10 Simple Steps Help You Bag Allergy-Causing Dust Mites
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.
There have been several other studies looking at ways of controlling mites
and their allergens in the home. Some methods, such as the use of benzyl
benzoate powders, have been very limited in their effectiveness.
"Studies targeting allergens in beds -- such as our own study -- have
had variable levels of success depending on the [method] used, or the studies
took place in climates unfavorable for dust mite survival, such as in northern
Europe," says Vanlaar. He adds that in this test, they opted for washing
the upper bed coverings rather than encasing them because when the upper
covering is encased, the bed can become somewhat hot and uncomfortable.