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10 Simple Steps Help You Bag Allergy-Causing Dust Mites

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July 17, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Beds are the most popular stomping grounds -- and breeding grounds -- for dust mites, those ugly, microscopic creatures that can cause allergies and make asthma worse.

Recently, researchers in coastal Australia -- which has a humid climate where house dust mite levels are high -- found that using special coverings on mattresses and pillows and specially washing other bedding reduced dust mite levels 30% after four weeks, and their levels remained about the same for the rest of the six-month trial.

It's not dust that causes people to wheeze and sneeze; it's the eight-legged arthropods, smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, that are natural inhabitants of indoor environments. The droppings of these mites are the most common trigger of continual, nonseasonal allergies and asthma symptoms, especially in humid regions, where dust mites tend to thrive throughout the home.

The most important finding, according to lead researcher Carl Vanlaar, PhD, is that even in an environment where house dust mites thrive, it is possible for people to substantially reduce the mites and the substances they produce that cause allergies, called allergens.

Using simple procedures, such as putting special coverings on mattresses and pillows and rigorously washing the rest of the bedding, can help you score points in the war against these Star Wars alien-like creatures, says Vanlaar, who is an allergen research scientist at the Institute of Respiratory Medicine at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. The study appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, with funding from the Asthma Foundation of New South Wales.

In the trial, researchers tested 14 beds in seven households. In half the beds -- occupied by children with allergy symptoms -- they washed all bed coverings with Acaril, a mite killer containing 30% benzyl benzoate as the active ingredient. They also vacuumed the bedding and floors, and covered mattresses and pillows with special coverings. The benzyl benzoate wash was repeated every two months during the trial and again four months later.

In the other seven beds -- which were occupied by the allergic children's siblings -- the researchers did nothing special. They found that there was a substantial reduction in the amount of allergen caused by dust mites in the study children's beds compared to the other children's beds.

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