For creatures you can't even see, dust mites can stir up a lot of trouble. About 20 million Americans are allergic to these little bugs. You may feel as if you have an endless cold or even asthma.
Medication can help, but there are also simple ways to keep the dust mites away.
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Allergies During the Holidays
Pass the tissues and antihistamine please -- 'tis the season for holiday allergies. Like unwanted gifts, sneezing and congestion arrive, making allergy sufferers miserable and putting a damper on holiday fun.
Fortunately you don't have to be sidelined from the festivities. Whether it's symptoms to food, pets, mold or mildew, allergies during the holidays can be beat -- with lifestyle changes, medication, and a few simple tips.
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Symptoms to Watch For
Dust allergy symptoms are similar to those of pollen allergies:
Red, itchy, watery eyes
Runny, itchy, stuffy nose
What Are Dust Mites?
To get rid of these tiny creatures in your home, it helps to know about their living habits.
They prefer temperatures of 70 F or higher and humidity of 75% to 80%. They can't survive in colder, drier places.
In the U.S., dust mite allergies peak in July and August, when dust mite populations are high because of warm weather.
Dust mites like to eat dead skin from pets and humans. You probably shed enough skin a day to feed a million dust mites.
Flakes of dead skin in carpeting, beds, and furniture are like snacks for dust mites.
What Causes Dust Allergies?
It sounds nasty, but one piece of dust can contain pet dander, pieces of dead cockroaches, and mold spores, in addition to dead skin and dust mites.
Both cockroaches and pet dander are common allergy triggers, too. Cockroach waste, saliva, and body parts are a problem in some homes, particularly in the southern U.S.
How Can I Prevent Dust Allergy Symptoms?
The best strategy is to reduce your exposure to dust. Large numbers of dust mites can gather in mattresses, bedding, and upholstered furniture.
Start in the bedroom, where you probably spend the most time. Wear a mask while cleaning.
Bedroom Dust-Busting Tips
Put airtight, plastic dust-mite covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs.
Use pillows filled with polyester fibers instead of kapok or feathers.
Wash bedding in very hot water (over 130 F) once a week. The water needs to be this hot to kill dust mites. Dry the bedding in a hot dryer.
If your bedroom is in a basement with a concrete floor, move upstairs if you can. Concrete stays damp and creates the moist, humid environment dust mites love.
Tips for Around the House
Clean bare floors often with a damp mop or cloth.
Vacuum carpets once or twice a week. Use a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter.
Wash throw rugs in hot water.
Vacuum upholstered furniture such as sofas. Wood, leather, plaster, or metal furniture is better for dust allergies.
Replace drapes with roll-up window shades. If you must have curtains, wash them in hot water each season.
Get rid of stuffed animals, soft toys, and other dust collectors.