Dust mites are microscopic insects, invisible to the unaided eye, that live in dust and accumulate inside buildings, offices, and homes.  These microscopic insects are too small to bite a person, but many people experience allergic symptoms from the proteins and excrement of dust mites.

Dust mites survive by eating microscopic pieces of organic material, such as dead skin, that normally flakes off the outermost layers of the human epidermis. Pieces of hair are another source of food for them.  Dust mites do not drink.  They hydrate themselves by absorbing moisture through the air.

Reducing the quantity of dust mites in the home can serve as a very effective way of treating asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis (runny nose), and allergic conjunctivitis (red itchy eyes).  Commonly utilized mechanisms for decreasing exposure to dust mites in the home include:

  1. Dehumidifiers which remove moisture from the air.
  2. Avoid the use of stuffed animals as decorative pieces on beds and furniture. Stuffed animals accumulate and harbor dust mites.
  3. Avoid couches, chairs, and other furniture that is upholstered. Leather, vinyl or plastic upholstery decreases the accumulation of dust mites on furniture.
  4. Dust mites collect in carpet. If removing carpeting is not an option, allergic individuals can compensate for this by using high-quality vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters.
  5. Avoid curtains and cloth blinds, which allow dust mites to accumulate. Shades or pull-down blinds are less likely to harbor dust mites.
  6. Wash all of your bedding at least once a week in hot water with temperatures above 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Dust mites cannot survive in temperatures this high.
  7. Use a plastic mattress cover and plastic pillow cases as opposed to cloth mattress covers and pillow cases. If allergy sufferers find plastic mattress uncomfortable, they can purchase hybrid pillow cases with plastic on the inside and a softer cloth on the outside.

Although many commercial sprays claiming to kill dust mites are available in specialty stores, web sites, and drug stores, the effectiveness of these various products is still debated by experts.

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