Dust mite myths debunked

It’s a fact that for millions of people worldwide, dust mite allergies mean coughing, sneezing, itchy throats and watery eyes. The search for relief may leave you with a lot of misinformation. Did you know, for example, that a quick dust of your shelves won’t eliminate the dust mites? Or that dust isn’t just composed of dirt? Let’s debunk some common household dust myths to help get you on the path to a cleaner, allergen-free future.

Myth No 1: Vacuuming gets rid of all dust mites

While vacuuming is an integral part of keeping your house clean, the average vacuum only removes a small portion of dust mites. A study by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research revealed that in worn carpets, vacuuming doesn’t even lift dust mite allergens. It merely redistributes them.

To truly eliminate dust mites, start by using HEPA filters in your vacuum. These air filters can remove 99.97 percent of particles and trap them in the vacuum. Purchase a vacuum that is designed so that all the air that goes into the device goes through the filter. Any leaks can cause dust mites and other allergens to enter the air.

So, while the bargain household vacuum may make your floors look nice, the fact is that only certain vacuums with HEPA filters can get rid of dust mites. Even then, there’s still a lot more dust mites to be found in bedding and mattresses.

Myth No 2: I am allergic to dust mites

Chances are, you aren’t allergic to the dust mites themselves – you’re allergic to their poop. A single dust mite produces as much as 200 times its body weight in waste products. The waste products, not the mites, are what cause allergies in millions of people worldwide.

With those allergies come several side effects including runny noses, scratchy throats, watery eyes and sometimes even asthma. Contact your healthcare professional if you think you might have an allergy. A doctor can do a blood test or a skin prick test to confirm an allergy and recommend treatment. Your doctor may also refer you to an allergist, who is more specialised in dust allergy care and treatment.

Dust mites look terrifying when looking through the lens of a microscope
Dust mites are tiny, spider-like creatures that can look a little terrifying -- at least through the lens of a microscope

Myth No 3: If my sheets are clean, dust mites can’t live in them

“Clean” is a pretty broad term, and washing your sheets at cold or warm heat isn’t enough to get rid of dust mites.  To ensure that your sheets are as dust-mite free as possible, wash them at the highest temperature possible for at least an hour and cover mattresses and pillows with dust-proof covers.

You can also purchase special allergy-friendly bedding that reduces the risk of dust exposure. Hypoallergenic blankets, comforters, duvets, pillowcases, pillows, mattress covers, and mattress pads are all available for order online or at your local sleep store. But be careful what you buy. Ensure that you buy products with a certificate that means that they have undergone a rigorous testing procedure to make sure that they truly help people with dust allergies.

Myth No 4: Dust mites eat dust

Dust mites feed on dead skin particles and pet dander. They love your bed because you shed a lot of skin when you stay in one place for a prolonged period of time. To become food for a dust mite, the skin scales you shed while you are sleeping decompose and become swollen with water, bacteria, microorganisms, yeast, and fat that are broken down by fungi. What may seem gross to us is a delicious meal for a hungry dust mite.

Dust mites also don’t drink water or urinate. They instead absorb liquids from moist environments through their front leg glands. That’s why they love humid climates. Purchase a dehumidifier for your bedroom to keep dust mites away.

Myth No 5: Dust mites can bite

While house dust mites do tend to hang out on clothing and bedding, they don’t live on people, and they don’t bite them. If you experience bites after sleeping, they are probably caused by bed bugs or scabies mites.

But while dust mites can’t bite, they can cause a lot of discomfort for people with allergies. A runny nose, itchy throat, sneezing, and watery eyes are all symptoms of a common dust mite allergy.

Think you might have a dust mite allergy? Visit your health care professional for confirmation and take the precautions outlined above to prevent exposure.





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