Microscopic Monsters

Not only are mites in our mattresses, they’re in carpeting, upholstered furniture, and drapes. Unfortunately, mattresses are where the largest build-up of dust mites usually occurs, simply due to the amount of time spent there, the large area of most mattresses, the materials they’re made of, and the reality that mattresses are rarely cleaned. According to Wikipedia, a dust mite will excrete 2000 fecal particles within its life time (of around 10 weeks). There are effectively colonies of these creatures, eating dead skin, reproducing, and excreting in mattresses and other common household furnishings.

What’s so bad about this is that since dust mites (and their feces) are so small and light, every time we create movement around them, they can become airborne. Such movement can include fans, centralized air systems, and people or pets simply going about their daily business. When the mites become airborne, that’s when they become most hazardous for people. Our respiratory systems cannot break down such particles the way our digestive system does, so the mites and related particles can reach sensitive tissues. Inhaling too many such particles can cause or worsen allergies, asthma, coughing, mucus build-up, itchy nose, sneezing, and other breathing problems. If there is already an infection in the respiratory system, like pneumonia or bronchitis, it also could prevent a quick recovery (EHSO).

Mattress companies are aware of this problem. The build-up of dust mites and their feces is the reason why many mattress companies recommend replacing your mattress every eight years (BedTimes). For those sensitive to them, allergists suggest using dust mite-proof covers, and washing the bedding in hot water weekly to decrease allergy and asthma symptoms. They also suggest vacuuming once or twice a week to reduce the amount of dust in the home (EHSO). Regardless of whether you have carpeting or hard flooring, vacuuming is important since it actually removes the dust mites and related particles from the environment, by trapping them in filters and/or bags.

There is no way to completely remove dust mites from our living environments. However, you can reduce the harmful impact they have on your health by taking measures toward preventing them from building up in your home and your belongings. Doing so can help ensure a safe and healthy environment for you, others you live with, and your guests and visitors.