Dust Mite Allergy Control 

- Block the allergen and treat the allergy -

Summary: Effectively dealing with allergies caused by dust mites involves separating yourself from the allergens, treating the allergy, and reducing dust mite numbers. Use the information below to do all three.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Dust mite biology

Dust mites are very small and you can't see them directly with the naked eye but almost every house has dust mites, some have more than others. Dust mite eggs develop into adults in about one month under ideal conditions and mites feed on pollen, fungi, skin flakes, dander, and natural fibers. Dust mite numbers increase between about 50 and 90 degrees F. and high relative humidity of between 60-90%. For this reason dust mites tend to be more numerous in the spring and fall when the indoor humidity is a little higher.

Heating during winter months tends to dry out houses and reduces dust mite numbers. However, since windows are closed in winter, which increases indoor air pollution, dust mite allergies may actually be worse during winter months. House dust mites do not bite or otherwise cause injury.

mold mites, related to dust mites

A mold mite (related to dust mites), Tyrophagus putrescentiae, magnified about 100x. USDA/ARS; Photo by Eric Erbe; digital colorization by Chris Pooley.

Dust mite allergy

House dust mites are important because of the allergens they excrete. When inhaled, the allergens can cause asthma in the most extreme case, or only rhinitis -- a stuffy, inflamed nose. Dust mite allergen is composed of mite fecal material and fragments of the mites themselves. Obviously, individual people differ in their tolerance to the mite allergen. Some people never exhibit any allergic reaction, while in others a life-threatening asthma attack may occur (see What Causes Dust Mite Allergy).

Steps to treating dust mite allergy

First a word of caution -- don't get carried away with trying to completely eliminate house dust mites from your home. These mites are, in many ways, a natural part of our indoor ecosystem. Concentrate instead on reducing the impact of the allergy on your life.

Never use insecticides indoors to control dust mites, try the other options outlined here instead. Applying toxic insecticides all over the house may, and probably will, make any respiratory problems you may have even worse.

You should discuss a serious allergic reaction with your physician or allergist. Tests and medications are available to treat dust mite allergy and asthma. Serious allergic reactions should be treated medically. For milder cases use the suggestions below.

Mite numbers, and the allergen pool, can be reduced by lowering indoor humidity by either central heating or air conditioning. Also, try to control other sources of allergen such as cockroaches, fleas and silverfish. Keep pets, and their dander, out of the bedroom and limit the use natural fiber furnishings like rugs. Add a room air purifier to the bedroom (see Room Air Purifiers) and regularly clean or replace filters in central air conditioning and heating systems.

Cover bedding with washable, allergen-proof covers (also work for bed bugs). These bed covers effectively separate you from the accumulated allergen pool that is present in every bed and pillow no matter how often it is cleaned. Remove as much fabric and carpeting as possible from the bedroom because wood or tile flooring is much easier to clean. Shampoo rugs and fabric-covered furniture to eliminate as much surface dust as possible. Wet-clean any remaining carpets regularly because vacuuming alone may actually make things worse by stirring up dust and allergens.

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House Dust Mites and Dust Mite Allergy

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