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House Dust Mites

**Conventional pesticides sold over-the-counter as well as those available to pest control professionals are not to be used for the control of house dust mites.  This is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional or for self-diagnosis. **

House dust mites are tiny with adults measuring only about 0.5mm in length and typically only visible with the assistance of a microscope.  Creamy white in color with hairs on their legs and body, house dust mites are oval to globular in shape.  The two species found in The United States are the North American and European house dust mites.  These mites are not parasitic as they are not capable of biting or even stinging humans.  House dust mites are of significance due to the fact that they are the most common allergen causing agent within homes.  The mites feed on dander (skin cells that are shed as part of your bodies natural skin replacement) of both human and pets.  Allergens are from the proteins in the mites, their cast skins, fecal material and secretions.  Symptoms of house dust mite allergies include the common stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, coughing and/or water eyes.  Unlike allergies caused by “seasonal” items like molds and pollens, allergies to house dust mites often occur year round.  For people that are highly sensitive to house dust mite allergens, asthmatic symptoms including wheezing, shortness of breath and even death have resulted from house dust mite allergies.  Although dust mites are typically lower in population in homes low in humidity, dust mites can still occur due to accumulations of humidity in areas where moisture, dander and dust are commonly accumulated and trapped such as mattresses, sofas, carpets and other furnishings.  A single gram (about the weight of a paperclip) of dust may commonly contain thousands of house dust mites while infested mattresses can contain millions.

House dust mite allergies are typically combated in two ways, treatment of the patient and modification of the patient’s environment.  Medical treatments are conducted by an allergy specialist and my include medications to reduce the body’s histamine response or immunotherapy to build resistance to the allergen.  Modification of the environment is a much more tedious process.  Recommendations for the patient may include encasing mattresses, box springs and pillows in allergen reducing covers as well as laundering bedding on a regular basis in hot water.  In areas where humidity is high and promotes dust mite populations, reducing humidity may be helpful in reducing populations.  A well maintained home in which housecleaning and sanitation are in place will help to reduce dust, dander and a portion of the dust mite population within the home.  The use of HEPA filters in the furnace/air conditioning systems, air cleaners and vacuums may be helpful in reducing the presence of the dust mites and allergens that become may become airborne.  If the person experiencing the allergy is responsible for household cleaning, a HEPA rated mask will reduce the reactions commonly encountered while cleaning.  Air duct cleaning is commonly misconceived as a way to reduce the population of dust mites within the home.  Due to their low tolerance of low humidity, dust mites rarely survive in ductwork; however, it may aid in decreasing the dust and dander within the home.