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10 Simple Steps Help You Bag Allergy-Causing Dust Mites

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Michael Ruff, MD, spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, agrees with the Australian findings. "This study proves that even allergy and asthma sufferers living in areas with high humidity can benefit from these steps." Ruff says washing bedding in extremely hot water once a week and encasing pillows and mattresses in allergen-resistant covers are the easiest and most effective ways to reduce allergen levels in the home.

Vanlaar says the next step is to test whether this method of allergen control in bedding is enough to reduce allergy symptoms in individuals with current symptoms of asthma, and to help prevent allergies and subsequent asthma in high-risk infants.

"We are already investigating the second item by conducting a large ... trial -- the Childhood Asthma Prevention Study -- in which we are treating the cots of approximately 300 babies who are in a high-risk group for asthma, based on a family history of asthma," by washing and encasing the bedding like they did in the current study.

To start your own grassroots campaign against the little critters, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that you follow these 10 steps for defeating dust mites in the home:

Start in the bedroom:

  • Since most dust mites live in mattresses, put an airtight plastic or polyurethane cover on every mattress.
  • Wash sheets and blankets in very hot water every week.
  • Wash bed pillows every week or put a plastic cover on them. (The pillowcase goes over the plastic cover.)
  • If possible, bedrooms should have a hardwood, tile, or linoleum floor. These surfaces are easier to keep clean than carpet.
  • If you have to have carpet, try not to place the carpet on concrete. The warm space between a rug and concrete is a good place for mites to live.
  • For carpeting, spray the rug with a solution of 3% tannic acid every two months to kill the dust mites. Ask your doctor how to use this solution, and whether it is right for your family.

In the rest of the house:

  • Vacuum all carpets and upholstery every week. Vacuums with high-efficiency filters pick up more dust mites, but even standard vacuums work well.
  • Furniture that has a polyurethane cover over its padding helps. Plastic or wooden furniture that doesn't have much padding can also help keep down the number of dust mites in the home.
  • Because dust mites love warm, humid places, running your air conditioner and keeping the humidity low make a difference.
  • Don't bother with special air filters -- they won't help children with asthma or allergies.
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