Your Child's Allergies: Dust Mites

What is a dust mite?

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in homes and schools. They like warm, humid areas filled with dust. Dust mites feed on the shed scales of human skin that work their way into furniture, carpets, bedding, and stuffed toys. The bodies and waste products of the dust mite are what produce allergic reactions and asthma. The mites live in:

  • Dust

  • Cat and dog beds

  • Bedding and pillows

  • Upholstered furniture

  • Carpets

  • Clothes

  • Stuffed toys

  • Fabric-covered items

Dust mites are common allergens. That means they often cause allergic symptoms. They can also worsen symptoms in many people with asthma. The best way to prevent dust mites is to limit your child's exposure. If your child is allergic to dust mites, decrease their exposure with the following:

  • Beds. Use a wooden or metal bed frame. Don't let your child sleep on a couch, sofa, or hide-a-bed. If your child has allergies or asthma and sleeps in a bunk bed, they should sleep on the top bunk.

  • Mattress and box spring. Place all mattresses and box springs in zippered, dust-proof covers. These should have pores that are too small to let the dust mites get into your mattress and box spring. Tape over the zippers with electrical or duct tape.

  • Pillows. Put pillows in zippered, dust-proof covers with pores too small to let the dust mites get into pillows. Pillows should be made of synthetic fiber. Don't use foam, feather, or down pillows.

  • Bedding. Wash all bedding (sheets, pillowcases, blankets) in hot water (130°F) to kill the dust mites.

  • Floor coverings. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting. If not, vacuum the carpet often (at least twice a week).

    • Vacuum when your child is out of the room and won't return for several hours. Try vacuum bags or vacuums designed to reduce allergens.

    • Wood, tile, or vinyl flooring without a rug is best. Mop it at least once a week. Small, washable cotton rugs may be used if washed often.

  • Dehumidifier. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity to less than 50%.

  • Stuffed animals or other soft toys. Limit the number of soft toys to 2 or 3. Buy stuffed toys that are machine washable.

    • Keep them off the bed and wash them about once a month to remove dust mites. They can also be put in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.

Online Medical Reviewer: Allen J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2020
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