Control dust mites, control allergy symptoms

Whatever your allergy treatment plan — from allergy shots to medications — you should know your triggers and take steps to avoid them. Dust mites are common — and plentiful — allergens. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to limit your exposure to them.

These tiny members of the spider family are so small you can't see them with the naked eye. Take it on faith (and science!): if your house has a humidity of more than 50%, you have dust mites — lots of them. They live mainly in mattresses, bedding, pillows, and — for children — stuffed toys.

9 tips for ditching dust mites

The following tips can cut dust mites by 50% or more. If you follow these steps and allergy or asthma symptoms don't improve, other allergens in the environment may also be to blame.

  1. Encase bedding (mattress, box spring, pillows) in air-tight plastic or tightly woven, dust-mite repelling fabric covers.
  2. Wash bedding once a week in hot water (130° F) and dry in a hot-air dryer.
  3. Avoid using down pillows or comforters.
  4. Install hardwood, linoleum, or tiles rather than wall-to-wall carpeting. If you use washable throw rugs, follow the same washing routine as for bedding.
  5. Avoid laying carpet directly on concrete.
  6. Maintain humidity levels below 50%.
  7. Vacuum weekly, ideally using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Vacuums with HEPA filters help keep dust particles where they should be — trapped inside the vacuum.
  8. Buy washable stuffed animals and wash them often in hot water.
  9. Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. A dry cloth just stirs up mite allergens.

    To learn more effective ways to control allergy symptoms, buy Understanding and Controlling Your Allergies, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.