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Dust Mites: Is Resistance Futile?

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

How to Fight the Mite continued...

"Just taking better care of yourself takes care of your allergy," Bielory says. "You keep yourself in a cleaner, healthier environment, and your allergy will improve."

Each of the experts disagrees over details. Bernstein says that mite-proof mattress and pillow covers are a good idea. Bielory says these products make the bed uncomfortable and that poorer sleep is a factor that makes allergy worse. But here's a list of what many experts say will -- by and large -- reduce your home exposure to dust-mite allergens:

  • Get white sheets and pillowcases for your bed and wash them every week in very hot water. Wash the mattress pads and blankets, too.
  • Vacuum regularly, but not within two hours of bedtime. A HEPA filter isn't necessary and may not help. If you're allergic to dust mites, wear a dust mask while vacuuming or get out of the house while someone else vacuums. Vacuums raise residual dust, and you should wait for it to settle.
  • Remove stuffed animals and dusty clutter from the bedroom.
  • Remove upholstered furniture from the bedroom and from other rooms in which you spend a lot of time.
  • Get a dehumidifier. Dust mites love humidity. Keeping humidity in the 30% to 50% range helps control dust mites.
  • Consider putting mite-blocking covers on your mattress and pillows.
  • Consider removing fabric window coverings and replacing them with plastic ones.
  • Get rid of tapestries or fabric wall hangings.
  • Consider replacing carpeting with tile or wooden floors.
  • Do not hire a duct-cleaning service. Dust mites do not live in working heating and air-conditioning ducts.
  • Clean the air filters on your furnace/air conditioner at least once a month.

Gotzsche and Johansen argue that these steps are not proven to help asthma.

"Reviews and guidelines do not reflect the fact that measures designed to reduce the patients' exposure to mite antigen in the home are ineffective," they write. "The recently published, very extensive [2007] U.S. guidelines for asthma control were also misleading. ... Reviews and guidelines should reflect the facts."

But Bielory says patients should not give up.

"Patients need to be empowered -- they can't just take a pill and have their allergy go away," he says. "If you clean your home, even if it is a placebo effect, it is something positive. People feel better because they are doing something."

The Gotzsche review appears in the April 16 issue of Cochrane Database of Systematic Review.

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