Dust mites can be a real pain, especially when you suffer from allergies. A runny noses, streaming eyes and constant sneezing are enough to make anyone’s home life difficult.
According to the World Health Organization, allergies rank fourth on the most common chronic condition list. Additionally, around half of allergy sufferers are sensitive to dust mite allergens, which is pretty unfortunate given that dust mites are common in most households, not matter how clean.
With female dust mites laying upwards of 300 eggs during its 80-day lifespan and excreting 200 times its body weight in faecal matter a day (yes, really!), it’s easy to see how a dust mite problem can get out of control. But while you may not be able to get rid of them completely, it is possible to reduce the number of dust mites in your house. Here’s how.
A bed provides dust mites with a warm, dark and humid habitat that’s perfect for breeding and burrowing. Your bed also provides a great food source as dust mites love eating any old flakes of skin you happen to shed as you sleep — disgusting, we know! (The average human sheds enough skin to feed one million dust mites a day!)
But dust mites hate overly hot temperatures so washing your bedding with a 60°C wash cycle each week will reduce their numbers.
While you might have to wash your sheets more often, you can slack off on making the bed. Dust mites love moisture and often adsorb the humidity in your bed sheets. If you remove that humid environment they are less likely to make your bed a permanent home, so instead of tight, military-style bed-making that creates a warm, dark home for them, simply shake out your bedding each morning or hang it over a piece of furniture to give it a good airing.
Dust mites love feather pillows and duvets or doonas, so it’s better to use hypo-allergenic and synthetic pillows and blankets instead. To protect your bed further, there are a number of allergenic mattress covers that work to prevent dust mites making their way from your mattress to among your sheets.
Synthetic bedding is also easier to put through the wash than feather-bedding. If you really want to protect yourself, you can deck your bed out with a range of hypo-allergenic pillow slips, sheets and covers, then wash them regularly as advised above.
You may love snuggling with your pet in bed, but it could be contributing to your dust mite problem. Dust mites love pet dander – the dry skin your pet sheds – so it’s better to exclude your furry friends from the bedroom altogether, and certainly your bed.
Dust mites thrive in environments where the temperature is between 24°C and 27°C and when the humidity is around 70-80 per cent. This is particularly bad news for those who live in warmer, tropical climates. While changes in temperature and humidity will not kill dust mites, it will make it very uncomfortable for them. It will also slow down their breeding.
To control the temperature and humidity, you will need to an air-conditioner and a dehumidifier. You should set your air-conditioner to 21°C as this is below the optimum temperature for dust mites but not an uncomfortable temperature for humans. As for the dehumidifier, it’s best to set the humidity to 50 per cent.
Dust mites love a messy, dusty environment so it’s important to keep on top of cleaning. Vacuuming and wiping down dusty surfaces are a must if you want to keep the critters at bay. Using a steam cleaner for polished-wood floors is even better as it will kill the dust mites as you clean.
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