Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Dust Mites in the Home
What are dust mites?
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 asthma.
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 first?
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 laundries.
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 it?
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 do?
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.