Dust Mite Allergy
House dust contains a mixture of tiny pieces of fabric, dander, plant matter, and creatures so small that they are not visible to the human eye. These tiny creatures are called "house dust mites". Dust mites are present in all homes and live in bedding, upholstered furniture, carpet, and stuffed toys. They thrive in hot, humid places (greater than 50% humidity), and feed on the dead skin that falls off the human body, as well as other organic matter. If dust mite proteins are inhaled or come in contact with the skin of a person who is allergic, they may cause symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, cough, wheezing, and/or dry, itchy skin.
Dust Mite Control
The best way to control reactions to dust mites is to decrease exposure. To avoid them is difficult unless one moves to a dry climate. Control is most needed for the bedroom where people spend much of their time.
Steps to control dust mites
- Enclose mattresses, box springs, and pillows in zippered dust mite proof covers.
- Wash sheets and cases weekly in hot water (130°), and dry in a hot dryer.
- Wash blankets and stuffed toys twice monthly in hot water and dry in a hot dryer.
- Keep the humidity level in the home less than 50%. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner, if needed. Do not use humidifiers or vaporizers unless indoor humidity is less than 20-30%. When using one, change the water often to avoid mold growth.
- Wood or vinyl floors are preferred to carpet. If carpet is present, vacuum weekly when the dust mite allergic person is not in the room.
- Vacuum using a double thickness filter bag.
- Buy stuffed toys for children that can be washed by machine.
- Limit clutter in the room. Remove most stuffed toys from the child's bed.
- Wear a mask while you vacuum if you are allergic to dust mites.
- Dust furniture weekly with a damp cloth.
- Cover windows with blinds rather than curtains and clean with a damp cloth.
Dust Mites Facts
- Dust mites live where people spend most of their time - in bed or in a plush chair.
- Dust mites need to feed to survive.
- Dust mites thrive in hot, humid places.
- Dust mites do not live in air ducts in homes. Duct cleaning will not reduce exposure to dust mites. It is not helpful to install HEPA filters on your air conditioner or heater vents for dust mite control.
- Cleaning the home will reduce "dust"; though will not change the source of the dust mite protein.
- Freezing stuffed toys will kill the dust mites but will not remove the dust mite protein (the source of the problem). These toys still need to be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer to remove the protein.
- Chemicals and sprays are not needed, and will not have a lasting effect on the number of dust mites.
Protective covers for pillows or mattresses are found at many local stores.
- Kohls Department Store
- Bed, Bath and Beyond
More information about dust mites may be found on-line at:
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/20/2012
Copyright © 02/10/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6180
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