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Do Dust Mite Covers and Hypoallergenic Bedding Help with Dust Mite Allergies?


Dust mites are so ubiquitous that they are almost certainly present in your home, no matter what steps you take to fight these tiny pests. They only tend to become a big problem if they appear in high concentrations, however. Environments with large numbers of dust mites can easily trigger allergy and asthma symptoms in people who already had these conditions, and living in a home overrun with dust mites also, unfortunately, increases the risk that people who previously didn’t suffer from allergies develop them.


If you have been shopping around for products that promise to reduce your exposure to dust mites, dust mite covers and hypoallergenic bedding are bound to have attracted your attention. As (quite literally) countless numbers of dust mites live, eat, and reproduce in your bedding, you can in turn fall victim to nasty symptoms that make it impossible to enjoy restful sleep. Of course, you want to put a stop to that frustrating cycle. How well do dust mite covers and hypoallergenic bedding work, and what else can you do to combat dust mites?


What Are Dust Mites?


Dust mites are very small arachnids. Rather than being insects, as many people say, that means that dust mites are more closely related to spiders and ticks. While dust mites are not quite microscopic in size, the fact that their bodies are both very small and translucent means that you are not likely to spot any actual dust mites in your home, no matter how many are crawling around.


Contrary to popular belief, dust mites are not parasitic in nature. They do not bite people, and instead consume compounds commonly found in household dust — hence their name. This includes skin cells shed by humans and pets, and also certain mold spores. Dust mites do release potent allergens, in the form of tropomyosin, the same protein that also triggers shellfish allergies. People who are convinced that the tiny red marks on their skin represent dust mite bites are, in most cases, suffering a skin reaction caused by this allergen.


Detectable levels of dust mites are present in most American bedrooms, and although the fact that dust mites thrive in moist conditions makes them more prolific in humid climates, many homes have high humidity levels for reasons not directly caused by climate.


How Can Dust Mites Impact Your Health?


It is no surprise that people with preexisting allergies and asthma are most sensitive to high dust mite concentrations, and even spending shorter amounts of time in a home with lots of dust mites can lead to:


  • A runny or congested nose, and frequent sneezing
  • Itchy, red, swollen, and irritated eyes
  • An irritated and sore throat
  • Coughing
  • In the case of asthma, immediately worsened symptoms of chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, and possible asthma attacks


When you sleep in a bed where high concentrations of dust mite allergens are also present, you may develop localized skin reactions that look like red and irritated blotches, and you are likely to wake up with allergy symptoms.


Since allergies take time to develop, as the body reacts more and more strongly with each exposure, even people who do not currently have any known allergies or other respiratory conditions are wise to have dust mites on their radar. If you are not allergic now, living in a home with a serious dust mite infestation can cause you to develop allergic rhinitis over time.


Do Dust Mite Covers and Hypoallergenic Bedding Help You Combat Dust Mite Allergies?


Dust mite covers are mattress protectors and pillow covers specifically designed to combat dust mites. Unlike the traditional mattress covers, which tend to be made from plastics such as PVC and vinyl, most modern dust mite covers are specifically woven from natural or synthetic fibers that include cotton and microfiber. Because of the tight weave of these products, dust mites are not able to penetrate through the cover, and skin cells you shed cannot reach your mattress or pillow, either. This two-way protection keeps dust mites out of your way, while simultaneously denying them access to their primary food source.


Hypoallergenic bedding is a category of products designed with the explicit purpose of reducing the possibility that allergens will accumulate within them. This can be achieved in several different ways; by manufacturing the bedding with materials that have been shown to repel allergens, but also by eliminating the presence of hollow spaces within which allergens of all types could build up.


Do these products work? Numerous studies have been conducted to find a definitive answer to this question, and many have concluded that dust mite covers and hypoallergenic bedding indeed do reduce symptoms in people who were already diagnosed with asthma and allergies. For the most sensitive groups, then, there is absolutely no question that purchasing dust mite covers is a good idea.


Hypoallergenic bedding represents a more serious investment, on the other hand, and you may instead decide to take other steps to reduce the presence of allergens in your home. On the other hand, if you have had the same mattress or pillow for a long time, it is likely to contain extremely high amounts of allergens, and replacing it would be desirable.


Here, it is important to keep in mind that people offer suffer from multiple different allergies. You may believe that house mites are the sole cause of your woes, but other common household allergens such as pet dander (yes, even if you don’t have any pets yourself), cockroaches, and mold spores could easily be contributing to your symptoms as well. That is why it is wise to take steps that more systemically improve your indoor air quality, if possible by tackling the underlying origin of the allergens in question.


How Do Mold and Dust Mite Allergies Overlap?


Dust mites and mold have more in common than you may think. Not only do dust mites and mold spores both produce allergens that easily become airborne, leading to identical symptoms in sufferers, they also both do best in spaces with high relative humidity levels — meaning over 50 percent. The two can interact very closely, as dust mites are known to eat certain types of mold.


If you have been suffering from debilitating allergy symptoms and you believe that dust mites are the culprit, you are likely to be correct about that. Dust mites may not, however, be the only source of allergens within your home.


What Steps Can You Take to Control Dust Mites and Mold In Your Home?


Even if you do not suffer from allergy symptoms in your home, increasing your indoor air quality will serve your general health and that of other members of your household. Many of the same steps that raise the quality of your indoor air will automatically render your home less hospitable to mold and dust mites, and they include:


  • Maintaining relative humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent, if at all possible throughout your entire home, including in often-overlooked spaces such as basements and garages. If you are not sure how humid your home is, consider purchasing a humidity meter and testing humidity levels in all the rooms in your house. Install dehumidifiers where necessary. Increasing ventilation, by opening your windows every day, also helps to reduce moisture.
  • In conjunction with working on reducing humidity levels, where appropriate, make sure to have any leaks, such as in pipes or roofs, repaired as soon as you possibly can.
  • Consider removing unnecessary fabrics, particularly wall-to-wall carpets, from your home. Damp or soaked carpets are mold magnets, and dry carpets are wonderful homes for your local dust mite population. Wood and tile flooring are far better choices for people who suffer from allergies or asthma.
  • Vacuuming your entire home regularly, meaning at least once a week and perhaps more often, helps control dust and dust mites. Dusting surfaces is another important step.
  • Wash bedding, including dust mite covers, curtains, table cloths, and other household fabrics frequently. When carpets or rugs become soaked, discard them if they cannot be dried immediately.
  • Dry surfaces that tend to get wet, such as kitchen counters, bath tubs, and bathroom floors immediately. If you cannot ventilate your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room, by opening the windows, strongly consider having exhaust fans to help reduce humidity levels. Additionally, refrain from line drying your laundry indoors, as this leads to condensation and increases humidity.


Although purchasing a true HEPA air purifying system for the most important rooms in your home, such as bedrooms and the living room, will not eliminate the factors that cause your home to be attractive to dust mites and mold, it will greatly reduce your allergy symptoms. True HEPA air purifiers filter the vast majority — over 99 percent — of particulate matter, including airborne allergens, from your indoor air.


What Other Steps Can You Take to Reduce Allergens Within Your Home?


The fact that dust mites and mold overlap so closely, thriving in nearly identical conditions, means that, if you are concerned about dust mites in your home, it is prudent to examine the possibility that you could also have a mold infestation. In some cases, mold growth within homes is painfully obvious — you may see mold covering your bathroom walls, ceilings, and window frames, for instance, or you may smell the musty odor that immediately screams “mold problem”. Less obvious signs that your home may have a mold infestation include:


  • High humidity levels. Where there is humidity, there is also likely to be mold.
  • Recent or ongoing water damage, including in the form of a recent flood and leaks deep within your home.
  • Continuing allergy symptoms even after you have taken steps to fight dust mites.


If these factors apply to you and your home, you should strongly consider having a professional mold inspection carried out. MI&T can, as a nationwide independent mold inspection only company, uncover visible mold wherever in your property it may be hiding. We do not stop there, though; MI&T’s independent mold inspectors also take air samples that tell you precisely what types of mold may be present in your home, and in what concentrations, once the lab analysis comes back. Where our clients request it, we can lay out the options for mold remediation. Once you have hired a mold remediation company or taken steps to remediate your mold infestation yourself, MI&T can come back a final time, to assess whether your home is now free of harmful molds during clearance testing.