For many people with asthma, allergies, eczema and hay fever, the home environment could be filled with hazards.
Here we explore what actions you can take to minimise the amount of triggers, and in particular how to kill dust mites.
House dust mites have long been considered a trigger factor for asthma sufferers. Yet for many years, it has not been acknowledged that individuals with eczema could also be affected by dust mites until recent research showed eczema flare ups could be triggered by them.
Dust mites are tiny, invisible to the human eye and live in mattresses, carpets and soft furnishings. They love warm, humid conditions, are located in every single home and virtually impossible to remove. They eat skin cells which are shed daily. This is among the reasons why dusting and vacuuming are important in dust mite control. It isn’t the mite, but their droppings that trigger reactions.
For some people, the house dust mite is among the key factors for making their skin worse. For other people, it’s a variety of triggers and for the lucky few, house dust mites allergy will play no part at all.
Beds and bedding is where at least half the dust mites are located. We often spend at least one third of our day in bed, with them! Your bed provides an ideal environment, warm, moist and a continuous food source (about a teaspoon of skin cells every night, per person).
To minimise dust mites, follow these simple tips:
- Hot wash sheeting each week, wash pillows and quilts every 6 to 8 weeks at 55º – 60º C.
- Use specialized dust mite bedding that provides continuous protection. The dust mite covers prevents skin cells entering the mattress, in addition to protecting the individual from coming into contact with dust mite allergens contained in the mattress. Ensure the covers totally enclose the mattress, or quilt or pillow, with a pore size of well under 10 microns (not thread-count). Those that cover only the top of the mattress or have a larger pore size, are ineffective against dust mite allergens.
- Dust with a damp cloth and vacuum carpets and soft furnishings once weekly.
- Be sure you vacuum under the bed as there may be considerable amounts of skin in this area, floating down from the mattress.
- Avoid using toxic dust mite spray.
- Change or clean the vacuum bag before storing it away. Dust mites love a holiday inside the cupboard!
- About a quarter of the dust mites are found in the carpet and another quarter in soft furnishings such as lounges, cushions and curtains. Minimise symptoms by removing lounge and cushion covers to wash or replace with vinyl and leather fabrics that can be easily dusted and cleaned.
- Unless you’ve had dust mites identified as a trigger for eczema, replacing carpets with hard surfaces such as wooden floor boards is probably not a required option. Yet for those who have problems with severe dust mite related eczema, replace carpet with a different type of flooring including lino, very short pile synthetic carpet or cotton rugs which can be washed at high temperatures.
- Pets can trigger an eczema flare up. The response is a result of the pet’s fur, hair, feathers, shed skin or dander added to the house dust. Pet dander is an additional dust mite food source. Avoid allowing pets into the bedroom and living areas. Wash pets weekly and comb long haired pets to get rid of loose fur. Some individuals can manage very short haired dogs, they produce less dander. You may find it is possible to live happily with your own pets but eczema flares up whenever you touch other animals.
- Good ventilation minimises moisture, dampness, relative humidity and discourages mould growth and dust mite activity which can trigger eczema outbreaks. Ventilate rooms to let fresh air in and leave your bed unmade to air it out in the daytime. If the eczema sufferer is allergic to pollens and grasses, keep windows closed early in the day and early evening when the pollen spores are most active during spring and summer.
Understanding your own home environment is essential to understanding how to kill dust mites effectively and efficiently.