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What is a Dust Mite?

Apr 23, 2013

There is a lot of misinformation out there concerning dust mites, dust mites in your mattress and bedroom and how to avoid them, or even why you would want to avoid them. I thought it might be time for some plain, logical talk about dust mites.

First of all, you cannot eradicate dust mites, nor would you really want to. Dust mites eat dead skin cells, which make up a lot of the dust in your home. They provide a valuable service! However, you do want to manage their numbers and control them where you sleep, particularly if you are allergic to them. By the way, it is their waste matter that carries a protein most people are allergic to, not the actual creature themselves.

Dust mites are just that, a living, breathing creature, and like any living organism, they need food and water. Dust mites are microscopic and don't need much water. They can actually absorb moisture from the air, so they don't rely on pools or puddles of water. They also need warmth. Their ideal living condition is 75-80 degrees, so your warm, moist bedsheets and mattress end up being a great breeding ground.

Oh, by the way: Dust mites don't bite, suck your blood or eat you. Also, they can live on any surface. Don't be fooled by companies claiming their mattresses avoid dust mites or that latex mattress repel dust mites. It's not true.

They do eat your dead skin cells, as every loses lots of skin cells naturally. They also eat pet dander, so if your pets are up in your bed, they are helping support your local dust mite colony.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln research, here are some ways you can manage your indoor population of dust mites and limit their affect on your health:

LOWER THE HUMIDITY IN YOUR HOME -- Reduce humidity levels to less than 50 percent inside your home, especially in the bedroom. This isn't hard to do in the winter, but can be a challenge in summer months, especially in homes without air conditioning. Studies have shown air-conditioned homes have ten times fewer dust mite allergens than non-air-conditioned homes. In addition to cooling the house, air conditioning reduces the humidity dust mites need to thrive. A study has shown using an electric blanket for eight hours each day reduced dust mites by 50 percent in one month.

AVOID FURRY/FEATHERED PETS -- Pets with fur or feathers contribute to the dander in the dust and increase food source for mites. If you are a pet lover, locate their sleeping quarters as far from yours as possible and furnish their sleeping area so it can be cleaned easily. Hardwood or vinyl floors with washable area rugs are ideal.

REDUCE AIR INFILTRATION -- Airing out the house with open windows allows entry of pollen, which is another allergen as well as food for dust mites. In some climates, incoming air may be humid, which promotes dust mites.

CLEANING/HEAT TREATMENTS -- Wash all bedding weekly. Research has shown laundering with any detergent in warm water (77 degrees F) removes nearly all dust mite and cat allergen from bedding. If you cannot launder blankets, dry clean them once a year or put them out in the warm sun for a few hours. Shampoo, steam clean or beat non-washable carpets once a year.

SELECT APPROPRIATE FURNISHINGS -- Avoid overstuffed furniture because it collects dust. Also avoid wool fabrics/rugs because wool sheds particles and is eaten by other insects. Use washable curtains and rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. If you cannot replace carpeting, have it steam cleaned at least once a year, springtime is best. This will prevent a build up of dust mites feeding on skin cells in the carpet during the summertime. Cover your mattresses and pillows with breathable, waterproof protectors (available at Nest Bedding) to decrease mite populations in the bed. Replace feather pillows with Easy Breather foam pillows or our Nature's Perfect Pillows.

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