Dust mites get your dander up? How to deal with them - March 20th 2012
Each spring, tiny pollen particles are released from trees, weeds, and grasses, causing seasonal allergies, commonly referred to as hay fever. While Pollen is one of the leading causes of seasonal allergies, irritants inside the home may be to blame as well? Individuals with pollen allergies can develop sensitivities to other allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mould spores. The first step in treating allergies is to avoid what you are allergic to. The following are effective ways of reducing exposure to allergens inside your home.
Minimize Exposure to Dust Mites:
Allergy to dust mites is one of the most common causes of allergies in the home. They are microscopic bugs that feed off human skin, therefore found in great abundance where we live. Dust mites live in mattresses, pillows, beddings and carpets. Some measures to minimize the problem of dust mites include:
- Encase your mattress and pillows with specially-made dust mite mattress covers. Air permeable are more comfortable for the mattress. Less expensive plastic or vinyl covers can be used for the box spring. Covers should be washed or wiped down weekly.
- Wash all bedding sheets and pillow cases in hot water weekly.
- Avoid feather pillows and down comforters. Purchase washable pillows, comforters and blankets and wash them in hot water once a month.
- Keep your bedroom free of clutter: books, upholstered furniture, fabric curtains, stuffed toys and boxes are dust collectors.
- Stuffed toys should be washed in hot water or kept overnight in a freezer to reduce dust mite levels. Avoid giving kids with allergies stuffed toys, as these can collect dust.
- Hard surfaces and window blinds should be cleaned every week with a damp cloth.
- Vacuum rugs and carpets at least once a week. It is best to use a central vacuum that vents to a garage or outside. Vacuum cleaners with a HEPA filter may prove some benefit.
- Clean carpets, rugs and upholstery regularly. This will help to reduce the circulation of dust and dust mites in your home.
- If you can remove carpets, rugs, and heavy curtains from your bedroom. Consider installing hardwood, cork, linoleum and tile on floors. Hard surface floors should be cleaned with a damp mop regularly.
- People with allergies should also avoid airborne irritants, including tobacco smoke, aerosols, paint, perfumes, cleaning products or other strong odors or fumes.
- Consider installing a Central Air Cleaner or Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) by Lifebreath. I have recently tested an air purifier called IQAir, available through Trail Appliances. It stops the smallest, most harmful particles in the air, all the way down to 0.003 microns - the smallest particles that exist. That includes viruses, pet dander, dust mites, air pollution and even cigarette smoke.
- Dust mites do not live in air ducts. If you have a pet you should have your ducts cleaned every 3 years, if you do not, every 5 years is sufficient.
- Check and clean or replace your furnace filters with a good quality filter on a monthly basis. Check the M.E.R.V. rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value). The higher the MREV rating the more efficient the filter is at removing air particles.
- Installing an intake filter on the air supply reduces the entry of dust-laden air before it enters the ductwork and furnace by filtering and removing dust from the air stream. Be sure to clean these filters regularly.
Keep the humidity in your house below 50%; dust mites do not like to live in a place with low humidity. Ideal humidity is 30% - 40%. Humidity is measured by a hygrometer which can be obtained from hardware stores.
- Install exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen that exhaust directly to the outside.
- Let your bathroom fan run for one hour or longer after you shower or bathe.
- Let your kitchen fan run for 20 minutes after cooking.
- Seal up air leaks with weatherstripping and caulking to improve winter humidity conditions and reduce your heating bill.
Controlling Dust when Remodelling
- Preparations should be done during a home remodelling project to reduce allergens caused by dust particles spreading throughout the rest of the home.
- Inform the contractor about any allergies.
- Seal off the area to be remodelled with plastic sheets; leave plastic sheeting up until cleanup from the job is complete.
- Open windows in the room being remodelled and set up a fan to exhaust air towards the outside.
- Close and seal the vents with Polyethylene in the area being remodelled so that dust will not travel though the air ducts.
- Change your furnace filter often since it will pick up more particles than usual.
- Vacuum and sweep daily to prevent dust from spreading.
Note: Have heating ducts professionally cleaned after renovations as well as new home construction, as there is no way to prevent 100% saw dust and other building materials from finding their way into vents.