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10 Simple Steps Help You Bag Allergy-Causing Dust Mites

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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.

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.

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