Dust mites are a common household pest that many people may not even realise are in their homes. The mites are relatively harmless; they do not bite or cause itching or disease, but for those people sensitive to their allergens, mites are a source of daily problems. They are one of the most common causes of allergies and asthma around the world. Around one billion people are sensitive to dust mite allergens and will exhibit symptoms if the pests make their home their own. Reactions are triggered by the inhalation of a digestive enzyme in the mite stool. Dust mites are not identifiable by the naked eye, and symptoms, including itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, asthma, eczema, sinus problems, blackish blue eye circles, and headaches may be confused with common hay fever, though the symptoms of dust mite allergies will last year round. While the allergies can be treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, and asthma inhalers, it is better to try to solve the problem by eradicating the mites as thoroughly as possible.
In order to kill them, one must understand what makes them survive. Dust mites are miniscule, white, eight-legged members of the arachnid family. They absorb water rather than drinking it, which means they thrive in warm, humid conditions. Their ideal habitat is the human home, especially during warmer weather, particularly the bedroom with its mattress, pillows, curtains, blankets, and carpet. They feed on the skin detritus that humans trail behind them wherever they go. Combine that with the moisture transferred from your body to your bedding and you have an ideal environment for dust mites. The life cycle of dust mites is short, around fifteen days for males and up to seventy days for females, but those females can lay up to one hundred eggs each during their lifespan. The density of dust mites in a mattress is an average of 2500 per gram of dust. That means a lot of allergens lurking around.
If you suspect dust mites in your home, there are measures that you can take to kill them off. If your symptoms are severe enough, it will be beneficial to replace carpeting with hard flooring. Wash your bedding and curtains in hot water at least once a week. The water should be at least 54 degrees Celsius or mites will be left alive. Anti-mite mattresses and bedding are available to purchase. Feather pillows will attract fewer mites than polyester ones. You can also buy micro-porous zippered covers for your mattress, duvet, and pillow to keep mites from getting in or out. Vacuum frequently and thoroughly using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which reduces the number of mites that are left behind in carpet and furniture and cuts down on the number re-released into the air by the vacuum.
Pay close attention to the humidity levels in your home, levels about 50% are ideal for mites. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to control your household climate. Extreme temperature exposure will kill mites, temperatures above 60 Celsius or below 0 Celsius. A tumble dryer that runs at 105 Celsius is perfect, or leave items in the freezer for a day. Dry cleaning can also kill mites in fabrics.
If you are still having dust mite problems after following the above tactics as closely as you could, you can try Residex Dusting powder or Agrodust Dust Mite Killer Silicone Dust to kill them off. Mite spray pesticides such as Protector P Dust Mite Killer Spray are also available, but will likely cause further allergy issues as many people are sensitive to such chemicals.