaches, fatigue and depression.
  • Dust mites are considered arachnids, which is the same class that includes spiders, ticks, and even scorpions!

Tips For Eliminating Dust Mites In Your Home

Although dust mites are microscopic, there are some steps we can take to fight them. Here are several methods that you can use to minimize dust mites, as well as their cast skins and fecal droppings, from your home:

  • Get rid of their food sources. Remove dust from your home. Don’t sweep or “dust” floors or hard surfaces. This only serves to circulate the dust throughout the house, giving you more chance to inhale them. Instead, use damp cloths that will attract and hold the dust you’re collecting.
  • Vacuum up dust instead of sweeping. Vacuum floors, furniture, carpet and upholstery with a machine that uses HEPA filter technology. It will capture the mites and their eggs.
  • It might be a good idea to invest in a good quality air purification system that employs a HEPA filter and UV and negative ion technologies for best results when cleaning your air.
  • To minimize pet dander, run a wet cloth over pet fur each day, especially after animals come in from outdoors. Another good way to contain loose hair is to brush fur in both directions and then follow with a damp cloth.
  • Keep your home humidity levels low. Use a dehumidifier to keep your air below 50% humidity because dust mites don’t like dry air. I suggest that you run a dehumidifier about 2 to 3 times per week in high humidity regions.
  • Wash bedding weekly and use water at about 130° Fahrenheit. Very hot water kills the dust mites. Use natural laundry detergent and add essential oils to help kill any living mites left behind. Dry your bedding on high heat as well.
  • Make an investment and purchase hypoallergenic bedding and furniture. You should replace your pillows, and even bedding, yearly. There are also mattress and pillow coverings that are dust mite-free and organic. Some suggest enclosing the mattress top and sides with a dust mite impervious cover.
  • If you have cloth curtains, clean them regularly with the vacuum and a damp cloth. Light-weight materials hold fewer mites than heavier materials.
  • Make sure to hang clothes up in a well-ventilated closet or wardrobe. If your closet or wardrobe can’t be ventilated, purchase a non-chemical moisture remover.
  • Carpet can be replaced with non-toxic wool or non-toxic hardwood or cork flooring. If you use carpet, be sure to use all-natural carpet cleaning products.
  • Get rid of the clutter! Clutter collects dust, and by now you know that it also collects dust mites. Think about removing (or at least reducing) knickknacks, unnecessary objects, piles of books, magazines and newspapers, as well as piles of clothes from your bedroom.
  • Children’s stuffed animals can also carry mites. To kill mites, you can place the toys in the freezer for 24 hours before you wash them, or simply wash them in very hot water.

Do you have any tips for eliminating dust mites? Please drop them in the comment section below.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Asthma Triggers: Gain Control.
  2. Klimek L, Willers J, Hammann-Haenni A, Pfaar O, Stocker H, Mueller P, Renner WA, Bachmann MF. Assessment of clinical efficacy of CYT003-QbG10 in patients with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: a phase IIb study. Clin Exp Allergy. 2011 Sep;41(9):1305-12. Epub 2011 Jun 14.
  3. Kemp TJ, Siebers RW, Fishwick D, O’Grady GB, Fitzharris P, Crane J. House dust mite allergen in pillows. BMJ. 1996 Oct 12;313(7062):916.

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  • http://www.tips4mums.com natrummur

    I’m allergy to dust mites and it’s crazy to follow your recommendations. I recommend to attack the reasons why you have the allergy.

    1.- Try the NAET therapy. I’ve really improved a lot with this therapy, the problem is that I’m allergic to almost everything, and I’ve been following this therapy already for a year and still there’s some things that make me allergy.

    2.- Improve your diet avoiding milk products, gluten products, and histamine containing products (chocolate, some non fresh fish, etc). Make you a test (ImuPro for example) to know your food intolerances.

    3.- Eat anti-allergy food: orange and vitamine C products, sweet potato, onion, etc.

    4.- Treat your allergy with homeopathy, both for a long term recovery with psore-like remedies and the acute attack with histaminum, allium cepa, etc.

  • Dust

    I used to have a dog and until I gave it away, I just couldn’t get rid of the dust mites. Wish I would have tried all the advices here.

  • Aaron Smith

    It is truly annoying to have dust mites affect your home and cause allergy after all. I guess it is best practice to prevent it beforehand.. thanks for good info.

  • http://www.dustmitescontrol.com Aaron Smith

    Also it is really shocking to know that all the dust mites can live in my bed!

  • http://www.aaronsenvironmental.com Aaron

    Diatomaceous earth works really well getting rid of these. We have 3 dogs, several cats, birds, etc. (we foster animals and are part of a rescue shelter). Once a month, we sprinkle DE over the carpets, take the day off to go do something fun, come home and vacuum. Since DE doesn’t harm people or animals (only bugs), it does a great job eliminating the problem. It also absorbs odors, so it helps a little that way too.

  • youmustbeawesome

    Are you serious?? Your recommendations are just AVOIDING the problem. You think it’s crazy?? You say to attack the cause of the allergy.. Umm, the cause of this particular allergy is dust mites soo how would avoiding getting rid of dust and mites and focusing on “taking homeopathy” or anything else help? You should not be giving advice since you obviously are speaking from personal opinion with no professional background . You use “NAET” therapy but you still have allergies.. Wow, great advice!! Don’t listen to natrummur, there are plenty of studies that show how filthy indoor air and dust can be… This person is obviously not getting the point… And milk only causes allergies when it is processed and taken from crowded cows with poor conditions. Raw, non-pasturized, non- homogenized, small scale fresh milk is one of natures most complete foods… Raw milk doesn’t even cause lactose-intolerance! All the studies on milk that show irritants and allergies have used HOMOGENIZED AND PASTEURIZED milk so of course the studies will say how “bad” milk is.

  • cleo jade sybil

    No wonder my roommate got an allergy on her face which she cant explain because she doesn’t have allergies before. We definitely need a dehumidifier, our room is a nest for maybe millions of dust mites. Even if we clean everyday, and wash linen every week, after we turn off the air-conditioner, mist is all over the room surface, it is very humid. Thank you for the idea.

  • Priscilla

    My dog is allergic to dust mites and storage dust mites. The vet is going to order allergy serum for him. We have carpet in bedrooms only but need to eliminate dust on the tile floors as well. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can wash the floors and baseboards with in order to help eliminate dust mites?

  • Gos

    Aaron,

    Diatomaceous earth is NOT harmless. It is every bit as much a breathing hazard as dust mites.

    If looked at under a microscope, DE has sharp edges. The particles are made of silica, which means that if inhaled, they can embed in the tissues of the lungs and cause silicosis. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth#Safety_considerations)

    For people with allergies or asthma, DE can pose a particularly serious risk. I once visited in a home that had been dusted with DE to kill fleas. I was forced to leave after a short time, because I was having one of the worst asthma attacks I’ve ever had in my life.

  • SomeoneWHoDoesLikeToClean

    KAWASAKIS’s was thought to have been contracted by dust mites..

  • SomeoneWHoDoesLikeToClean

    I think by the comments most homosapiens here have a need for attention: does the term hypocondriac come to mind?
    Our society has people who are soooo into themselves…they cannot fathom anything else. OPRAH, The illegal occupant in the White House with his 37 Un Con stitutional Socilist CZARs, Hollywood in general: leave the animals alone and stop blaming them for your own mental deficiencies.

  • SomeoneWHoDoesLikeToClean

    PS We grew up with carpets, we have carpets, I haven’t changed the bed linens for three months: I never missed school from K-12 nor collge classes; I worked from age l5; my grandfather worked 57 years never missing a day.
    What does that say about your paranoia with just one example of non illness.
    Rarely, do I vacuum and we have visitors who remark: your home is so organized and clean…
    I simply smile…

  • Richard Carpenter

    Ozone generators kill mites and destroy allergens. There are some “toy” ozone generators and some industrial strength ones; I am talking about the latter. Ozone smells just like an indoor swimming pool with way too much chlorine. Ozone is, of course, dangerous to pets and all living things. Not for use by fools. Read the directions.

  • LibertyVini

    As an indoor air quality professional (and an allergy sufferer), I agree that source removal – eliminating as many dust mites and as much dust-mite food as possible – is the main way to attack the problem. Because we are ultimately the source of the dust mite’s food, however, the battle never ends. Removing reservoirs like rugs can help. HEPA vacuums and HEPA filters can help too. But DO NOT mess around with “ionic” filters, nor with ozone generators. I hear too many horror stories, not just due to direct ozone exposure, but due to the bad effects of ozone on things in the house that can make the problems worse. When it comes to ozone in houses, unless you REALLY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING, JUST SAY NO.

  • LibertyVini

    Yes, DE contains silica, most of it is ‘amorphous’ as opposed to crystalline silica (the bad kind), and yes, using too much of it will increase your chances of getting silicosis. It is worthwhile to remember the advice of Paracelsus that all substances are poisons, that the effect is dependent upon the dose. DE may be helpful in some cases. Don’t overdo it.

  • Brian Armstrong

    Get rid of your mattresses entirely, and use a high-quality air-bed; they’re cheaper, more comfortable, and completely hypoallergenic because they’re air-tight, precluding skin from getting into it like with ordinary mattresses.
    You can also fold them up and take them with you on a trip.
    As for pillows, you can wash them in hot water just like everything else.
    Normal Mattresses are the #1 breeding-sites of dust-mites because you can’t ever get the skin-flakes out; and that can also breed types of other germs and bacteria.

    Also if you have duct-ventilation, get them cleaned out, and put filters on your ducts, furnace and air-conditioners; my younger brother had severe asthma as a child, and we only found out much later that it was because of dust-mites in the heating-ducts.

    As for a de-humidifier, be sure to set it at a low level and run it constantly, while running the hose to the drain.

  • Laure

    youmustbeawesome is mistaken about a few things. First of all, allergies/sensitivities can be mild or very serious, so anything you do to decrease an allergy can help. Particularly sensitive people can be allergic to so many things and combinations of things that NAET can be a long-term process – but it can have dramatic, positive results. In the meantime, allergy or not, some people just don’t metabolize certain foods as well as others – like dairy. We don’t know everything yet, and dairy may never be great for you, even if it is raw, organic, 100% grassfed, full of its own enzymes and all (I am a big proponent of raw milk, but even raw dairy isn’t perfect for EVERYONE).
    Some people gain a lot of relief from allergy symptoms in general by lowering exposure the triggers of all kinds – whether by using good housekeeping hygiene, by eating high/all raw, by using healthy supplements that your body doesn’t react badly to, by blessing your food before eating it and asking God to make it good for you, honestly, whatever works. Homeopathy is not to be sneezed at either; it has also produced excellent results for many people. Indoor air is not the only problem contributing to our troubling symptoms, as well. If you tried NAET and it didn’t work for you, it might be the practitioner, it might be that you had more work to do to be free of your symptoms. Ditto with homeopathy.

  • Laura

    You obviously don’t have any allergies in your family–consider yourself blessed. I would have totally agreed with you, until my son came along with asthma and allergies, which totally changed our life, home, and housekeeping.

  • talkalot

    Seeing a child suffering with asthma and allergies is not hypocondriac behavior. That is not the kind of attention anyone wants. You really need to wake up.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/alice.noriega.79 Alice Noriega

    I AM VERY CLEAN IN MYAPT: AND VERY, VERY ALLERGIC TO THESE NO-SEE-UMS…I KNOW THAT FILTH IS THE HOME SWEET HOME FOR THESE CRITTERS..( WAS TRAPPED IN A VERY FILTHY SENIOR HOME) WERE MANY BUG’S LIVED IN THERE..(I AM IN A VERY CLEAN APT: NOW…BUT NEVER KNEW OR HEARD OF A DUST MITE, OR A BIIK LICE..AND NOW HEARING THAT BEDUBUGS MOVED IN………….OMG!!…HAVE A ALLERGIST THAT DID NOT HELP IN NO WAY…………..I HAVE TRIED ANYTHING AND EVERY THING…DO HAVE A HUMIDIFIER…AND A HEPA VACUMM,AND DOING ALL OF THE MESAGES GIVEN ME…GETTING BETTER,,BUT WHAT A BATTLE BECAUSE OF SOMEONES FILTHY STYLE OF LIVING

  • Ash

    buy a Kirby home care system. I no longer suffer from my allergies after buying one

  • Devin
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