Clinic Number

House Dust and House Dust Mites Allergens

A home’s house dust content varies depending upon the humidity, furnishings, pets, building materials, bacteria, foods, insect infestations, mold spores and hundreds of other small particles that float in the air and settle on the objects surrounding us. Unfortunately, some pets and humans have allergic reactions to one or more of these substances.

Of the many components of house dust, a microscopic organism called a house dust mite triggers most of the dust-related allergic problems. Dust mites thrive in warm and humid areas and feed off skin scales and dander shed by humans. Dust mites appear to be the most prevalent allergen in house dust. Because they feed on skin scales, mites are often found in bedding, carpeting, upholstered furniture, clothing, closets and automobile seats. Dust allergy is not a sign of a dirty house, although extra efforts to remove as much dust as possible can help decrease the amount of dust to which individuals are exposed. The sleeping area has proven to be the most important due to the prolonged time spent there, so the best place to start to make changes in the home environment is in the bedroom. Complete avoidance of dust mites is not always possible, but there are many changes that can be made to reduce exposure. Identification and reduction of dust mite reservoirs (bedding, carpet and furniture) is key to reducing exposure.

Some recommendation for avoidance are listed below in the order of effectiveness:

  1. Use zippered encasements for mattresses and pillows.
  2. Replace curtains with blinds.
  3. Wash bed linens every one to two weeks in hot water (above 55 degrees C/130 degrees F), if possible.
  4. Washing in cooler water does not kill dust mites, but has been found to remove live mites and mite allergens.
  5. Dry clean fabrics that cannot be washed in the washing machine. Dry cleaning kills dust mites. Tumble bedding or stuffed animals in a hot dryer (above 55 degrees C/130 degrees F) for at least 20 minutes is also effective for killing dust mites.
  6. Remove stuffed animals from the bedroom.
  7. Keep relative humidity below 40% since dust mites rely on humidity for growth.
  8. Vacuum carpeted areas regularly. HEPA vacuum cleaners, wet vacuum cleaning and steam cleaning have been found to be helpful.
  9. Damp dust hard surfaces.
  10. Remove carpet and replace with hardwood, vinyl flooring or tile.
  11. Remove upholstered furniture.