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Dust Mite Allergy: In Your Home

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This information was reviewed and approved by Sanny Chan, MD (11/1/2016).

If you live in a humid climate, warmer weather may attract some unwanted visitors - dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic creatures related to spiders that thrive on moisture. When moisture gets trapped inside a home, dust mites settle in and reproduce rapidly.

Dust mites live on human skin scales. People slough off dead skin cells all the time, and, in the process, dust mites infiltrate the soft surfaces of bedding, pillows, sofas and carpets.


The Link Between Allergy and Asthma

Almost everyone is exposed to dust mites, but not everyone is sensitive to them. Most significantly children allergic to dust mites are five times more likely to develop asthma.


Dust Mites Thrive in Humidity

Since humidity is necessary for dust mites to reproduce, it is useful to know your home's moisture level. The easiest, least expensive way is to buy a hygrometer to assess indoor humidity. Optimally, humidity in your home should be below 40 percent. Humidity levels between 40 and 50 percent are marginal in terms of dust mite control. In the 50 to 60 percent range, dust mites can be bothersome, and more than 60 percent is very bad.

Air conditioning is an effective way to control indoor moisture If you have an inside air conditioner, make sure you have good drainage, so there is no standing water inside or around cooler.


Dust Mites in Bedding

Pillows and mattresses are prime habitats for dust mites. Use special allergen-impermeable casings for mattresses and pillows to keep allergens from reaching you. Weekly washing of bedding in hot water (at least 130° F) is also recommended. The casings can be purchased at stores carrying allergy-related items.

Terrazzo and tile flooring also limit dust mite exposure. These floorings don't provide the soft nesting areas that carpets do.

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