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Dust Mites: Is Resistance Futile?

Decimating Dust Mites Doesn't Stop Asthma, but Doctors Not Deterred

Mite Resistance Not Futile, Allergists Say continued...

"The explanation that we find most plausible for the lack of effect of the interventions is, therefore, that the methods we have reviewed do not adequately reduce mite antigen levels," they write. "Mite-sensitive asthmatic patients are usually sensitive to other allergens, so that successful elimination of only one allergen may have limited benefit, whatever its success."

That last phrase is key, says allergist Leonard Bielory, MD, director of the asthma research center at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark.

"Getting rid of dust mites alone is not the answer," Bielory tells WebMD. "When we discover that patients have dust-mite allergy, we tell them it is rarely just dust mites."

Allergist Jonathan A. Bernstein, MD, of the University of Cincinnati, bristles at the suggestion that mite resistance is futile for allergic people.

"You have to recognize that people can be sensitive to multiple allergens -- as well as to non-allergic triggers such as odorants, irritating chemicals, tobacco smoke, mildew, and things of that nature," Bernstein tells WebMD. "So these studies with just one or even two or three interventions are fraught with limitations. Just to target dust mites and then to say these interventions don't work is out of context with patients' real lives."

Over time, Bielory and Bernstein insist, reducing allergens in the home and in the office will help patients suffering from dust-mite allergy and asthma. They say reducing dust mites is a good place to start.

How to Fight the Mite

It's really not feasible to permanently rid your house of dust mites, says Greg Baumann, senior scientist for the National Pest Management Association.

"They are here to stay for sure," Baumann tells WebMD. "The pest control industry really does not deal with dust mites because there are so few products out there professionals can use. They are very, very hard to control. You do not have any magic wand to wave."

Entomologist Ron Harrison, PhD, director of training for the pest-control firm Orkin Inc., agrees with Baumann.

"You don't want dust mites in your home, but there may not be techniques that are helpful," Harrison tells WebMD. "We typically don't target dust mites because they are so small and don't fit under Orkin's goals for eradication. But if people ask us to come in, we don't shy away from saying, 'Here are some things that might help.'"

Bernstein says acaricides -- pesticides that target mites -- aren't particularly helpful in reducing dust-mite allergens. Baumann suggests this is because poison simply turns live mites into dead mites, which continue to cause allergies while dust mite populations rebound.

But all of the pest and allergy experts who spoke with WebMD agree that expensive efforts aren't worth the cost.

"People don't need to go out and spend an exorbitant amount of money to do a good intervention," Bernstein says. "It is simply a matter of reasonably good hygiene and what you would do anyway. You would control humidity and vacuum and tidy up the room and not have a lot of dust-gathering collectibles and hang things up and put things in drawers."

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