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HEALTHY HOME

Saying Good Night to the Dust Mite

You can’t see them, but they’re all over your home. Dust mites will be in the carpet, the sofa, the bedding, the curtains, even a child’s stuffed animals. These tiny insects, visible only under a microscope, leave a trail of waste that is a highly allergenic.

It’s estimated that between 10 and 25 per cent of North Americans are sensitized to dust mite droppings, and that these pests will spark wheezing in over 50 per cent of asthmatics. Thankfully, while you can’t get rid of dust mites completely, you can minimize their multiplying numbers.

What They Are

Dust mites, cousins to the spider, are tiny, eight-legged arachnids measuring only one-quarter to one-third of a millimetre in size. They spend their two to four months of life eating, creating waste and reproducing. A female will lay 100 eggs in her lifetime, and each mite produces about 10 to 20 waste pellets a day.

They are whitish in color, and thrive in warmth (between 24 and 26 degrees C; 75 and 80 degrees F) and humidity higher than 50 per cent. Mites eat minuscule flakes of human skin and animal dander. They can’t drink, but absorb moisture from the atmosphere.

Where They Live

Dust mites prefer a plentiful supply of skin flakes or animal dander, moisture and warmth. This is why you’ll find the highest concentration of mites in your bed. An average mattress contains between 100,000 and 10 million bugs.

A study in 2000 found that more than 45 per cent of American homes had detectable dust mite levels associated with the development of allergies, and 23 per cent had bedding with concentrations of allergen high enough to trigger asthma attacks.

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.