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House dust mite

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand,1997.

House dust mite — codes and concepts

What is the house dust mite?

The proper name for the house dust mite is Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus. The mite can only be seen with a microscope. It is a common and significant cause of allergy. It may make the nose run or cause sneezing and wheezing. In some patients, it also contributes to exacerbations of atopic dermatitis at any time of the year.

Dust mite

Where is the house dust mite found?

The dust mite thrives in poorly ventilated and humid homes. However, it can be found in even the cleanest house – deep in carpets and curtains and in the seams of mattresses.

The dust mite may be found in high concentrations in pillows and duvets, especially when made from wool, cotton and artificial fibres.

How can the numbers of house dust mite be reduced?

  • If sleeping in a bunk, an allergy-prone child is best on the top mattress.
  • Wash and dry the sheets every week. Wash the bedding in hot water (> 54 C) or use a dust mite control laundry additive.
  • Obtain special mite resistant covers for pillow, mattress and duvets.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter. Vacuum all carpets each week, especially in the bedrooms and under the beds. If you can, choose vinyl or polished wood flooring rather than carpet as it tends to hoard less dust. Vacuum upholstery and curtains, and don't forget the mattress and blankets.
  • Use a damp duster to do the cleaning as it is much better at collecting dust than a dry one.
  • Wash curtains regularly. There is less dust when curtains are made of lightweight materials. They also need to be vacuumed often and wash them regularly (perhaps six-weekly).
  • Hang clothes up in wardrobes. Make sure the wardrobe is well ventilated, or consider a chemical moisture remover such as anhydrous calcium chloride flakes.
  • Dehumidifiers can reduce numbers of house dust mites, as they prefer a moist environment.
  • Put soft toys in the freezer for a few hours to destroy the mites.

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