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Dust Mites

What is a dust mite allergen?

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that can live throughout homes and schools. The mites and their waste products thrive in the following:

  • Bedding and pillows
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Carpets
  • Clothes
  • Stuffed toys
  • Fabric-covered items

Dust mites thrive in warm, humid conditions and feed on the shed scales of human skin. The waste products of the dust mite are what produce allergic reactions and asthma. The best way to prevent dust mites is to limit your child's exposure. Be sure to pay special attention to the bedroom, especially the mattress and pillows. Ways to decrease dust mite exposure include the following:

  • Beds. Every bed in your house should have a wooden or metal frame. Do not allow your child to sleep on a couch, sofa, or hide-a-bed. If your child has asthma and sleeps in a bunk bed, he or she should sleep on the top bunk.
  • Mattress and box spring. Place all mattresses and box springs in a zippered, dust-proof cover and tape over the zippers with electrical or duct tape.
  • Pillows. Encase pillows in zippered, dust-proof covers. Pillows should be made of Dacron or other synthetic fiber. Do not use foam, feather, or "Down" pillows.
  • Bedding. Avoid wool or down blankets. Wash all bedding (sheets, pillowcases, blankets) in hot water. Cold water will not kill the dust mites. Dry all clothes and bedding in the dryer to avoid pollen sticking to them when on a clothesline.
  • Floor coverings. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting. If not, vacuum the carpet frequently (at least twice a week). If your child has asthma, vacuum only when your child is away and will not return to the room for several hours after you have finished. Substitute multilayered vacuum bags for regular single layer bags. Small, washable cotton rugs may be used if washed often. Wood, tile, or vinyl flooring without a rug is best, and should be mopped at least weekly.
  • Furnace (heating). Electric or gas heat is recommended. Do not use wood stoves or kerosene heaters. Change the air filters on the furnace every month. Cover all furnace outlets in the room with special filters or cover the outlets with 10 thicknesses of cheesecloth or muslin. This will catch dust in the furnace air. Change the cheesecloth when it gets dusty underneath (about every two weeks).
  • Stuffed animals. Limit the number of stuffed animals to two or three. Keep all stuffed animals off the bed and wash them about once a month to remove dust mite allergens. Stuffed animals can also be put in a hot dryer for 20 minutes to remove dust mites.

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