House dust mites are tiny creatures that live in pillows and mattresses, carpets, and couches – quietly eating dead skin cells and hair. And pooping. They require humidity and food to live. Many children with asthma are allergic to house dust mites and their droppings.
An oft-quoted rule of thumb is that up to ten percent of the weight of a two-year-old pillow consists of dust mites, living and dead, along with their waste products.
These critters are not a problem for all children with asthma, but when they are, taking control of house dust mites can make a huge difference in symptoms and in the amount of medication needed to control the asthma. For the right child, it’s well worth the effort.
Have allergy testing to identify a possible allergy to house dust mites.
- Enclose the mattress in an allergen-proof cover.
- Enclose the pillow in an allergen-proof cover.
- Wash the child’s sheets and blankets weekly (hot water is most effective for killing mites).
- Reducing indoor humidity below 50 percent1. Lower is even better, down to about 30 percent. You can do that by opening the windows in dry climates or using air conditioning in humid climates.
- Removing carpets from the bedroom. Or, if you have carpets, consider steam cleaning the carpets to kill dust mites2.
- Discouraging sleeping or lying down on upholstered couches.
- Minimizing stuffed toys – especially on the bed – and washing them weekly.
- Removing home carpets directly over concrete.
- Korsgaard J. House-dust mites and absolute indoor humidity. Allergy (1983) 38(2):85
- Colloff MJ, Taylor C, Merrett TG. The use of domestic steam cleaning for the control of house dust mites. Clin Exp Allergy (1995) 25(11):1061-6.