5 Tips for Controlling Dust Mites

These bedbugs are a leading cause of allergies and asthma. Here’s how to fight back.

Found in nearly all homes, dust mites like warm, moist areas - such as your bed. Experts estimate that up to 2,000 of these microscopic cousins to spiders can live in just one ounce of mattress dust. And that could mean a lot of sneezing and wheezing if you're sensitive to them. A protein found in their feces and decaying bodies makes dust mites one of the leading causes of allergies and asthma. You can't eliminate these unwanted guests altogether, but you can take these steps to reduce their numbers:

1. Use allergen-proof bedding. Encase your mattress and pillows in allergen-blocking covers. These covers prevent dust mites from taking over your bed. Put a vinyl cover on your box springs.

2. Wash bedding weekly in hot water-above 130 degrees. Launder mattress pads, blankets and comforter covers at least once a month and more often if you suffer from allergies. If you can't wash in hot water, put the bedding in a hot dryer (at least 130 degrees) for 20 minutes, and then wash and dry as usual.

3. Deprive mites of moisture. Cover the vinyl mattress cover with a waterproof mattress pad. Cover the vinyl covers on pillows with zippered pillow covers. If necessary, use a dehumidifier to maintain a relative humidity of 30 percent to 50 percent.

4. Use a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Or simply buy vacuum bags made specifically for allergens. If possible, use low-pile carpet in your bedroom or switch to bare floors with washable throw rugs.

5. Buy washable stuffed toys. You can kill dust mites in stuffed animals by putting them in a plastic zipper bag and storing in the freezer overnight, but this cold treatment won't get rid of the allergens. Instead, buy only stuffed toys that you can wash regularly with the bedding.

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