Although we cannot see them scuttling around they are everywhere in our homes. Dust mites can have a detrimental effect on health, add to the amount of ‘dust’ in the home and be quite simply, a revolting housemate.
What Are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are very common, extremely small creatures that can live quite happily in any home. They live off shed human skin cells and excrete waste products continually. These waste products are more detrimental to health than the actual mite itself.
Where Do They Live?
Dust mites live in areas of average temperature with normal levels of humidity and moisture making the average family home the ideal breeding ground. Within the home they live in mattresses and bedding, soft toys, furniture and almost all soft furnishings that have regular contact with human skin.
Effects On Health
Dust mites are thought to be the leading cause of asthma and breathing difficulties in the UK. They produce excretions heavily laden with enzymes which can irritate the human airway and cause many respiratory problems. Bed clothes, bedding, pillows, mattresses and soft toys are all perfect environments for dust mites so bed time can present many breathing difficulties not witness so much during the day.
How Can They Be Eliminated?
Eliminating dust mites entirely may be almost impossible. It is possible however to limit their numbers by keeping household dust and sloughed skin cells to a minimum. Regular vacuuming of the carpets, furniture and curtains will help to remove not only the dust, but the mites also. They may continue to live in the vacuum bag so this will need frequent emptying and changing as necessary. If you have young children it is important to clean floors and vacuum more often as not only will they be shedding more skin cells whilst crawling, they will come into contact with greater numbers of dust mites also. Using mattress protectors on the bed that are specially designed to inhibit the transfer of dust mites into the mattress may be worthwhile. Removing any soft toys from the bedroom or around the bed make help to reduce the effects on health whilst a person, particularly a child is sleeping. Dust mites can be removed from toys by washing them in hot water or by freezing them for 24 hours. Dust mites cannot live in these conditions and will die during the process. Clothing that cannot be laundered at hot temperatures will also benefit from this method.
Preventing Dust Mites
Dust mites cannot be totally prevented but they can be limited by purchasing fabrics and products that can be washed in water of at least 60 degrees, or ones that have been specifically treated to kill the mites on contact. Maintenance of regular household chores will help to keep the amount of dust mites low and limiting the number of softy toys in the home will also be beneficial.
Household dust mites are present in all homes, especially those in average climates and which contain lots of soft furnishings. They can be damaging to health and attempts should be made to remove or prevent them in order to maintain good general health. It is however easy to become obsessed with their removal and prevention which can also be detrimental to physical and mental health.