Anton Van Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope and shortly after in 1694 reported that a strange species of small insects live in house dust. We now know that dust mites are not insects but are closely related to spiders and ticks. Dust mites are invisible to the naked eye. They live in warm, humid areas like beds, carpet, couches, pillows, old clothing, etc. and feed on the dead skin or dander that falls off the bodies of humans and animals. In people who are sensitive to them their waste and shed skin is a major cause of allergies, second only to pollen.
Dust mites do not drink water, instead they absorb water from the humidity in the air. The higher the humidity the faster dust mites reproduce. Under perfect conditions a mite can go from from egg to adult in only one month. Mites thrive at 70 to 80% humidity and temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees. They cannot survive well at low humidity levels or very high or low temperatures.
Several tactics can be used to alleviate a dust mite infestation. Since complete elimination is not realistic, reducing the numbers of mites, limiting exposure to them, and making the environment inhospitable are the most successful tactics to use.
The best place to start is by cutting down on the number of mites by cleaning the places where they live. Sleeping areas deserve the most attention. Vacuuming these places can greatly reduce the number of dust mites in your home. A vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency purifying air or HEPA filter is best but a regular vacuum is sufficient for the job. Throw away vacuum bags often because dust mites can leave the bag and re-inhabit your home. A good place to start cleaning is your mattress and pillow where most dust mites live. One method to limit exposure is to put a airtight plastic or polyurethane cover over them. Also you should replace any feather pillows or down quilts with synthetic fibers.
Washing all items in very hot water of 140°F or more every one to two weeks is another very successful method of dealing with dust mites. If your water is not hot enough you can wash your sheets and blankets at a commercial Laundromat. Dust mites can grow rapidly in carpet especially if it is placed directly on concrete because the space between a rug and concrete is a good place for mites to reproduce. If you must use carpet be sure to vacuum it at least once a week and shampoo or steam clean it at least once a year. Dust your furniture an hour before you vacuum so the dust has time to settle and can be picked up by the vacuum. Couches are another place these mites thrive so be sure and vacuum them once a week also. If a child is suffering with allergies to mites wash all stuffed animals in hot water or replace them with new machine washable toys. Wash all curtains and draperies once a week or eliminate them completely.
Reducing humidity below 70% in the home by using a dehumidifier may help because dust mites thrive in humid places. Also bathroom and laundry rooms should be vented with a fan to remove humidity.
Special air filters can also be a great help to reduce dust mites in the air.
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