A dust mite allergy is a relatively common type of allergy. You may suspect you have a dust mite allergy if you exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:
- Sore, runny or itchy eyes
- A stuffy or runny nose
- An itchy throat
If you have a dust mite allergy, these symptoms will typically get worse when you spend time indoors. You will also suffer all year round, unlike hayfever sufferers who will only suffer at certain times of the year.
What is a dust mite allergy?
Dust mites are incredibly tiny creatures that live in your home and feed off dust. There are millions of them in every home, and they cause most people no harm at all. They do not bite.
The creatures themselves are actually harmless but dust mite allergy sufferers react to their feces or the remains of dead dust mites.
How to cope with a suspected dust mite allergy
It is impossible to eradicate dust mites from your home completely, but there are a few important steps to take that will help you manage your allergy better and reduce or relieve symptoms. Here’s what you can do:
Visit your doctor
This is the most important step to take. Only a medical professional can say for sure that you have a dust mite allergy. For your own safety, it’s really important to rule out food and other allergies and not just assume you have a dust mite allergy.
You’ll probably be referred to an allergy clinic for tests. Dust mite allergies can be hard to diagnose because the allergen is almost everywhere indoors, but tests will eventually determine what the cause of your unpleasant symptoms is.
2. Take allergy-relief medication
With your doctor’s approval, begin taking allergy relief medication. This will quickly reduce your allergy symptoms so that you can enjoy your day again. A good medication will not make you feel drowsy; you’ll feel much more energetic, too, as you won’t have the stress of dealing with your allergy symptoms.
3. Begin a thorough and regular home cleaning routine
The key to minimizing dust mites around your home is to clean regularly and thoroughly. Setting up a good cleaning routine for this ensures that no corners of the home are forgotten and that everything is cleaned thoroughly and regularly enough to prevent a build-up of dust mites.
To target dust mites, these are the really important tasks to include in your routine:
Hot wash bedding often
When you consider that you spend around eight hours out of 24 in your bed (and children longer), it’s really important to keep your bed as dust-mite free as possible. Use a hot wash of at least 60°C to clean pillowcases, sheets, and other bedding. When used with a good quality detergent, a hot wash will kill and remove dust mites. Try to wash bedding at least once weekly, or perhaps twice.
Switch to damp dusting
Using a damp cloth is the best way to remove dust and dust mites. Try to wipe down all hard surfaces at least once a week. Make sure you regularly dust solid furniture, shelves, countertops, window sills and the tops of door frames and picture frames.
Clean floors regularly
It’s really important to regularly remove dust and dirt from your floors. These are large surface areas that can harbor a huge amount of dust mites.
Vacuuming is effective on carpets. However, this method of cleaning can throw dust mites up into the air so it’s best done by someone else as it’s not a job for allergy sufferers themselves. After about 20 minutes, the air should be clear enough for you to return to the room.
Carpets and rugs should be given a regular deep clean, too. Either use a professional service or use a carpet cleaning machine yourself. Aim to deep clean several times a year to remove dust and dust mites hiding deep down in the carpet.
Hard floors can be washed or wiped using regular detergent. A couple of times a week should be enough.
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Freeze items that can’t cope with a hot wash
Dust mites cannot survive the low temperatures in a domestic freezer compartment. This means popping items into the freezer overnight is a useful way of killing off dust mites hiding in items that can’t be washed.
However, because the allergens are the feces or dead dust mites, freezing will not completely solve the problem as it cannot remove these. Instead, it will prevent the build-up of living dust mites meaning the number of allergens in the item will not increase so fast.
Lose the clutter
Cleaning thoroughly can be time-consuming. Try to minimize your time spent tidying and cleaning by blitzing clutter around your home.
Removing clutter will give you better results, too. To give rooms a thorough clean, you need to remove the kinds of items that either attract dust (like books, ornaments, and keepsakes) or that make it hard to dust (like piles of paperwork). If items are precious, consider putting them in a glass cabinet where they’ll stay dust-free.
Soft furnishings, like cushions, also harbor dust mites. Try to reduce their numbers if you can. Soft toys can also be home to dust mites, so keep only your child’s favorites and commit to washing them often.
The moe non-essential items you can remove from your home, the easier your home will be to clean.
4. Keep home humidity levels below 50 percent
Keeping the humidity below 50 percent in your home can reduce dust mite numbers by a large portion. Dust mites will thrive in warm, humid homes but will struggle to survive in lower humidity levels.
To keep humidity levels low in your home, you can:
- Ventilate areas regularly by opening windows as often as possible.
- Use vent fans or extractor/exhaust fans in damper areas like bathrooms and kitchens. If this is not possible, keep windows open as much as you can.
- Dry clothes outside or use a clothes dryer that vents outside.
- Consider using a dehumidifier if high humidity continues to be a problem in your home.
5. Make some changes to your home
Some difficult-to-clean items in your home may be harboring a lot of dust mites, too, especially if they haven’t been replaced recently.
Here are some changes to consider making:
Switch carpets for hard floors
Carpets are the most difficult floors to live with if you are a dust mite allergy sufferer. To avoid the hassle and cost of having them regularly deep cleaned, consider switching to easy-to-wipe hard floors.
Swap out dry-clean only furnishings
Consider replacing heavy dry-clean only curtains and fabric blinds with machine-washable curtains or shutters and blinds that can be damp dusted.
Also switch all other soft furnishings, such as throw pillows, blankets and soft toys with ones that can cope with a regular hot wash.
Replace your mattress and pillows
Older mattresses and pillows can be harboring an incredible number of dust mites. Definitely consider purchasing a new mattress and set of pillows to seriously reduce their numbers in your bedroom. Once you’ve made your purchase, use washable protective covers to protect bedding from a fresh dust mite build-up.
A positive future
Living with a dust mite allergy needn’t be hard to bear. By using a combination of preventing a build-up of dust mites and the right medication, you should see a noticeable difference in your symptoms and a huge difference to your quality of life.