When you know that dust mites are among the causes of your child’s allergic symptoms, you may want to reach for the vacuum cleaner every time you spy a trace of dust on the furniture.
But vacuuming may not be the solution.
Use of a normally efficient vacuum cleaner stirs up clouds of fine dust that can hang about in the air for up to 8 hours and make sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness worse. It’s best to wait until your allergic child is out of the house—at school for the day, for example—before vacuuming. Or to avoid stirring up dust, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a
high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Dust Mites to Dust:
Dust mites are the main source of allergens in house dust. It’s difficult for many people who are allergic to accept that these creatures, invisible except under a microscope, can be present in large numbers even in a thoroughly cleaned home. Some are convinced only when symptoms improve as a result of mite-containment measures.
Dust mites are members of the same family as spiders. Too small to be seen with the naked eye, they find a home wherever humans live. Dust mites don’t ask for much in life. They feed on any protein that comes their way and find easy pickings in the dead skin scales that humans shed every day. Apart from this simple diet, they need only a moderately warm, moist atmosphere, with a temperature of 65°F or higher and humidity around 65%. Bedding is the ideal dust mite home; after all, bedding offers warmth, sufficient moisture, plenty of skin, and fibrous materials to which dust mites can cling with their barbed legs. They also thrive in upholstered furniture, clothing, soft toys, and carpets.
The dust mite eats and excretes pellets of feces that are about the size of pollen grains, and finds other dust mites, with which it produces many offspring. Their fecal pellets enter the general household dust to become the main source of allergens. Eventually, as mites die off, their dried-out carcasses, composed of allergenic proteins, also join the dust. Over years, they can add many pounds to the weight of a mattress.
Keep Humidity Low to Discourage Mites:
Dust mites flourish when the humidity is around 75% to 80%. These tiny cousins of spiders need water to survive but have no means of conserving it in their tissues. When the surrounding humidity falls below 50%, mites soon shrivel up and die. Thus, reducing household humidity can drastically reduce the dust mite population. A dehumidifier is useful for drying out the air. Take care to empty the water pan daily and scour it to stop the growth of microscopic molds.
Humidifier Use Can Promote Growth of Mites and Molds:
Any increase in humidity, such as when a humidifier is used, will encourage mites and molds to grow in your child’s room. If your child has problems with croup or other breathing difficulties, ask your pediatrician’s advice about the best way to ensure that the air in the bedroom is moist enough to breathe comfortably but dry enough to discourage mites and molds.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: