A local allergist says 90 percent of his patients are allergic to dust mites, a problem that is closer to home than you think.
Dr. Ronald Saff, an allergist in Tallahassee, says dust mites are prevalent in the southeast due to the humidity. They are what a majority of his patients suffer from.
"Tallahassee has the reputation of being the pollen capital of the world, but more appropriately it should be known as the dust mite capital of the world," says Dr. Saff.
Dust mites are microscopic and they can live in pillows, mattresses, blankets, carpets and other soft material.
Dr. Saff says dust mites also feed off of human skin flakes.
"Most of our skin flakes come off in bed when we roll around at night and they use that as a food source."
Saff says dust mites cause problems for those who suffer from them all year around. He advises dust mite suffers to control the humidity in their home and to keep their home dust free starting with the bedroom.
"About 90 percent of patients who come in here with hay fever symptoms, the runny nose, watery eyes, frequent sneezing, are sensitive to dust mites.”
Saff says it's a good idea to use washable blankets and wash all bedding in hot water every two weeks. Also try incasing pillows, mattress and box spring in allergen impermeable covers.
Dust Mites in the Home
What are dust mites?
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in your house. They measure about 1/100th of an inch in length, which is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. The waste of dust mites is a major cause of allergies and asthma. In children who have asthma, dust mites can cause them to wheeze more and need more asthma medicine. So, cutting down the number of dust mites in the home is an important step if your child has allergies or asthma.
Dust mites love warm, humid areas filled with dust. Bed pillows, mattresses, carpets and furniture are great places for them to live. Cleaning each one of these places can make a real difference in the number of dust mites in your home.
What do I do first?
Start in the bedroom. Most of the dust mites in your house live in your mattress. Put an airtight plastic or polyurethane cover over your mattress. Wash your sheets and blankets in very hot water every week. Wash your pillow every week or put a plastic cover on it. (The pillowcase goes over the plastic cover.)
The water used to wash your sheets and blankets should be 130°F. This temperature is higher than you may want for your water heater, because water over 120°F can burn children if they turn on the hot water by themselves. If you don’t want to set your water heater at this temperature, you can wash your sheets and blankets at commercial laundries.
Your bedroom should have a hardwood, tile or linoleum floor instead of carpet. Dust mites can grow rapidly in carpet. If you must use carpet, try not to place it on concrete because the warm space between a rug and concrete is a good place for mites to live.
I don't want to rip out my carpet. Is there anything I can do to treat it?
You can spray the rug with a solution of three percent tannic acid every two months to make the dust mite waste less bothersome. However, tannic acid itself can be irritating and it can't help as much as removing the carpet. If your doctor tells you to use this solution, he or she can tell you how to get it and apply it.
What else can I do?
Vacuuming your carpets and upholstery every week can help. Vacuums with high-efficiency filters pick up more dust mites, but even standard vacuums work well enough. Plastic or wood furniture that doesn't have much padding can also help keep down the number of dust mites in your home. Because dust mites love warm, humid places, keeping the humidity low by using a dehumidifier and running your air conditioner makes a difference. Special air filters can help reduce dust mites in the air.