Should you worry about dust mites?

You may not know this, but you share your bed with lots of creatures. Every home, no matter how clean, houses dust mites. These tiny insects, about 0.4 millimeters in length, feed on flakes of human skin. While they don’t automatically pose a threat to human health, the problem is that they produce an allergen that can be potent for some individuals.

You may not know this, but you share your bed with lots of creatures. Every home, no matter how clean, houses dust mites. These tiny insects, about 0.4 millimeters in length, feed on flakes of human skin. While they don’t automatically pose a threat to human health, the problem is that they produce an allergen that can be potent for some individuals.

Many people think they need to replace their pillows, mattresses and slipcovers regularly in order to prevent them from becoming home to vast dust mite colonies. According to experts, the truth is not that straightforward. People who are allergic to dust mites should indeed try to reduce their exposure, but everyone else can skip the overzealous cleaning and expensive bedding purchases.

The trouble is that it’s not always clear whether you have a mite allergy. And even if you do, there’s a lot of confusion as to the best strategies for reducing the number of dust mites in the home. Most researchers endorse the idea that protective bedding reduces exposure to dust mites, although study findings on the topic remain controversial. As for other methods, such as chemicals and sophisticated vacuums, some say their effect is much too negligible to have any significant impact on allergic individuals’ health.

Dust mite allergies usually manifest as scratchy eyes, persistent sneezing in the morning, and chronic nasal congestion. You can get an allergy test from a specialist in order to establish a specific diagnosis. And don’t forget your children, as these allergies are a major risk factor for developing asthma.

If you aren’t allergic to dust mites, don’t worry about these microscopic creatures. Simply replace pillows when they no longer support your head and neck. If you are allergic, wash all bed linens once a week in hot water and dry them in the clothes dryer on a hot setting. Use a mite-proof protective cover for your pillows and mattresses. And if your allergies are severe, you may also want to remove carpets and curtains from your home, as dust mites take refuge in carpets and textiles but can’t survive on hard surfaces like wood or plastic.

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