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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Dust Mites

submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appeared in the August 3, 2003 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Do house dust mites live at your house? They are part of everyday life and don't bother most people. Summer's heat and humidity increases the number of house dust mites, but there are ways to keep their population down.

Mite populations increase and decrease with the seasons due to the rising and falling of both temperatures and humidity. Immature mites may be dormant during long periods of low humidity, maturing when conditions are more favorable.

The mites' optimum relative humidity level is 65-75 percent at 72-79 degrees. However, the moisture from a sleeping person is enough to support mites.

Lowering the relative humidity to less than 50 percent will help reduce numbers. A double-filtered ventilator or air conditioner may help, especially in pollen season. Also, vent clothes dryer to the outdoors.

The pinhead-sized house dust mites live in carpets, bedding and upholstered furniture. They especially like textured upholstered furniture and long or loose pile carpet. However, small numbers of them can be found in tight-pile carpet, vinyl furniture, wood floors or encased mattresses.

The mites are everywhere -- living on skin scales, or dander, regularly shed from humans and animals. About 5 percent of the population, is bothered by their fecal matter and castoff skin or "dust" that can cause sneezing, runny noses or aggravate allergies. Keeping the "dust" under control may help some people control their allergies. Hard surface flooring and non-fabric window treatments are recommended for families with members who have reactions/allergies to dust mites. Damp clean all hard services.

Regular, thorough vacuuming -- twice weekly, for example -- of carpets, draperies and furniture may help keep populations low. Vacuum wall-to-wall carpets more often -- especially if the premises are damp. Vacuuming may be an ineffective intervention, however, when it disperses dust into the air. Therefore, change vacuum bags often.

Choose window treatments such as washable curtains and roller shades to help keep dust mites under control. Turn and vacuum mattresses every few months and/or use a plastic covering. Wash other bedding frequently. Bedding should be washed in hot water.

For people with allergies to house dust mites, specialty vacuum cleaners with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) type filters may help. Micro filter bags help keep in the very small particles that may otherwise become suspended. These filters capture minute particles better than traditional disposable vacuum cleaner bags. A central vacuum system also may alleviate allergy suffering because the pipes carry and store the dirt away for the living quarters.

For more read House Dust Mites.

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