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Treatment Overview

How to Treat Dust Mites

There are four general strategies for coping with dust mites and their allergens in the home:

  • Avoid or reduce exposure to dust mites and their allergens as much as possible.
  • Kill the dust mites.
  • Neutralize dust mite allergens.
  • Undergo immunotherapy to reduce immune system responses to allergens.

A combination of two or more of the above is ideal of course. Each has its drawbacks and limitations, but the relief from allergy and asthma symptoms they provide makes it worth it to find the treatments that work best for your particular situation.

Avoiding and Reducing Exposure to Dust Mite Allergens

Moving to a new residence in a drier climate at a high elevation may be out of the question, but seeking a house or apartment with lower humidity, better ventilation, and/or hardwood floors can be one way to at least reduce exposure to dust mites. Otherwise, it pays to consider other ways of mitigating exposure, such as:

Encasing mattresses, box springs, and pillows in mite-proof coverings.
Dusting furniture with a damp cloth instead of vacuuming.
Removing carpeting in bedrooms.
Improving ventilation by installing air conditioning, or opening the windows.
Vacuuming or mopping floors weekly.
Washing bedding in hot (>360 F) water at least once every two weeks.
Reducing or eliminating upholstered furniture, replacing with leather or vinyl.

Employing air filters does not eliminate dust mites and allergens because airborne mites and their waste products are too large to be filtered by most such devices. On the plus side, because the mites and fecal pellets are relatively “heavy,” they settle again in 20-30 minutes after disturbance.

Killing Dust Mites

Dust mites do not do very well in dry conditions, dying rapidly at a humidity level under 50%. The mites can also be killed by:

Acaricides – dust mite sprays specifically formulated to kill mites.
Heat treatments above the thermal death point for dust mites (50 C = 122 F or greater).

Acaricides are not without their own risks, even those that purport to be “natural” or “organic.” They are often manufactured with pyrethroids, potent toxins derived from Chrysanthemum plants. Meanwhile, heat treatments are not provided by many pest control services. They can also be quite costly.

Neutralizing Dust Mite Allergens

At least some dust mite allergens can be “denatured” through either heat treatments or use of some types of acidic compounds like tannic acid. The acidic treatments apply only to carpeting and can leave an irritating residue behind.

Immunotherapy

Allergic persons might also consider immunotherapy to condition their immune systems to respond less violently to allergens. This type of therapy is generally known as “allergy shots,” whereby a diluted extract prepared from allergens is injected into a patient’s arm. The dosage is gradually increased, resulting in decreased immune system sensitivity. This strategy has its limitations, however, as eventually there is no increased benefit from an increase in the dosage and some symptoms will remain after the conclusion of the regimen. There is also the risk of an accidental overdose sending the patient into an asthma attack or anaphylactic shock.

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