Are allergy and asthma symptoms keeping you up at night? When you get into bed after a long day, you should not have to worry about anything other than getting a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, dust mites in your mattress and bedding can make that nearly impossible. Below, learn the best ways to protect your home from dust mites and start getting the restful sleep that you deserve.
What are dust mites?
Dust mites are microscopic creatures that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. These mites are arthropods, like spiders, meaning that they have eight legs. Under a microscope, dust mites look like little white bugs. Fortunately, you do not have to worry about dust mites biting you but, if you have allergies, their presence can still be a considerable nuisance.
These tiny beings are attracted to warm, humid environments and can typically be found in household fabrics such as upholstered furniture, curtains, bedding, mattresses and carpets. Dust mites feed on the dead skin cells that the people and pets in your household shed on a daily basis.
If you have a dust mite allergy, it means that your immune system reacts to the presence of dust mites in your home, specifically the body parts and waste that they leave behind. When dust mite bodies and their waste become concentrated in the air that you breathe, it can cause allergy symptoms such as:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy, red eyes
- Irritation in the nose, mouth or throat
For people with asthma, these symptoms can also include wheezing, chest tightness, labored breathing or difficulty sleeping due to coughing or breathing problems.
Can dust mite covers and hypoallergenic bedding help get rid of dust mites in your home?
How do you know whether your bedding is making your allergies worse? If you experience the above allergy symptoms year-round (as opposed to during specific seasons or only when the pollen count is high), then you may be allergic to dust mites. Additionally, because the bedroom is one of the main places that you will encounter these tiny creatures, dust mite allergy symptoms tend to be worse at night and in the mornings.
Some allergists recommend making changes to your bedding to help decrease the number of dust mites—and, thus, the amount of dead dust mites and their droppings—that accumulate in and around your bed. There are many products on the market that claim to help protect your bedroom from mites, and they are not always cheap. Below, we take a look at your options and discuss which ones can be worth the cost.
Dust mite covers
Dust mite covers were created with the aim of creating a protective barrier around your mattress and pillows that dust mites are unable to penetrate. These impermeable covers are often recommended for two reasons:
- To kill the dust mites that are already in your mattress and pillows by cutting them off from their food source (the dead skin cells shed by the people and pets in your household)
- To prevent additional dust mites from making their home in your pillows and mattress
It is important to note that not all mattress and pillow covers are designed for this function. Some may have pores big enough for dust mites to slip through. If you are thinking of buying a dust mite cover, make sure that the manufacturer explicitly states that the product can protect against mites. For dust mite pillow covers, you can expect to pay $10 to $20 per pillow. Mattress covers can range from $15 to $100, depending on the type of cover and the size of your bed.
The term “hypoallergenic bedding” can be used in two different ways. Some manufacturers claim that their bedding is hypoallergenic because it is made with fabrics and dyes that are not likely to cause an allergic reaction in people with sensitive skin. Others use the term to describe tightly-woven comforters, sheets and pillowcases that they allege are less likely to accumulate dust mites and other allergens.
Just like all types of bedding, hypoallergenic bedding prices vary widely depending on the style and brand of the bedding, as well as the size of the bed. There are a variety of options available for most price ranges.
Hypoallergenic mattresses and pillows
The hollow space inside of spring and coil mattresses can easily accumulate dust and moisture, making it a welcoming home for dust mites. Foam and natural mattresses are often touted as being hypoallergenic because they do not have nearly as much hollow space, meaning that they may not attract dust mites as much as other types of mattresses.
Hypoallergenic pillows are marketed as an alternative to dust-mite-friendly down pillows. Like hypoallergenic mattresses, these pillows are typically made with memory foam or natural latex. Some even claim to wick away the warm moisture in which dust mites thrive.
Hypoallergenic pillows typically cost between $20 and $50 each and are often available in sets of two. Hypoallergenic mattress prices vary depending on the brand and mattress size, but new mattresses (especially those that you will actually enjoy sleeping on) can cost up to $1,000 or more.
Which products can actually keep dust mites out of your bed?
All of the above products claim to help alleviate allergy symptoms caused by dust mites, but do they actually work? Unfortunately, experts disagree about whether these dust mite defenses can help relieve mite-related symptoms in patients with allergies and asthma.
Some studies, including this one from 2002, have found that mattress covers can be effective in preventing an increase in dust mite sensitivity for those with asthma. On the other hand, a 2008 review of dust mite control studies concluded that there might not be enough evidence to support the health benefits of dust mite reduction techniques, including dust mite covers. However, the review’s authors note that dust mites are not the only allergen found in homes and they acknowledge the possibility that the continued allergy symptoms experienced by patients may be due to factors other than dust mites (Gøtzsche & Johansen, 2008).
Despite these inconclusive findings, allergists still frequently recommend that their patients use one or more of the products described above to protect their bedrooms from dust mites. Remember, each person is different and it is up to you and your doctor to find the combination of methods that work best for your respiratory health. In the case of dust mite covers and hypoallergenic bedding, consider weighing the cost of the new products against their potential effectiveness.
Other ways to outsmart the dust mites in your home
Unfortunately, dust mites can be found in houses all over the world—except Antarctica—no matter how thoroughly you clean your house, but taking steps to manage the different sources of dust in your home can help give you and your family relief from allergy and asthma symptoms caused by mites.
Cleaning thoroughly and regularly is one of the best ways to protect against dust mites. This includes:
- Washing your sheets, pillowcases and blankets weekly in hot water to kill dust mites. If your children are sensitive to dust mites, you should wash their stuffed animals weekly as well. Bedding that cannot be washed can be frozen overnight to kill mites.
- Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter or other microfilter bag to clean your carpet regularly. Wear a dust mask while vacuuming and stay out of the vacuumed room for 20 minutes after you are finished to give any airborne allergens a chance to settle.
- Dusting frequently with a damp mop or cloth.
Other ways to prevent dust mites from accumulating in your home include:
- Getting rid of any fabric in your home that you cannot regularly wash with hot water. This includes curtains, carpets and rugs, upholstered furniture and down blankets and pillows.
- Keeping the relative humidity in your home less than 50%. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments, so using a dehumidifier can help control the dust mite population in your home (especially if you live in a humid region).
- Using an air purifier in your home. Some air purifiers are designed to remove dust from the air, and a little research can help you make sure that you are buying the best one to protect your home from dust mites. The Molekule air purifier contains PECO technology, which unlike traditional air purifiers, destroys biological contaminants like dust mite allergens. You should also regularly change the filters in your central heating and air system to further improve your indoor air quality.
If you or someone in your family needs immediate relief from allergy or asthma symptoms, ask your doctor whether allergy shots or antihistamines could help with your condition while you work on decreasing the allergens present in your home.
You do not have to let dust mites interrupt your sleep for any longer. It may take a little extra planning and effort, but by taking control of the sources of dust in your home—especially in your bed—you can say goodbye to the symptoms keeping you awake and start sleeping soundly once again.