Protecting Your Bed From Dust Mites
Dust mites are our most common unwanted houseguests. They enter our warm, cozy homes in search of food – in this case, human skin cells and dust particles. And once they've established themselves in your home, they may just set up shop for good, exacerbating allergy and asthma problems for many people. However, you don't need to resign yourself to a life full of hacking and wheezing – with a few simple steps; you can control the dust mite population in your home.
Dust mites are tiny, white members of the arachnid family that live off of dead skin cells and other organic detritus. Because they're so small, they lack a fully-developed digestive system, meaning that they must pre-digest their food with external enzymes and fungi before consuming it. It is these enzymes and fungi that people are allergic to, and symptoms of their exposure can include wheezing, asthma attacks and skin conditions like eczema. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to completely rid your home of dust mites, but you can reduce their population and limit your exposure to their allergens.
Although dust mites can be found all over your home – in your carpets, furniture and clothing – their favorite hangout is your bed. Dust mites prefer areas with at least 50% humidity, and all the breathing and sweating you do in your bed helps to create these ideal conditions. And though it isn't true that your mattress doubles in weight over its lifetime due to the buildup of dust mites and their waste products, it's certainly possible that you currently have anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites taking up residence in your bed.
The first thing you'll want to do to limit the number of dust mites in your bed is to thoroughly wash and dry all of your bedding products in water that's at least 140o Fahrenheit. Do this every week to help reduce the number of dead skin cells that remain on your bedding. If possible, you can also freeze your bedding products for 24-48 hours to effectively remove any dust mites living on them.
You'll also want to air out your mattress on a regular basis. Many of us keep our bedrooms shut up tightly, with our bedding and linens mounded on top of the bed. Together, these two factors combine to keep conditions right for dust mite infestation. Not only are you trapping all the dead skin cells you shed during the night on your bed, you're preventing the heat and moisture that accumulated while you slept from evaporating into the air. If your bed stays warm and moist throughout the day, you can be sure you've got a dust mite infestation happening in your mattress.
If these activities aren't enough to keep your allergies at a manageable level, you may need to invest in a hypoallergenic mattress cover to help keep dust mites out. You can find a wide range of products, from plastic mattress covers to fine mesh varieties that will help your skin cells away from the mattress, and the dust mites from coming up to feed. Be sure to purchase a cover that can be washed frequently, and, after using it for a couple of weeks, give your mattress a thorough vacuuming to help remove any dust mites that have died underneath the cover.