An Ounce of Prevention: How to Keep Dust Mites Away

An Ounce of Prevention: How to Keep Dust Mites Away

A family of tiny creatures called dust mites lives in almost every home. Dust mites are so small that you need a microscope to see them. They are relatives of spiders and live on the dead skin cells that people and animals shed.

About 1 in 5 people are allergic to dust mites. If you are allergic to dust mites, your body overreacts to them. This can cause sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. Some people also have asthma attacks when they are around dust mites. You can’t see dust mites, but they may be the most common cause of year-round allergies. If you’re allergic to dust mites, you’re not actually allergic to the mites themselves. You’re allergic to their waste products.

Dust mites eat the dead skin cells that people and animals shed. They excrete these waste products in their feces. When you breathe, you can inhale the dust mite feces. This can trigger an allergic reaction. Most people are allergic to the proteins in dust mite feces. But some people are also allergic to the mites themselves. The best way to prevent allergies is to avoid exposure to dust mites. But that’s not always possible. Dust mites are tiny creatures, about 1/4 to 1/3 of a millimeter long. They're related to spiders and live on dead skin cells.

You can also take steps to reduce your exposure to dust mites. Here are some tips:

- Keep indoor humidity low. Dust mites thrive in humid environments. Use a dehumidifier in your home to keep relative humidity below 50%.

- Cover your mattress, pillows, and box spring with dust-proof covers. These special covers seal out dust mites.

- Wash bedding in hot water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Vacuum regularly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small-particle or HEPA filter.

- Dust with a damp cloth.

- Avoid stuffed animals. If you can’t avoid them, wash them frequently in hot water.

- Keep pets out of the bedroom.

- Reduce clutter in your home. The more stuff you have, the more places dust mites can hide.