Dust mites are microscopic insects in our homes. They don’t mean your house is dirty – mites live in millions of homes across the country. Although they do not bite or transmit disease, they are a major culprit for allergies, causing sneezing, itchy/watery eyes, cough and nasal congestion if you are allergic to them.
Dust mites are too small to see with the naked eye and feed on the microscopic flakes of human skin that we naturally shed. They thrive in warm, humid weather, so Florida is a prime breeding ground for these insects. They usually live in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture and carpets and are a major component of household dust.
While getting rid of them is nearly impossible, there are ways to limit their prevalence in your home.
1. Put dust mite-proof covers on your mattress and pillows
Dust mite-proof pillow, mattress and box spring covers can be found at most stores and online retailers. Sometimes these are labeled as “hypoallergenic” covers. It’s important to get the kind that have a zipper and that completely encase the item. Covering your bedding will protect dust mites from establishing themselves in your bedding material, and limit your exposure. You can put your washable mattress pad and sheets on top of these covers.
2. Avoid bedding stuffed with foam rubber or kapok
Dust mites love to burrow into fluffy materials, so avoid buying foam rubber mattress toppers or kapok pillows and mattress pads. The porous material makes it easy for the tiny critters to crawl into small crevices deep in the bedding.
3. Limit the number of stuffed toys and decorative pillows in bedrooms
Dust mites can burrow in these two items. So store stuffed toys and decorative pillows somewhere else during sleep — like in plastic storage bins or the closet. If your child must sleep with a favorite stuffed toy, wash it weekly to avoid a buildup of dust mites.
4. Wash your sheets in hot water once a week
Washing your sheets in hot water (130F or higher) can reduce exposure to dust mite allergens. Make sure to wash your sheets weekly. Sheets have one of the highest concentrations of shed skin particles, so they are a big attraction to dust mites. Do not hand wash your sheets in hot water, however, as this would be a burn risk.
5. Vacuum and dust regularly
Dust mites are not a sign of a dirty house. However, regular vacuuming and dusting can remove the allergen particles they leave behind. Make it a point to vacuum in areas that accumulate dust, like under beds and sofas. Also, use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter to reduce allergens that get airborne when vacuuming.
If you think you may be allergic to dust mites or other allergens in your home, speak with an allergy specialist about getting tested. UCF Health offers allergy testing and treatment from its office in Lake Nona.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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