Dust mites are microscopic organisms that feed off of shed skin scales. During their month-long lifespan, dust mites can produce 200 times their weight in excrement. Dust mite feces and their shed skin are common allergens in people, second only to pollen. Although cleaning practices can reduce dust mite populations, their presence is not an indication of poor housecleaning, according to the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid locations, including clothes.
Household areas that provide warmth, humidity and food include carpeting, mattresses, bedding, pillows stuffed toys and clothing, especially old clothing. Dust mites can inhabit anything that is fabric-covered or upholstered. Clothing is also a means of transportation for dust mites. They can travel to different locations in a house or to other homes and locations.
Chronic exposure to dust mites can cause allergies. Dust mite allergies worsen during humid seasons. Dust mite allergy symptoms include tightness of the chest, shortness of breath, sneezing, poor sleep, itchiness in the chin, wheezing and coughing. In severe cases, respiratory failure is possible. Testing the blood's concentration of dust mite allergen antibodies can determine the source of the allergic reactions.
Cleaning Practices to Reduce Dust Mites
Frequent vacuuming helps reduce dust mites in carpets and rugs. Use a vacuum with high efficiency purifying air filters. Place vacuum bags in an outdoor receptacle since dust mites survive being vacuumed. Washing clothes, sheets, blankets, quilts and cloth toys in hot water kills dust mites. The water must be 130 degrees to be hot enough to kill dust mites. Use a dryer to dry bedding and clothes. Covering mattresses, box springs and pillows with synthetic cases, which prevent dust mites from entering the fabric, helps reduce dust mite exposure. Covering the zippers with duct tape prevents dust mites from escaping the case.
Home Alterations to Reduce Dust Mites
Removing cloth objects, such as old clothes, tapestries, drapes, wall hangings and cloth headboards, reduces dust mite populations in the home. Avoid the use of wool, foam or down bedding. These materials provide the warmth and humidity for dust mites to thrive. In addition, replacing upholstered furniture and removing carpets decreases dust mite habitats. Small rugs can be washed regularly to control dust mite populations. Maintaining low humidity in the home also limits dust mite reproduction. Although eliminating dust mites from a home is nearly impossible, these steps can reduce their populations and allergens.