10 Simple Steps Help To You Bag Allergy-Causing Dust Mites
10 Simple Steps Help You Defeat Dust Mites
Beds are the most popular stomping grounds and breeding grounds
-- for dust mites, those ugly, microscopic creatures that can
cause allergies and make asthma worse.
Recently, researchers in coastal Australia -- which has a humid
climate where house dust mite levels are high -- found that
using special coverings on mattresses and pillows and specially
washing other bedding reduced dust mite levels 30% after four
weeks, and their levels remained about the same for the rest of
the six-month trial.
It's not dust that causes people to wheeze and sneeze; it's the
eight-legged arthropods, smaller than the period at the end of
this sentence that are natural inhabitants of indoor
environments. The droppings of these mites are the most common
trigger of continual, nonseasonal allergies and asthma symptoms,
especially in humid regions, where dust mites tend to thrive
throughout the home.
The most important finding, according to lead researcher Carl
Vanlaar, PhD, is that even in an environment where house dust
mites thrive, it is possible for people to substantially reduce
the mites and the substances they produce that cause allergies,
Using simple procedures, such as putting special coverings on
mattresses and pillows and rigorously washing the rest of the
bedding, can help you score points in the war against these Star
Wars alien-like creatures, says Vanlaar, who is an allergen
research scientist at the Institute of Respiratory Medicine at
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. The study appeared in a
recent issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,
with funding from the Asthma Foundation of New South Wales.
In the trial, researchers tested 14 beds in seven households. In
half the beds -- occupied by children with allergy symptoms --
they washed all bed coverings with Acaril, a mite killer
containing 30% benzyl benzoate as the active ingredient. They
also vacuumed the bedding and floors, and covered mattresses and
pillows with special coverings. The benzyl benzoate wash was
repeated every two months during the trial and again four months
In the other seven beds -- which were occupied by the allergic
children's siblings -- the researchers did nothing special. They
found that there was a substantial reduction in the amount of
allergen caused by dust mites in the study children's beds
compared to the other children's beds.
There have been several other studies looking at ways of
controlling mites and their allergens in the home. Some methods,
such as the use of benzyl benzoate powders, have been very
limited in their effectiveness.
"Studies targeting allergens in beds -- such as our own study --
have had variable levels of success depending on the [method]
used, or the studies took place in climates unfavorable for dust
mite survival, such as in northern Europe," says Vanlaar. He
adds that in this test, they opted for washing the upper bed
coverings rather than encasing them because when the upper
covering is encased, the bed can become somewhat hot and
Michael Ruff, MD, spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy,
Asthma, and Immunology, agrees with the Australian findings.
"This study proves that even allergy and asthma sufferers living
in areas with high humidity can benefit from these steps." Ruff
says washing bedding in extremely hot water once a week and
encasing pillows and mattresses in allergen-resistant covers are
the easiest and most effective ways to reduce allergen levels in
Vanlaar says the next step is to test whether this method of
allergen control in bedding is enough to reduce allergy symptoms
in individuals with current symptoms of asthma, and to help
prevent allergies and subsequent asthma in high-risk infants.
"We are already investigating the second item by conducting a
large ... trial -- the Childhood Asthma Prevention Study -- in
which we are treating the cots of approximately 300 babies who
are in a high-risk group for asthma, based on a family history
of asthma," by washing and encasing the bedding like they did in
the current study. To start your own grassroots campaign against
the little critters, the American Academy of Family Physicians
recommends that you follow these 10 steps for defeating dust
mites in the home:
Start in the bedroom:
* Since most dust mites live in mattresses, put an airtight
plastic or polyurethane cover on every mattress.
* Wash sheets and blankets in very hot water every week.
* Wash bed pillows every week or put a plastic cover on them.
(The pillowcase goes over the plastic cover.)
* If possible, bedrooms should have a hardwood, tile, or
linoleum floor. These surfaces are easier to keep clean than
* If you have to have carpet, try not to place the carpet on
concrete. The warm space between a rug and concrete is a good
place for mites to live.
* For carpeting, spray the rug with a solution of 3% tannic
acid every two months to kill the dust mites. Ask your doctor
how to use this solution, and whether it is right for your
In the rest of the house:
* Vacuum all carpets and upholstery every week. Vacuums with
high-efficiency filters pick up more dust mites, but even
standard vacuums work well.
* Furniture that has a polyurethane cover over its padding
helps. Plastic or wooden furniture that doesn't have much
padding can also help keep down the number of dust mites in the
* Because dust mites love warm, humid places, running your air
conditioner and keeping the humidity low make a difference.
* Don't bother with special air filters -- they won't help
children with asthma or allergies.
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