Your Child's Allergies: Dust Mites

What is a dust mite?

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in homes and schools. They like warm, humid environments best. The mites live in:

  • Bedding and pillows

  • Upholstered furniture

  • Carpets

  • Clothes

  • Stuffed toys

  • Fabric-covered items

Dust mites are common allergens. That means they often cause allergic symptoms. They can also worsen symptoms in many people with asthma. Dust mites feed on the shed scales of human skin. The waste products of the dust mite are what produce allergic reactions and asthma. The best way to prevent dust mites is to limit your child's exposure. If your child is allergic to dust mites, decrease his or her exposure with the following:

  • Beds. Use a wooden or metal bed frame. Do not allow your child to sleep on a couch, sofa, or hide-a-bed. If your child has allergies or asthma and sleeps in a bunk bed, he or she should sleep on the top bunk.

  • Mattress and box spring. Place all mattresses and box springs in zippered, dust-proof covers. Tape over the zippers with electrical or duct tape.

  • Pillows. Put pillows in zippered, dust-proof covers. Pillows should be made of Dacron or other synthetic fiber. Do not use foam, feather, or "down" pillows.

  • Bedding. Avoid wool or down blankets. Wash all bedding (sheets, pillowcases, blankets) in hot water to kill the dust mites.

  • Floor coverings. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting. If not, vacuum the carpet frequently (at least twice a week).

    • Vacuum when your child is out of the room and will not return or several hours. Try vacuum bags or vacuums designed to reduce allergens.

    • Wood, tile, or vinyl flooring without a rug is best. Mop it at least once a week. Small, washable cotton rugs may be used if washed often.

  • Furnace (heating). Electric or gas heat is recommended.

    • Do not use wood stoves or kerosene heaters.

    • Change the air filters on the furnace every month.

    • Cover vents with special filters or with cheesecloth or muslin. This will catch dust in the furnace air. Change the cloth about every two weeks.

  • Stuffed animals or other soft toys. Limit the number of soft toys to 2 or 3. Buy stuffed toys that are machine washable.

    • Keep them off the bed and wash them about once a month to remove dust mites. Or, they can also be put in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.