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What are dust mites?

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One of the most strongly allergenic materials in the average household is dust. An allergy to actual dust is often made worse by the addition of the dropping and carcasses of microscopic creatures called dust mites. These creatures are solely responsible for the suffering of thousands of people across the world. Unfortunately, they are present in every home no matter how much we may try to keep ahead of them. While many symptoms are not normally severe, they can be quite difficult to live with. What triggers an allergic reaction in humans, though?


Dust mites: the underlying cause of dust allergies

Dust mites (Dermatophagoides farinae) are tiny creatures that live indoors in warm, moist places like the insides of pillows and mattresses. They thrive anywhere dust can accumulate. These creatures are not the kind of bugs that you can spot and crush since they are invisible to the naked eye. Their translucent bodies further hinder their visibility. Dust mites have no eyes or antennae, just eight legs and a mouth-like appendage.

Dust mites live in the dead skin cells (dander) shed by humans and pets. They make their homes in mattresses, couches, and other frequently used furniture or carpeting. One square yard of your rug can contain as many as 100,000 dust mites. It is the protein from their droppings which typically cause allergic reactions in humans.

Symptoms of a dust mite allergy include sinus issues such as itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and persistent post-nasal drip.

Asthma

People who suffer from asthma often have a difficult time with dust mites. If they are reactive to dust mites, the allergy symptoms can often trigger severe asthmatic reactions such as respiratory congestion, wheezing, and even severe shortness of breath.

How to reduce dust mites in the home

Accept up front that all the dust mites will never be gone. The best you can do is keep them under control. Anything you can do to reduce the dust mite population will really help yourself if you are allergic, but also any allergic guests who might visit.

The most important thing is to dust regularly with a damp cloth. A dry cloth just stirs up more allergens, so be sure it is damp (not dripping wet though). The same goes for a damp mop on hard floors. If you have carpeting, make sure your vacuum cleaner has a high quality HEPA filter, as this is responsible for removing the microscopic allergens that a standard filter cannot handle. Wear an industrial-grade respirator or half-mask plus goggles while dusting and vacuuming so as not to breathe in any allergens.

In addition, wash all your bedding and any laundry at least once a week. Things that cannot be washed should be frozen overnight to kill the dust mites. Add an allergen-impermeable cover to your mattress and your pillow if you can find them. This will help trap the dust mites.

Between rounds of laundry and dusting, an air purifier will help to maintain good air quality for those allergic to dust mites. Choose an air purifier designed to handle the square footage that needs cleaning.

The key to dealing with a dust allergy is to treat your symptoms if you have a flare-up. You will probably never be completely free of dust and dust mites, so do the best you can to stay ahead of it.

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