The ubiquitous house dust mite, invisible to the naked eye, can cause chronic suffering in allergic people. Seventy to 80 percent of people with allergies are sensitive to this microscopic insect’s droppings. These little mites feed on human skin flakes and live in carpets, upholstery, bedding, pillows and mattresses. All bedding should be washed frequently in hot water. Encasings for mattresses, box springs and pillows are available to help keep dust mites out of bedding. Plastic encasings are commonly used. Dust-proof covers are now available that offer the comfort of regular sheeting.

Vacuuming

Vacuuming regularly is important, but should be done by someone without allergies or asthma. A vacuum cleaner equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, such as the Nilfisk, should be used. Unlike those standard vacuums, HEPA filters trap particles rather than blowing them back into the air. Carpet can also be treated with sprays that make the mite droppings non-allergic (a 3-percent tannic acid solution, such as Allergy Control Solution) or a solution that actually kills the mite (Benzyl benzoate solution, such as Acarosan).

Measuring Allergen Levels

Experts recently proposed guidelines for household levels of allergens considered to be risk factors for developing allergies and allergic symptoms. There is a simple laboratory test (ALK Indoor Allergen Analysis) which measures cat and mite allergen levels in dust samples from the home or workplace. These measurements help identify which areas in the house need treatment. Repeat measurements can be used to monitor the effectiveness of the control efforts.

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