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. When you're one of these people, you may feel as if you have an endless cold or even asthma.
Alternaria. Aspergillus. Cladosporium. Penicillium. Unless you have a special fondness for fungi, you’re probably not too familiar with these or any of the thousands of other common molds.
But if you’re among the estimated 5% of Americans who have mold allergies, you may be all too well acquainted with the itchy eyes, nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, skin irritation, and other symptoms mold allergies can cause. Severe mold allergies can even trigger potentially dangerous asthma attacks.
To get rid of these tiny creatures in your home, keep in mind 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 tasty snacks for them.
What Causes Dust Allergies?
It sounds nasty, but it's true: One piece of dust can contain pet dander, pieces of dead cockroaches, and mold spores, along with 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 Symptoms?
The best strategy is to limit your exposure to dust.
Start in the bedroom, where you probably spend the most time. Large numbers of dust mites can gather in mattresses, bedding, and upholstered furniture.
Wear a mask while cleaning, too.
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.