Asthma & Allergy Control

Find out how Steam Cleaning your carpets regularly will help you control allergens, dustmites, bacteria and other common household problems

High concentrations of dust mite allergens are a significant risk factor for the development of allergies and related diseases such as asthma and rhinitis (hay fever). Eighty percent of children and young adults with asthma are sensitive to dust mites. And studies at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) suggest that more than 45 percent of U.S. homes have bedding with dust mite concentrations that exceed a level equated with allergic sensitization.

Where Mites Flourish

Dust mites are microscopic creatures (smaller than 1⁄70 of an inch) that thrive in warm, dark, moist places—temperatures of 68° to 84°F and humidity levels at 75 to 80 percent. They thrive in bedding because that is where they find their biggest meals: They thrive on sloughed-off human and animal skin. 

Under the microscope, dust mites appear as sightless, spider-like arachnids. They breathe through their skin, and while in dormancy, they are impervious to poisons, so insecticides are worthless even if you choose to use them.

You can also find dust mites in dust ruffles and bed curtains (because they trap dust easily) and on feathers, furs, protein-based textiles, and other organic fibers. Polyester bedding is also a well-known haven for dust mites because it traps moisture from perspiration.

Ways to Minimize Dust Mites

It's the feces and body parts from the dust mites that are the allergens, so simply killing the mites won't remove the allergen, although reducing populations is always a considerable help. To minimize mite populations, you need to make changes in your daily living and cleaning routines. While you may not be able to do all of these things, just implementing a few of these techniques will reduce the number of mites in the bedroom.

> Direct sunlight kills dust mites, so hang bedding in the sun whenever possible. (Be mindful, though, that outdoor allergens can collect on bedding hung outside.)

> Dust mites die when the humidity falls below 40 to 50 percent; use a dehumidifier if the weather is humid.

>Wash bed linens once a week in hot water—the water temperature should be 130°F or higher—to kill mites.

Steam-cleaning carpets considerably lessens dust mite populations and deters population growth. A study in Glasgow, England, found an 87 percent drop in the concentration of dust mites per gram of dust after carpets were steam-cleaned.

>The natural lanolin in wool repels dust mites—another reason to buy wool bedding.

> Studies at NIEHS found significant reduction of dust mites when allergen-proof covers were combined with properly laundered bedding, steam-cleaning, and vacuuming. Vacuuming alone didn't work as well as the combination of vacuuming with steam-cleaning of carpets and upholstery.

> Buy a new pillow every 6 months (dust and dust mites live in pillows).

> Freeze stuffed animal toys in the freezer (in a tightly closed plastic bag), and shake vigorously outside after removing them from the freezer. Or, wash stuffed toys often.

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