Sandra R. Merchant, DVM, Diplomate ACVD
Carol S. Foil, DVM, Diplomate ACVD
Minimizing Exposure to House Dust Mites
House Dust Mites of several species are microscopic arthropods present in every home. These mites feed off of skin scales and dander shed by humans and animals. Because they feed on skin scales, mites love bedding, carpeting, upholstered furniture, clothing, closets, stuffed dog toys and automobile seats .... in short anywhere they can find a hiding place with the likelihood of skin dander being present. Dust mites also require a relatively high humidity in the home to truly thrive.
Dust allergy is not a sign of a dirty house. Although extra effort in removing as much dust and hair build-up as possible can aid in decreasing the amount of allergen humans and pets are exposed to, homes with carpeting and areas with high humidity will always have some dust mites. The sleeping area has been proven the most important area for allergies.
Following are a few ideas that can be used to reduce house dust mites in your home:
- Keep the pet out of the bedroom or off the bed, since this is where the mites are most numerous. If this is not possible, use plastic or Gor-Tex mattress covers or some impermeable barrier for your pet’s sleeping area on the bed and wash and heat-dry bed linens weekly. Do not use a bedspread that cannot be laundered. It is also best to replace bedspreads, pillows and mattress covers regularly. Feather pillows are truly “house dust mite hotels”! ... don’t use them around your allergic pet.
- Dog beds should be covered in plastic or Gor-Tex or filled with cedar or treated with insecticides inside the cover. Covers should be washed frequently and the beds aired out or put in the dryer. You should replace all old beds now and replace the new ones at least every 6 months unless the whole bed, including stuffing, can be laundered weekly.
- Clean the pet quarters thoroughly on a regular basis, vacuuming frequently and dusting with a damp or oiled cloth. Ideally, cleaning should be done when the dust-sensitive individual or pet is not at home. Vacuuming and dusting stir up the allergens and increase exposure to them.
- Use air conditioning or central heat to keep household humidity low. Frequently change or clean filters on air condition or heating systems.
- Carpeting provides a breeding ground for mites. Eliminate it whenever possible, or keep your pet out of carpeted rooms. If you must have carpeting, low-pile types are preferable. Scatter rugs that can be thrown into the washing machine and heat-dried once a week are preferable. Wooden, seamless vinyl or linoleum floor coverings are best because they can be cleaned thoroughly. Regular flea treatments are probably effective against mites in carpets and rugs and Na polyborate powders are available for killing house dust mites. However, the allergens are persistent even if mites are killed. There are also sprays for treating to remove allergens from carpets, but their efficacy is questionable.
- When possible, choose:
- Closed bookshelves and curios instead of open shelves;
- Washable curtains instead of blinds and heavy draperies;
- Furniture with simple designs instead of ornately curved pieces;
- Easily cleaned decorations instead of dried flowers or straw;
- Wooden or plastic furniture instead of upholstery.
- Upholstered furniture used by your pet should be covered with a plastic, rubberized or Gor-Tex throw cloth (anti-bed-wetting mattress pad can be useful).
- If the home does not have central air conditioning, consider installing a room air conditioner. This will decrease humidity, as well as reduce the amount of outdoor pollen inside the home.
- Closet doors should remain closed.
- Eliminate decorative stuffed pillows and toys, since they harbor the mites. Stuffed dog toys should be replaced with new ones that can be laundered and dried weekly.
- Eliminate house plants, since they increase humidity.
- Do not confine your dog to the laundry room, bathroom, utility room or basement or other high humidity part of the home.