• Snuggly stuffed animals can harbor just as many mites as a pillow. Every eight weeks or so, place the toys in the freezer for 24 hours. Follow up with a spin in the washer and dryer (cool temperatures are OK because the freezing kills the mites). Also look for toys labeled with the Asthma Friendly brand, a line that’s received the sanction of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
• Mites have sticky feet that cling to soft surfaces like carpet fiber and upholstery. While a good quality HEPA filter vacuum will reduce their numbers, Platts-Mills says vacuuming alone can’t resolve the problem of dust mites in the carpet. Avoid wall-to-wall carpets and opt for hardwood, tile or vinyl flooring if possible, and minimize plush furnishings.
• Clean all hard surfaces at least once a week with a damp cloth, and get rid of clutter that will attract mites. Use a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum to rid the house of dirt and pollen, and to deprive the mites of their food source: skin cells shed by the family and the pets.
• As for HEPA air-filtering devices, while they’re great for dealing with smoke and lightweight pollen and dander, Platts-Mills says that because dust mite allergen doesn’t remain airborne for long, they aren’t effective for this allergy.
Platts-Mills has seen first-hand how effective these techniques can be for those with dust mite allergy and asthma. “Over my career, hundreds of my patients have changed their lives,” he says. “They get it right, and I never see them again.”
General statistics/studies: Prevalences of positive skin test responses to 10 common allergens in the U.S. population: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; First National Allergen Survey; Distribution and Determinants of House Dust Mite Allergen in Europe: The European Community Respiratory Health Survey II.
First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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