Too small to be seen by the naked eye, dust mites can cause big symptoms, including itchy and watery eyes, a runny nose, and itchy skin. About 80% of allergy sufferers are allergic to dust mites, and since these little bugs are found inside the home, it’s hard to find solace from symptoms. To help you keep pesky allergens under control, read on to learn more about dust mites.
What Are Dust Mites?
There are a number of species of dust mites. They are all closely related and share many characteristics including the fact that they tend to irritate humans’ mucous membranes and skin. Dust mites feed on the dead skin cells from humans and pets, so they are most commonly found in bed linens, carpets, and worn clothing. Dust is largely composed of human skin, so where there is dust, there are usually dust mites.
A female dust mite can live for up to 70 days, laying up to 100 eggs throughout her lifetime. So, a few dust mites can quickly turn into a booming population. The more dust mites that are present in a home, the worse an allergy sufferer’s symptoms tend to be. Dust mites also leave behind tiny feces, which contribute to increased dust accumulation in the home.
What Conditions Do Dust Mites Like?
Dust mites, like all living creatures, need moisture and a food source to thrive. They do best in humid environments and in homes where skin cells (dust) are not regularly cleaned up. The average person sheds 1.5 grams of skin each day, which is enough to feed 1 million dust mites.
How Can You Control Dust Mites?
You cannot stop your body from shedding skin cells, so the best way to keep dust mites at bay is to keep your home clean and dry. Here are a few specific ways to achieve that goal.
When summer arrives, humidity levels tend to rise both inside and outside of the home. Dust mites prefer a relative humidity of 70% or higher. If you run a dehumidifier and keep your relative humidity around 50% or less, you’ll have a lot fewer dust mites to worry about. Installing a whole-home dehumidifier is generally the easiest option. This device integrates with your heating and cooling system to remove extra moisture from your air before the air is passed through your ducts.
If you have a central air conditioner, make sure you use it consistently throughout the summer. Air conditioners don’t just cool your home; they also remove moisture from the air, helping to keep dust mites at bay.
Good Cleaning Routines
By cleaning regularly, you can reduce the amount of dust (skin cells) available for the mites to eat. Make sure you’re tackling these cleaning tasks, in particular:
- Wash or change your air conditioner’s air filter once a month.
- Wash your sheets and pillowcases more often.
- Vacuum your carpet thoroughly several times a week. Use a wand attachment to get in the creases between stairs and within furniture.
When you wash your clothing or linens, be sure to do so in hot water, as this will kill more of the mites.
If you still have trouble with dust mite allergies even after controlling your humidity and kicking your cleaning routine into high gear, you may want to look into an air purifier. These devices not only filter dust out of the air, leaving dust mites without a food source, but they also trap the mites themselves, along with their feces. Keep in mind that an air filter alone will not solve your dust mite problems, but it will work extremely well when combined with a good cleaning schedule and low humidity.
Stop letting dust mites leave you itchy, sneezing, and uncomfortable. The worst months for dust mite allergies tend to be July and August, so be proactive and schedule your dehumidifier or air purifier installation this spring.