If you are experiencing red, itchy, watery eyes, running nose, eczema, sneezing, nasal symptoms or cough, then you may be experiencing allergy to dust mites. Dust mite allergies are the second most common allergies second only to pollen allergies. Over 50% of allergic asthmatics are sensitive to dust mites. Children and the elderly are particularly sensitive.

Dust mites are microscopic creatures found almost everywhere. They are very small and invisible to the naked eye. They can live in all climates but thrive in warm, moist environments. Homes with temperatures above 70 degree F and relative humidity above 75% are an ideal breading ground. They feed on flakes of human skin. As they grow they deposit feces and shed their own skin which contains highly allergenic proteins. The inhalation of these proteins is the major cause of allergies.

While it is not possible to completely eliminate their presence, the best treatment is to reduce exposure. The following is an overall plan to reduce exposure and help reduce your allergy symptoms.

1. Maintain humidity in the home to less than 50%. Humidity can be controlled in some areas of the country by simply opening windows, or running bathroom or kitchen exhaust fans. Cold air contains less moisture that warm air so drawing in cold air will reduce the overall humidity in the home. If you live in a humid region it may be necessary to invest in an Air Conditioner or a dehumidifier.

2. Remove carpets if possible and replace with laminate or wood flooring products which can be easily damp mopped. If you cannot remove carpets then have them steam cleaned. Steam cleaning is more effective at killing dust mites than shampooing.

3. Vacuum at least once per week. The quality of the vacuum cleaner is important. Many vacuum products do a poor job of filtration and therefor return tiny particles to the room during vacuuming. Invest in a vacuum that includes a HEPA filter that removes over 99% of particulates or a central vacuum system that discharges to the outdoors.

4. De-clutter the room. Particularly important in childrens rooms. The presence of stuffed animals and toys is a breading ground for dust mites.Remove excess items such as books, toys and mobiles. Some items can be washed in very hot water. Other non washable items can be put in the freezer for 24 hours and then rinsed off to remove any dead particles.

5. Replace fabric drapes with roll up blinds which can be easly cleaned.

6. Leave the bed unmade. Pulling back the covers and exposing the bed to sunlight can allow the bed to dry out.

7. Wash bed linens and duvets weekly in very hot water. Water temperatures of 130 degF will kill dust mites.

8. Vacuum mattress, box spring and pillows then enclose them in zippered, allergy proof covers.

 9. Install a good quality room air purifier complete with HEPA filter. Although not strictly for dust mite control these can also reduce dust and pollen levels in the room. Ozone producing purifiers should be avoided and are not recommended.

 10. Wipe down hard surfaces such as windows, doors and dressers with a damp cloth to remove dust. Dust mites, pollen and mold spores attach themselves to dust particles and can be disturbed whenever anyone enters the room.

11.  Install a good quality furnace air filter if you have a forced air furnace and change it every 3 months. An additional filter in the bedroom air register is also recommended.

Research has shown that eliminating dust mites completely in a room is not possible. Weather conditions, season changes, temperature, humidity are all factors which effect the growth and life cycle of the dust mite. Incorporation of the above techniques are at least a first step in helping to reduce allergy symptoms.

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