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Allergen of the month: dust

As part of our ongoing Allergen of the Month series, this month we’re focusing on house dust and dust mites, the bane of many allergy and asthma sufferers.

 

While February may not often be associated with allergens, the fact is, cold weather can play havoc with your allergies. That’s because when you crank up the heat, you’re likely to stir up house dust—and that can trigger sneezing, wheezing and a host of other unpleasant reactions to dust and dust mites. Plus, turning up the heat can make the air drier, which can lead to irritated and inflamed nasal and bronchial passages, which can further exacerbate your allergy symptoms.

 

Fast facts

• Dust mites typically feed on skin flakes from humans and animals

• A typical house dust mite measures 0.2–0.3 millimeters in length

• Major causes of dust mite reactions are digestive enzymes from the mite’s gut that exist in its feces and exoskeleton

• A dust mite can produce about 2,000 fecal particles

• While the average life expectancy for a male dust mite is 10 to 19 days, a female can survive for up to 70 days, laying 60 to 100 eggs in the last five weeks of her life

 

Where to find them

These microscopic critters can set up shop just about anywhere in the house. Some favorite spots are wall-to-wall carpeting, upholstered furniture, bedding and curtains. Plus, because they prefer warm temperatures, any room that’s particularly toasty is also a potential breeding ground for dust mites.

 

How to Prevent them

• Use special filters or cheese cloth to block dust coming out of heating vents

• Change bed linen weekly and wash it in hot water

• Use dust-mite-proof bed clothes and cover pillows and mattresses with hypoallergenic covers

• Use anti-mite fabrics with a thread count greater than 246 threads per inch, a pore size of two-10 microns and dust leakage of less than 4 percent.

• Keep the air temperature low, since dust mites thrive in environments between 60 to 85 degrees

• Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter, like Airmega, to reduce the presence of dust and other allergens

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