Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Dust Mites in the
What are dust
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in your
house. They measure about 1/100th of an inch in length, which is smaller than
the period at the end of this sentence. The waste of dust mites is a major cause
of allergies and asthma. In children who have asthma, dust mites can cause
them to wheeze more and need more asthma medicine. So, cutting down the number
of dust mites in the home is an important step if your child has allergies or
Dust mites love warm, humid areas filled with
dust. Bed pillows, mattresses, carpets and furniture are great places for them
to live. Cleaning each one of these places can make a real difference in the
number of dust mites in your home.
What do I do
Start in the bedroom. Most of the dust mites in
your house live in your mattress. Put an airtight plastic or polyurethane cover
over your mattress. Wash your sheets and blankets in very hot water every week.
Wash your pillow every week or put a plastic cover on it. (The pillowcase goes
over the plastic cover.)
The water used to wash your sheets and blankets
should be 130°F. This temperature is higher than you may want for your
water heater, because water over 120°F can burn children if they turn on
the hot water by themselves. If you don’t want to set your water heater at
this temperature, you can wash your sheets and blankets at commercial
Your bedroom should have a hardwood, tile or
linoleum floor instead of carpet. Dust mites can grow rapidly in carpet. If you
must use carpet, try not to place it on concrete because the warm space between
a rug and concrete is a good place for mites to live.
I don’t want to rip out my
carpet. Is there anything I can do to treat
You can spray the rug with a solution of 3%
tannic acid every 2 months to make the dust mite waste less bothersome.
However, tannic acid itself can be irritating and it can't help as much as
removing the carpet. If your doctor tells you to use this solution, he or she
can tell you how to get it and apply it.
What else can I
Vacuuming your carpets and upholstery every week
can help. Vacuums with high-efficiency filters pick up more dust mites, but even
standard vacuums work well enough. Plastic or wood furniture that doesn’t
have much padding can also help keep down the number of dust mites in your home.
Because dust mites love warm, humid places, keeping the humidity low by using a
dehumidifier and running your air conditioner makes a difference. Special air
filters can help reduce dust mites in the air.