Allergy is widespread in the UK. According to Allergy UK up to 50% of children are diagnosed with an allergic condition and there an estimated 21 million adult asthma and allergy sufferers in the UK.
One of the most common triggers of year-round allergies and asthma is the dreaded house dust mite. Symptoms of dust mite allergy can include sneezing, watery eyes, a runny or itchy nose, a cough, an itchy throat and itchy skin. Symptoms often confused with a common cold or flu, and therefore don’t treat the root cause of the problem.
And where you can you find these dust mites? Well their ideal environment is your bed.
According to Allergy UK the average bed is estimated to have over 10,000 house dust mites living in it which results in there being over two millions droppings. These droppings are released into the atmosphere in dust and when inhaled will provoke asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis.
Household dust mites thrive in warm and humid conditions where there is skin and dander to feed on. Given that the average person sheds a pound of skin (454 grams) a year – much of it into our beds – and that the average adult loses around half a pint (285 ml) of moisture while sleeping each night, it’s easy to understand why mattresses are so popular with the microscopic creatures.
In support of Allergy UK’s Allergy Awareness Week, we wanted to offer advice on the most effective ways to reduce the number of dust mites in your bed to help control dust mite allergy and alleviate symptoms.
- Use anti-allergy bedding.
Encase your mattress in an anti-allergy mattress cover and use anti-allergy duvet and pillow covering. These should be breathable and should completely enclose the item to prevent dust mite development and to stop contact with allergens.
- Wash bedding weekly.
Wash all sheets, pillowcases and bedcovers every week at 60 degrees to kill dust mites and remove allergens. If hot washing is not possible then you can place bedding in the freezer for a few hours to kill mites and then wash at a lower temperature.
- Replace your mattress.
Regular mattress replacement is vital to reduce the prevalence of the house dust mites. The Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress every seven years because although the mattress may still look acceptable, it may no longer be offering you sufficient levels of comfort, support and hygiene.
- Keep humidity low.
In a warm, humid bedroom, dust mites can survive all year, therefore the NHS recommends keeping your indoor humidity between 30 and 50% to inhibit dust mite growth. You can reduce humidity in your bedroom by opening windows to increase ventilation, fitting an extractor fan in you have an ensuite to reduce condensation and using a dehumidifier or air conditioner.
- Leave your bed unmade.
Dust mites need the warmth and moisture from bedding to survive so it is a good idea to throw back your bedding when you get up in the morning to help everything air out. Dr. Stephen Pretlove of Kingston University told BBC News: “something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die”.
- Remove carpets.
Carpets hold moisture and provides a comfortable humid location for dust mites. If possible, replace all carpeting in the bedroom with wood, tile or vinyl flooring to minimise dust mite development. If removing carpets is not possible, vacuum regularly with a high-filtration vacuum hoover and use a high-temperature steam cleaner to kill dust mites.
- Cut the clutter.
Remove books, magazines, ornaments that collect dust in bedroom. If your child suffers from allergies try to cut back on the number of stuffed toys in their bedroom and try to avoid keeping them on their bed. Freeze favourite soft toys once a week to kill dust mites and then hot wash to remove allergens.