Fighting house-dust mites, dust mite control.
House-dust mites live in virtually every home. They are tiny eight-legged mites which are closely associated with people. However, they aren’t parasitic and don’t bite, burrow under the skin and don’t live in skin follicles like other kinds of mites.
The main problem about house-dust mites is that people can be allergic to them. Symptoms shown with dust mite allergies are itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, nasal stuffiness, stuffy ears, runny nose, eczema and also respiratory problems like asthma. Usually people notice the symptoms while stirring dust at the time of cleaning. However, dust don’t just contain one allergen, but also many others, including domestic animals dander, cockroach droppings, cigarette ash, mold spores and pollen.
The only way to find out whether you are allergic to house-dust mites or not is to consult an allergist – a medical doctor who was specially trained to cure allergies. The allergen parts of dust mites are their body fragments and little feces, becoming dust components. These fractions are so tiny that they can be airborne and then inhaled by people when dust is disturbed.
In North America you can find only two species of dust mites. They are so tiny that can’t be virtually visible without magnification. Their females lay eggs of a cream color. The eggs are coated with a sticky substance in order to let the eggs cling to the substrate. The house-dust mites live through 2 immature stages, and their whole life cycle from egg to an adult will take 3-4 weeks if under optimal conditions.
The mites eat animal dander, fungi, human skin scales, pollen and bacteria; they don’t drink water, but absorb it from the environment. For thriving, they need a warm and humid environment (75-80oF and 70-80% of relative humidity). The research revealed that under the humidity of 60% or less the mites stop thriving and die out.
As people constantly lose dead skin (around 1/5 ounce weekly) and spend about 1/3 of their life sleeping, the high levels of the mites can obviously be found in the bedroom, specifically in bedding and mattress. The area where family pets sleep is also under the question as house-dust mites feed on animal dander as well.
Fighting dust mites
There’s no ideal method to reduce mites and relieve allergy suffering that will ensure you 100% clean house. But you still can do your best in eliminating allergens by taking such actions as reducing dust mite populations and exposure to dust.
1. Use heat treatment. Wash all the linen every week. The study has shown that laundering in warm water (77oF) using any detergent can remove almost all cat allergen and dust mite from linen. Also launder the blankets, if possible, or dry them clean once a year. Do the same with the carpets if you still have them – they can be shampooed, steam cleaned or beaten every year.
2. Reduce the humidity. Lower humidity levels to 50% or less inside your house, particularly in the bedroom. It’s easy to do in winter, but can sometimes be hard during summer, particularly in house having no air conditioning. The researches revealed that air-conditioned houses show 10 times less dust mite allergens as compared to non-air-conditioned ones. Air conditioning doesn’t only cool the home, but also reduces the humidity thus depriving dust mites of ability to thrive. The research has also revealed that using an electric blanket for 8 hours per day can lower dust mites by 50% in a month.
3. Reduce air infiltration. When you air out your home with open windows, you invite the pollen in, and that is one more allergen and also food source for mites. Moreover, in some climates the air coming from the street may be humid, thus promoting dust mites with better living conditions.
4. Choose appropriate furnishings. Overstuffed furniture collects dust, so try to get rid of that. Do the same with wool fabrics and rugs, as the wool particles are eaten by various insects. Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, and use washable rugs and curtains instead. If you can’t replace it, have it steam cleaned every springtime to prevent a concentration of dust mites eating skin cells during summer. Put pillows and mattresses in plastic in order to reduce mite populations in the bed and change feather pillows for synthetic ones.
5. Stay away from feathered or furry pets. They contribute much to the dust dander, thus providing mites with more food. If you already have them, move the pets’ sleeping area as far from your bedroom as you can. Also furnish the pets’ sleeping place in such a way that you could clean it easily. The ideal choice is vinyl or hardwood floors and washable rugs.
Reducing dust in the environment helps lowering allergens in sensitive people.
1. Dusting. Do the dusting in advance before vacuuming so to let the dust settle on the floor. Later you can pick it up from there by the vacuum. Never scatter dust, but use a damp cloth instead of dry dusting. You can also decrease airborne particles by as much as 93% as compared to dry dusting, if spraying dusting liquid or furniture polish directly on the furniture surface.
2. Vacuuming. The vacuum cleaner is the basic tool for fighting house dust and dust mites living in it. You can help keeping the house-dust mite populations low by doing regular and thorough vacuuming of all home furnishings, including textiles, draperies, carpets and furniture. The best vacuums to use are those with a water filter, as compared to cleaners having a disposable paper bag, as a water vacuum eliminates a wider range of particle sizes as compared to paper-bags. There are special vacuums, whish were designed specifically for people having allergies to dust. They contain highly efficient filters (HEPA). The best way is to vacuum thoroughly on a weekly basis rather than lightly once a day. The padded furniture and mattresses must be vacuumed extra-thoroughly for about twenty minutes each item.
3. Air purifiers. The research, carried out at the University of Texas-Austin, has revealed HEPA air filter to be considerably more effective at eliminating dust as compared to ion-generating air purifiers that work by making particles electrically charged in order to remove dust from the air. The reason for it is that ion-generating air filters emit great amounts of ozone, which can irritate the lungs and cause lots of side effects like throat irritation, chest pain, shortness of breath and coughing. As the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, ozone can aggravate such chronic respiratory diseases as asthma and also threaten the organism’s ability to fight respiratory infections. Usually vendors and manufacturers of ozone-generating devices use misleading terms when describing ozone, like “pure air” or “energized oxygen”. However, ozone is not a healthy kind of oxygen, but a toxic gas having different properties from oxygen.
Today there are no acaricides developed for dust mite control. However, tannic acid and benzyl benzoate are reported to reduce their levels. But be extremely careful when using these chemicals, as they can aggravate allergies in some people. It’s better to use non-toxic measures for people having serious allergies. Cleaning and non-chemical methods mentioned above will provide quite an adequate control, except for humid/tropical regions.
What house dust contains
Animal dander, cigarette ash, polymer foam particles, incinerator ash, salt and sugar crystals, fibers (wool, cotton, paper and silk), wood shavings, fingernail filings, fungal spores, pollen, food crumbs, glass particles, human skin scales, glue, tobacco, graphite, paint chips, animal and human hair, insect fragments, plant parts and soil.