Many of us believe that bed linens, pillows and mattresses must be replaced regularly to prevent them from becoming home to vast colonies of these nasty creatures, lest their feces spread and cause allergic reactions in family members. |
If you are allergic to dust mites, you will need to reduce your exposure to them. But first, you should know about a scientific dispute over bedding.
Most researchers endorse protective bedding as a way to reduce exposure to dust mites. Dr. Peter Gotzsche, lead author of the study and director of the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, said in an e-mail, "The reduction in exposure to mites and mite allergens that can be obtained by encasings, chemicals, vacuum cleaning, etc., is far too small to have any effect."
Mites multiply quickly in high humidity and can take up residence in sheets and blankets in a matter of days. Wash your bedding (including comforters and duvet covers) weekly in hot water and use a hot dryer. It is not necessary to replace them with new linens. But if you'd rather start fresh, spring for new pillows.
It doesn't matter what kind you buy; it matters more that you protect both your pillows and your mattress with special mite-proof covers, experts say.
Place an impermeable dust mite encasement around the mattress, box spring, and pillow. This type of encasement has vinyl on the inside and cloth on the outside to trap dust mites, but does not crinkle like plain vinyl. It is also less likely than a plastic cover to make you sweat.
Wash all sheets, blankets, and pillow cases and beddings weekly. Research has shown laundering with any detergent in warm water (77 degrees F) removes nearly all dust mite and cat allergen from bedding. If you cannot launder blankets, dry clean them once a year. Shampoo, steam clean or beat non-washable carpets once a year.
If your allergies are severe, your doctor may also suggest that you remove carpets from your home, or at least from your bedroom, and use Venetian blinds rather than fabric drapes. Dust mites take refuge in carpets but can't live on hard surfaces like wood floors or plastic.
This means that if you are allergic to dust mites, your bedroom should be modeled after a hospital room: plastic mattress, tile floors, plastic furniture, and very little clutter. In addition, all of the bedding in a hospital room is washed in extremely hot water every day.
Although dust mites are everywhere, a few simple environmental measures can dramatically improve your allergy and asthma symptoms as well as decrease your need for medication. Dust mite avoidance is the safest and among the most effective ways to treat allergies.
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