Dust Mite Allergies Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What is a dust mite?

Dust mites are tiny organisms that feed on the shed scales of human skin. The waste products of the dust mite may provoke allergic reactions or asthma in your child.

How can I limit my child’s exposure to dust mites and their waste?

There are many items in your home that you can modify to minimize your child’s exposure. These include:

  • Beds - Every bed in your house should have wooden or metal frames. Do not allow your child to sleep on a couch, sofa or hide-a-bed. If your child has asthma and sleeps in a bunk bed, he or she should sleep in the top bunk.
  • Mattress/box spring - Place all mattresses and box springs in a zippered, dust-proof cover and tape over the zippers with electrical or duct tape.
  • Pillows - Encase pillows in zippered, dust-proof covers. Pillows should be made of Dacron or other synthetic fiber. Do not use foam, feather or down pillows.
  • Bedding - Avoid wool or down blankets. Wash all bedding (including sheets, pillowcases, blankets) in hot water, as cold water will not kill the dust mites.
  • Floor coverings - If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting—wood, tile, or vinyl flooring without a rug is best, and they should be mopped at least weekly.  If you must keep rugs or carpeting, vacuum frequently (at least twice a week). If your child has asthma, only vacuum when your child is away and will not return to the room until several hours after you have finished. Substitute multi-layered vacuum bags for regular single layer bags.
  • Furnace - Electric or gas heat is recommended. Do not use wood stoves or kerosene heaters. Change the air filters on the furnace every month. Cover all furnace outlets in the room with special filters or cover the outlets with 10 thicknesses of cheesecloth or muslin. This will catch dust in the furnace air. Change the cheesecloth when it gets dusty underneath (about every two weeks).
  • Stuffed animals - Limit your child to two or three stuffed animals, if possible, and keep all stuffed animals off the bed. Wash them about once a month to remove dust mite allergens; Stuffed animals can also be put in a hot dryer for 20 minutes to remove dust mites.
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