Asthma Safe Home Dust Mites

Asthma is a common chronic lung condition in which the bronchial tubes in your lungs become constricted and inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of asthma include:

  • chest pain
  • chest tightness
  • persistent dry cough
  • trouble breathing
  • trouble sleeping
  • wheezing.

Asthma attacks occur due to the presence of specific triggers, such as pollen, mold or pet dander. Dust mites are an extremely common asthma trigger.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that are found in every home. They have eight legs and are distantly related to spiders. Dust mites survive by feeding on the skin flakes that humans leave behind. Ideal places for dust mites include:

  • bedding
  • carpets
  • clothes
  • fabric
  • mattresses
  • pillows
  • stuffed animals
  • upholstered furniture.

Dust Mites and Asthma

While the actual dust mites are harmless, they leave behind feces and — after they die – carcasses, to which many people are allergic. These particles mix with other household particles and become airborne. People who are allergic to dust mite particles begin experiencing asthma symptoms after being exposed to dust mites. In some cases, exposure to dust mites may even cause asthma in children who had not previously experienced symptoms of asthma.

Be on the lookout for certain telltale signs to see if your asthma is caused by dust mites. Dust mites are almost definitely the cause if any of the following are true:

  • Household chores like dusting, making the beds or emptying the vacuum cleaner makes your asthma worse.
  • Your asthma gets worse if you sleep in a spare bed.
  • Your asthma improves when you stay in hotels or in drier climates during a vacation.

Reducing Dust Mites in Your House

While it is virtually impossible to prevent dust mites, you can take steps to minimize their effect on your asthma symptoms. Regularly cleaning your house and reducing clutter (which attracts dust) is a good first step. Dust your house often with a damp cloth, and regularly vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture. Someone other than the person with asthma should do the cleaning. If that’s not possible, wear a mask.

Since dust mites thrive in the bedroom, it’s a good idea to focus your energy on decreasing their presence. Encase pillows and mattresses in allergen-free covers. All bedding, including sheets, pillowcases and blankets, should be washed once a week in hot water and dried on a high setting. If your child has stuffed animals, wash them often and keep them off your child’s bed.

Dust mites enjoy humid conditions, so a dehumidifier helps. Try to keep rooms at 30-50 percent relative humidity. Consider installing hardwood floors instead of carpet, as carpet traps moister and dust.

In addition to the above suggestions, installing an air purifier with a HEPA filter may help. HEPA filters work by eliminating dust particles and other allergens from the air. They generally only work in one room, so consider keeping one in your bedroom. In addition, you can buy a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA filter.

Resources

Health and Energy (n.d.). Dust mites. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the Health and Energy Web site: http://healthandenergy.com/dust_mites.htm.

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Asthma. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021.

Stern, M.A. (1997). House dust mites — Cause of most asthma, nasal allergy and some eczema. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the Global Net Web site: http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~aair/mites.htm#Mites.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2009). Dust mites. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the EPA Web site: http://www.epa.gov/asthma/dustmites.html.