Dust Mites and Allergens

We’ve all seen this guy before, Dermatophagoides farinae Hughes, the infamous and terrifying dust mite. He lives anywhere that there is organic matter for him to feed on. Organic matter can be dead skin we slough off during the day. (People shed about a pound of skin a year.) Let’s see, there’s also pet dander if you just so happen to have pets. Hair that is shed is also organic matter that dust mites could feed on.

Dust mite allergies

Dust mites thrive on our dead skin and pet dander.

Apparently the mites like to target matter that has been predigested by fungi. Yes, there is a fungus among us! Fungus and bacteria find the skin and other particles we leave behind and begin to break that matter down. This predigested matter is much easier for mites to eat and this is what they target.

What is the harm or danger of living with dust mites?

Dust mites don’t bite us or suck our blood. (That’s the good news!) Dust mites do produce waste and can multiply to billions. Dust mite poo, (yes, poo) when produced in overwhelming amounts in closed spaces can tax our immune systems. Some, more than others, have sensitivities to these allergens. A little immune response is good, and we want our immune systems to be in good shape to fight off illness and infection. Too much immune response can be a bad thing and excessive inflammation can lead to asthma, hives, severe itching, sneezing, and sinus problems.

The average life cycle for a male house dust mite is 10 to 19 days. A mated female house dust mite can last up to 70 days, laying 60 to 100 eggs in the last 5 weeks of her life. In a 10-week life span, a house dust mite will produce approximately 2,000 fecal particles and an even larger number of partially digested enzyme-covered dust particles  

So the good news is that they don’t bite and are relatively harmless, but the bad news is that they multiply like crazy and can be a source of allergic flare ups and allergic reactions.[pullquote-left] How can we keep their numbers down and keep the amount of dust mite carcasses and feces to a minimum?[/pullquote-left]  First off, we can target and clean the places where most of the dust mites are going to be living in our homes. The favorite living spaces of dust mites include

 

  • Carpets
  • Upholstery
  • Mattresses
  • Pillows
  • Bedding
  • Rugs
  • Dirty Laundry

Anywhere we leave stuff for dust mites to eat, they will find and set up shop. Regular washing of bedding and pillows in hot water with detergent and thoroughly drying on high heat is one way to cut down on the dust mite population. Steam cleaning mattresses, carpet and upholstery is another. When vacuuming make sure to use a hepa filter or some other kind of filter that will capture microscopic particles. Most standard filters are not able to keep dust mites trapped inside and you just end up blowing the dust and mites all over your home. Regular cleaning and airing out of our living space is one of the best measures to help control mite population. Keeping the humidity down inside your home also helps to keep the environment less than favorable for dust mite procreation. Apparently dust mites like damp humid spaces, and living in Houston, TX it is difficult to keep the humidity down. One way to decrease the humidity in your home is to run your air conditioner. Houston is the most air conditioned city in the U.S. so most everyone has and uses their A/C.

Some professionals in the air duct cleaning industry state that there are dust mites living in your A/C air ducts and this can lead to allergic reactions and respiratory issues. However; there is debate about whether or not mites actually do live in your air ducts because there may not be enough organic material for the mites to feed on. Theoretically it could be possible for dust mites to set up shop in your air ducts if there was a food source and conditions were conducive to dust mite breeding. In any case there are lots of other reasons to clean out your air ducts because of bioaerosols that can contaminate your ducts and cause adverse reactions like sneezing, itching, coughs, and the like. (But that’s a story for a different post!)

So clean your bedding, mattresses, clothes, carpets, and upholstery on a regular basis and keep your home cool and the humidity down. We may not be able to rid ourselves of all the dust mites but we can certainly keep their numbers down and keep our allergies from making us miserable! Give us a call today and have your furniture and carpets professionally cleaned. Professional steam cleaning not only kills the mites but also viruses and bacteria that can live in your upholstery and carpets.

832-512-5719

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_dust_mite

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/dust-allergies

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/mold.html

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