"Down and Dirty with Dust Mites"
Most people would not even consider dust mites as pests. Certainly not something you would call an exterminator to your home to treat. But were you aware that dust mites are nearly everywhere? Roughly four out of five homes in the United States have detectable levels of dust mite allergen in at least one bed.
We’ve also discovered that no matter how clean a home is, dust mites cannot be totally eliminated.
So what exactly are dust mites?
Dust mites are tiny microscopic relatives of the spider and live on mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains. These tiny creatures feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily and they thrive in warm and humid environments.
Now we’ve learned that:
- Dust mites may be living in your pillow by the millions, eating your dead skin and hair
- They are a major cause of asthma and allergies; especially in vulnerable individuals, such as children and the elderly.
- According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology, approximately 10 percent of Americans exhibit allergic sensitivity to dust mites.
- Dust mites are not parasites; they don’t bite, sting or burrow into our bodies.
- The harmful allergen they create comes from their fecal pellets and body fragments.
- Dust mites like to eat dead skin from pets and humans and the average person probably sheds enough skin a day to feed a million dust mites.
- The Fall and Winter months are a particular problem because we close up our houses and the concentrations of dust mites and their feces increases inside.
Ten percent of the weight of a two year old pillow can be composed of dead mites and their droppings.
Mites prefer warm, moist surroundings such as the inside of a mattress when someone is on it.
Humans shed about 1/5 ounce of dander (dead skin) each week.
About 80 percent of the material seen floating in a sunbeam is actually skin flakes.
Also, bedroom carpeting and household upholstery support high mite populations.
Dust mites are generally harmless to most people.
They don’t carry diseases, but they can cause allergic reactions in asthmatics and others who are allergic to their feces.
People sometimes confuse dustmites with bed bugs
Now…. how do we prevent these tiny mites from increasing in number especially if we fall into the “allergic sensitivity” category?
Some suggestions are:
- Try using a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity at about 50% or below.
- Keep the thermostat in the house below 70 degrees.
- Encase your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen impermeable covers.
- Wash all of your sheets and blankets every 2 weeks and your pillows once a week in hot water (at least 130 – 140°F) to kill dust mites. Non-washable bedding can be frozen overnight to kill dust mites.
- Replace feathered bedding with synthetic materials and traditional stuffed animals with washable ones.
- Replace woolen blankets with nylon or cotton cellulose ones.
- If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets in bedrooms with linoleum, tile or wood floors and remove fabric curtains and upholstered furniture.
- Use a damp mop or cloth to remove dust. Never use a dry cloth since this just stirs up mite allergens .
- Use a vacuum cleaner with either a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter to trap allergens that pass through a vacuum’s exhaust.
- Wear a mask while vacuuming to avoid inhaling allergens, and stay out of the vacuumed area for 20 minutes to allow any dust and allergens to settle after vacuuming.
Even though a pest control company is not the answer to ridding your home of dust mites it is a “goto” solution for any questions you may have regarding dust mites and reducing allergens in your home.