Dust Mites: Is Resistance Futile?
Decimating Dust Mites Doesn't Stop Asthma, but Doctors Not Deterred
WebMD News Archive
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
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
"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
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
"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
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."