House dust mites are one of the most potent and common domestic and workplace triggers of allergic reactions.
Dust mites are microscopic eight-legged creatures called arachnids and they are closely related to the spider and the tick. They are found in every home and their presence is not an indication of poor cleaning!
It is not the dust mite itself which is the allergen but enzymes (proteins) found in its droppings and decaying body. The whole droppings themselves are particles between 4 and 20 microns in size but may crumble into particles as small as 0.5 microns across.
House dust mites feed upon the skin scales naturally shed by humans and other animals which are found in house dust. Although their presence is harmful to people who become allergic to them, dust mites do not bite or spread diseases.
While usual household insecticides have no effect on dust mites, fortunately there are multiple ways to reduce exposure to dust mite allergens in your home.
Dust mite allergy
As with other allergens, dust mite allergens cause an ‘over-reaction’ of the immune system in an allergic person. In allergy sufferers Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies present on the surface of mast cells trigger the release of histamine when allergens stick to these IgE antibodies. It is histamine that produces the characteristic symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Dust mites love homes
Dust mites love humidity
To survive, house dust mites absorb water from the air. When humidity is less than 50% they tend to dry out and die. They also prefer temperatures around 21°C (70°F).
It is thus crucial to get rid of damp in your home. Ventilate by opening windows, and check for condensation in the kitchen and bathrooms. If you live in a humid area, consider buying a dehumidifier but remember that very dry air can be uncomfortable especially if you suffer with sinus or respiratory conditions.
Getting rid of dust mites in your home
The fight is never ending - dust mites are everywhere and even if you can get rid of all of them in your home, new ones would still appear (they are carried into your home on people’s clothing, for instance). So, look for long-term solutions which will reduce your house dust mite burden.
These measures will create an environment that could seriously reduce the house dust mite burden in your home.
Anti-mite spray and powder
Regular use of an anti-mite dust spray or powder can be of help. An anti-mite spray can penetrate mite reservoirs in carpets, soft furnishings and mattresses and anti-mite dry powder carpet cleaner can help get rid of mites where they nest.
When choosing allergy cleaning products, be careful to use cleaning products with natural ingredients. Spraying a chemical, especially on a regular basis, can be a severe trigger for people suffering with allergies.
Dust mites are not the only allergen in house dust
Cockroaches are commonly found in crowded cities and in, for example, the southern United States. Certain proteins in cockroach feces and saliva also can be found in house dust. These proteins can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms in some people, especially children. Cockroach allergens likely play a significant role in causing asthma in many inner-city populations.
Can an air cleaner help?
While numerous manufacturers of ‘air cleaners’ / ‘air filters’ claim to be able to clear dust mite allergens from the air, they can only reduce, not eliminate, the problem, because:
You can learn more about why traditional air cleaners don’t work well here and why Airora’s unique technology does work here.
Dr Wyatt blogs on his lifetime's experience of Indoor Air Quality Issues.