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Dust mites: The Good, the Bad, and the Gross.

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     What’s good about dust mites, you’re wondering. Well, nothing really, it was just a catchy title. They tend to be more on the bad and the gross side. Dust mites are 8 legged relatives of spiders. They are not parasitic, as they do not feed off a living host, but they do feed off dead human skin cells found in dust. Their favorite place to call home is generally our bedding, pillows, furniture, rugs, and even curtains. Oh, and they can do quite well there, with numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

     Why am I telling you this? (I promise it is not to just give you insect anxiety.) Dust mites won’t hurt you, but they can cause a lot of unpleasant allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe. Some people may just have a stuffy nose while asthmatics may notice a worsening of symptoms.

     In the winter time, we pull out all our big fluffy comforters, we have our windows closed tightly and we run our humidifiers to try to restore moisture to our rooms. Dust mites quite like this. They do not do well when their environment dries out too much, preferring a more humid environment. They also, I’m quite sure, love our comforters that may not get washed as frequently as our other bedding.

     “Great. Thanks. I have super happy dust mites thriving in my bedroom.” Yes. You probably do. However, if you are suffering from allergies and haven’t been able to nail down the source it may be worth working on your dust mite prevention techniques.

     Getting rid of dust mites can involve dust mite covers on your pillows and mattress. Make sure you wash your bedding in water that reaches 130 degrees or more to kill the mites. Rolling the carpet up and out of the bedroom can also cut down on dust mite exposure and the allergic reaction they bring. (If you can’t bear to get rid of the carpet, consider weekly vacuuming with a machine fitted with a HEPA filter.) Lastly, (sorry Teddy), remove the teddy bear or any other stuffed animals from the bed. (you could try using high heat to clean them but there is a good chance you will melt their plastic eyes and will have a different sort of trauma on your hands if you try to give them back to their owners.)

     Not everybody suffers with allergies or asthma and can therefore cohabitate with their dust mites in a beautiful union. However, for those of us who do, taking the time to dust mite proof your bedroom may provide a reduction in asthma exacerbations, reduced allergies, and a better night of sleep overall.

  • Brooke Rieth NP

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