Dust Mites and Breathing: Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite?
Dust Mites and Breathing
Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite? They don’t really bite they just crawl up your nose and stifle your breathing and cause allergies and general immune system stress.
25% of all allergies and 50% of all asthmatic diseases are traceable to dust mites. Do you wake up in the morning with a stuffy, dry, caked or even bloody nose? Ear infections or hearing loss? Muddled thinking? Could be dust mites.
The quickest way to get a feel for what is going on is to sleep outside in the open air for a night or two. Don’t worry about outside pollution as the dust mite is probably the greater of the evils and may well worsen any other air problem. Try it and see what happens. You may notice a lessening in symptoms and ability to breathe easier through your nose. That is your clue.
When and Where Found
Mites are found at sites in houses which provide a source of food plus shelter with adequate humidity such as carpets, tatamis, bed mattresses, upholstery and other textiles in homes. The fibrous and cellular structure of these environments allows mites to cluster and reduce water loss. Their distribution and abundance are variable. They vary with habitats, seasons and geography. Similarly, there is variability of mite numbers in different rooms in the same homes, distance from the ground level, age of homes, etc.
1. Habitats/types of rooms and floorings
In general, more mites are found in bedrooms than any other rooms in homes beds, furnishings, bedroom floors, den floors. Also, carpeted floor harbors significantly more mites than tile or wood floors. There is variability also between types of carpets. Thus, short tight-piled carpets, such as those of the indoor-outdoor type, also harbor significantly fewer mites than long, loose-pile carpet but the former does not support significantly more mites than wood and tile floors. Loose pile carpets apparently provide a microhabitat for the accumulation of the food and moisture favorable for mite survival and breeding and offer protection from mite removal by vacuuming.
1B. For allergies from Pets:
Allerpet has an excellent brochure describing ways to help reduce these problem causing allergens in the house. If you would like to receive a copy, send a STAMPED, SELF ADDRESSED #10 ENVELOPE to Allerpet at the address below.
P.O. Box 2220 Lenox Hill Station
Resources for veterinary professionals and people with an interest in animal welfare:
More abundant in summer and autumn than in winter and spring. Fecundity appeared to be favored by high temperatures and a high relative humidity
3. Type of building structure
In Japan, a larger number of mites were present in dust samples from concrete than wooden houses. This is attributed to the airtight construction of the former and high relative humidity created by the tatami on the concrete floors in Russia, however, mites are highest in old wooden and adobe structures with high humidity
4. Altitude/floor levels
There are great numbers in basement and ground floor apartments. Generally, it seems that houses in low-lying areas are bad for asthmatics, whereas houses built on sandy soil and high mountains are healthier.
5. Mite Nutrition. What they eat is often parts of YOU.
Mite diet consists of the following:
- human skin scales
- fungi growing on the skin
- also insect bodies or fragments (e.g. carpet beetles, silverfish, clothes moth and cockroach)
- pollen grains
- plant material
- household dust containing the above
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 two weeks. Wash your pillow every week or put a plastic cover on it. (The pillowcase goes over the plastic cover.) See 800 422 DUST for Allergy products and 415 346 6205 Ion & Light for ion generators that help clean the office or home air.
Your bedroom should have hard-wood, tile or linoleum floor. These surfaces are easier to keep clean than carpet. If you have to have carpet, try not to place the carpet on concrete. The warm space between a rug and concrete is a good place for mites to live. Watch out for rubber carpet liners that collect moisture. Use horse hair instead.
Exchange carpeting for wood or tile floors with area rugs that can be taken outside and aired and beaten to release eggs and mites and let the sun kill them. Repeated, non-professional washing of carpeting can result in elevated levels of mold and mites.
Since mite allergens are so stable, they can last in a carpet or bed and cause symptoms for years. Air conditioning has been shown to be an effective way to reduce mite populations in air space. The most likely mechanism is reduction of relative humidity.
a. Hot water washing
Washing at 60 degrees C or higher is effective. Hot water (130 degrees C) has been shown to kill all mites.
b. Cold water washing
Cold water washing removes about 90% of the mites. So if you are cold water washing you are more susceptible to mites.
4. Sprays containing benzoates kill mites and are effective, non-toxic treatments for reducing mite populations in carpeting but will not necessarily reduce allergen concentrations. Tannic acid solution (3%) spray may reduce mite (and cat) allergen concentration up to 80% but the effect lasts on the order of weeks and must therefore be repeated. Most likely, the only allergen "denatured" is that near the surface of the carpeting. Dust trapped further in the carpet is probably not affected and as carpeting is disturbed, active allergens re-surface and become airborne.
5. Dry cleaning
Dry cleaning kills all mites. It is also very effective at physically removing dust from items such as bedding.
Vacuuming your carpets and upholstery every week can help. Vacuums with high-efficiency HEPA or WATER OR BOTH filters pick up more dust mites, but even standard vacuums work well. Use of special furniture that has a polyurethane cover over the matting is another good step. Plastic or wooden furniture that doesn't have much padding can also help keep down the number of dust mites in your home (but they increase toxic outgassing). Because dust mites love warm, humid places, running your air conditioner and keeping the humidity low makes a difference. I have read that you should not bother with special air filters--they won't help children with asthma or allergies.
You can spray the rug with a solution of 3% tannic acid every two months to kill the dust mites. Ask your doctor if this solution will be helpful for you. Your doctor can make recommendations about the use of this solution. He or she can let you know how to apply the solution and how to obtain it. However, a better approach may be to completely remove your carpet.
Allergy Products 800 422 DUST has several high quality products related to dust control. There are other companies as well.
Heat may be applied in different ways:
- As superheated steam to treat carpets
- tumble-drying washing
- direct sunlight exposure
- dry heating with electric blankets