Dust mite allergies are one of the most common chronic conditions in the world. The World Health Organization estimates between 10-40% of people suffer from an allergy – and half of those may be allergic to dust mites. But what causes a dust mite allergy? And can the symptoms be relieved without medication?
What is a Dust Mite Allergy?
Dust mites are tiny creatures that can only be seen under a microscope. Despite their size, mites can cause chronic health problems.
These miniature arachnids thrive in warm and humid environments, such as in beds, carpets, and curtains. A single female mite can lay up to 25 “baby” mites each week – so their population can quickly explode.
While they don’t bite, mite body parts and feces contain proteins that can trigger allergic reactions. These become trapped in mattresses, furniture, or carpets before being pushed into the air as people disturb them.
As there can be over 10,000 mites in a single gram of dust, the typical home contains a huge number of allergens. This results in near-continuous allergy symptoms that can greatly affect your quality of life.
What are the Symptoms?
Some of the most common symptoms of a dust mite allergy include:
- Sneezing and coughing
- Runny and stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes
- Increased asthma symptoms such as breathing problems or chest tightness
These symptoms are often referred to as perennial allergic rhinitis. This is because they can be triggered all-year round. While mite numbers peak in the humid summer months, there is enough of them to cause reactions in any season.
Why Traditional Allergy Treatments Often Fail with Dust Mites
The most common advice for treating an allergy is to avoid the triggering allergen. For pet dander or even certain food allergies, this is difficult but not impossible. Dust mites can infest almost everywhere in a home though, so it’s impossible to avoid them.
This leads to a variety of medications being recommended for relieving symptoms. Some of the most common include antihistamines, corticosteroids, and nasal decongestants.
Despite being widely used, even doctors admit these medications rarely provide complete relief. They are often used instead of natural methods that can be more effective. Medication can also discourage people from reducing the quantity of mite allergens in the home.
Natural Treatments for a Dust Allergy
The good news is there are plenty of natural techniques to relieve a dust mite allergy. Some focus on the symptoms and provide instant relief. Others aim to eliminate dust mites and reduce allergenic particles in the home.
Kill Mites with Low Humidity
One of the most effective ways to reduce mite populations is by lowering the humidity in your home. Dust mites can’t survive if the relative humidity falls below 50%, so maintaining a lower humidity is the closest you can get to a “mite free” home.
If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, a dehumidifier is the easiest way to reduce relative humidity. Most dehumidifiers have a humidistat so they only switch on when humidity starts to rise. This saves energy and means you don’t need to manually adjust the settings.
Alternatively, improving ventilation in your home and drying clothes outside can reduce humidity. It’s also a good idea to keep windows open when you’re cooking.
Take a Teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
A traditional method for relieving an allergy is to take a teaspoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar with a glass of water.
Drinking this mixture two or three times each day can help clear nasal passages. It won’t eliminate all symptoms, but can relieve a blocked nose without medication.
Get Allergen-Proof Bedding
Dust mites love mattresses and bed sheets. This is bad news for people with allergies, as it means symptoms can affect your sleep quality.
Allergen-proof bedding is a potential solution. Unlike regular sheets, this has small pores that prevent mites getting into your bed. Most anti-dust mite bedding is made from plastic sheets, but you can buy fabric versions if you prefer.
While anti-allergen bedding is great for reducing mites in your bed, it still needs to be washed regularly.
Product Recommendation: Mattresses
Vacuum At Least Once a Week
Reducing humidity kills dust mites, but it doesn’t get rid of their body parts. This means there are still millions of allergenic particles waiting to be stirred into the air.
The fastest way to get rid of these is vacuuming – but it’s vital to use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. There are plenty of powerful vacuums on the market, but many allow dust mites and other allergens to pass straight through the machine. This means vacuuming can temporarily make your symptoms worse.
Vacuums with HEPA filters don’t have this problem. These can filter smaller particles with much higher efficiency. It’s also a good idea to buy a bagged vacuum, as these seal automatically when emptied.
Remember to vacuum every area of the home that dust mites like to live. This includes upholstery, carpets, curtains, stairs, and mattresses.
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Wash Bedding and Furniture Covers on a High Heat
A quick way to kill mites in bedding or furniture covers is washing at a temperature of 55 degrees Celsius or above. This doesn’t just get rid of living mites – it also washes away feces and dead mite parts.
Remember to vacuum your mattress when your sheets are washing. This can help reduce symptoms at night.
The more furniture, books, soft toys, and pillows you have in your home, the more difficult it is to get rid of mites.
For this reason, you should try to eliminate clutter if you suffer from a dust mite allergy. This makes it much easier to vacuum and steam clean effectively.
If possible, you should also replace carpets with hard floors. Mites thrive in the warm environment provided by carpet fibers, but struggle on hard floors. Even if you don’t like the feel of hardwood or vinyl, you can add a machine-washable rug for a softer floor that’s easy to wash.
If a dust mite allergy is affecting you, medication may not be the most effective answer. Natural methods to relieve allergies and reduce the quantity of mites in your home can quickly eliminate symptoms.
The key is to take action. Most methods for killing dust mites require time and effort, so the sooner you start the faster you’ll see results.
Your first step should be to reduce the relative humidity in your home to below 50%. This is the fastest way to kill mites, as they can’t survive in these conditions. You can then maintain a low mite population by vacuuming, reducing clutter, and washing bedding at a high temperature. Using anti-allergen bedding and removing carpets in your bedroom can also improve sleep quality.
- Statistics – allergy UK
- Dust Mite Allergy – Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- Dust Mites: The Definitive Guide to Your Home’s Hidden Residents – Spotless Vacuum
- Dust Mites Fact Sheet – Achoo Allergy
- 7 Natural Remedies for Allergy Relief – Wellness Mama