When you tuck your children into bed at night, you may not be tucking them in alone. In fact, they could be sharing their pillow with millions of dust mites. Dust mites are tiny, common insects that eat dead skin flakes. For this reason, they enjoy living with humans, who shed up to 700,000 skin flakes a day.
Are Dust Mites Causing Your Child’s Allergies?
Dust mites are harmless in that they do not bite their human smorgasbords, but they can cause allergies. Dust mite allergies are very common and usually affect young children. What are the signs of a dust mite allergy? What can you do to reduce the amount of dust mites in your home if you are allergic?
Dust Mite Basics
Dust mites live in high concentrations amongst humans. One square yard of carpet can contain 100,000 of the tiny insects. Each of those little bugs can produce about 20 drops of feces each day, which is typically the source of human allergens to these creatures.
Mites are highly concentrated in mattresses, pillows and bedding because humans slough off a lot of skin flakes while we sleep. We also provide a warm, moist environment while we sleep, which is a favorite for your resident dust mite population. Again, dust mites are harmless if you do not have an allergy to them, but the idea of sharing your bed with a million dust mites might make be disconcerting.
Researchers have proven a strong genetic component to dust mite allergies. If you or your spouse is allergic to dust mites, there is a good chance that your children are as well. Signs of the allergy can range from the typical runny nose and watery eyes to skin rashes, especially in infants, and frequent headaches.
For children with asthma, the allergic symptoms can be even more severe and trigger frequent asthma attacks. If you child has any of these symptoms, your doctor will perform a skin or blood test to confirm a dust mite allergy. Keep in mind that frequent exposure to mites, especially in very young children, can actually promote the development of the allergy.
Dust Mite Prevention Steps
If you or your child has a dust mite allergy, or if you are concerned about developing one, a number of steps can help reduce the dust mite population in your home. Regular carpet cleaning by a company that specializes in allergen removal can help control dust mites in your carpet.
Frequently washing bedding in hot water can also help reduce allergens. Children’s soft toys can also host dust mites, so should be placed in the freezer for 24 hours and then washed in hot water. Several mattress and pillow covers on the market can block dust mite infestations.
Keeping a clean home is not only important for appearances, but also to help prevent and reduce allergic reactions. Taking steps to rid your child’s mattress of unwanted bedmates can help keep them healthy and allergy-free.