What is Dust Mite Allergy?



A general health article about Dust Mite Allergy from
Your Health Online the A to Z directory of
dealing with Health Problems & Self Care Strategies

Dust Mite Allergies are allergy and asthma symptoms activated by microscopic bugs that live in carpets, upholstered furniture, bed linens, mattresses and box springs, animal dander and house dust.

In the United States alone, at least 10% of the overall population have dust-mite allergy or have experienced a dust-mite allergy attack.

Allergic reactions may occur within a few minutes of the patient coming in contact with the allergen, or they may be delayed for several hours or even several days. Almost any part of the body can be affected by allergies.

The portion of the body which is affected is called a shock organ. Common sites are the nose and eyes, the skin, chest, intestines and ears.

Allergic reactions can be mild, like a runny nose, or they can be severe, like difficulty breathing.

An asthma attack, for example, is often an allergic reaction to something that is breathed into the lungs in a person who is susceptible.

Signs & Symptoms of Allergies

Because dust mite is not parasitic in nature, is considered not a serious threat to humans. It does not suck blood, nor even bite.

However, dust mites become problems when they try to enter human bodies’ systems unintentionally along with dusts.

Because of their tiny structures and light weight, dust mites tend to fly around the room and go along with dusts when inhaled by humans. This makes dust mites dangerous.

Inhaling dust mites will cause an allergic reaction, which is commonly and appropriately termed dust mite allergy. Dust mite allergy takes the form of simple dust allergies, except that dusts are inhalant, are non living allergens, but dust mites are living creatures.

Symptoms may be exactly similar to a dust allergy attack. The victim experiences uneasiness in breathing, coughs occasionally and sometimes suffer from sore and itchy throat.

Usual symptoms are respiratory in nature, usually not a rash. However, there are reports of a red rash around the neck. The wheeze-inducing proteins are digestive juices from the mite gut and are potent allergens. An exposure to the mites in the first year of a infants life can trigger a lifelong allergy.

Causes of Dust Mite Allergy


Dust mite allergy is caused by dust mites. Dust mites are tiny little insects that belong to genus Dermatophagoides, which are in the same family as spiders -- Arachnida in the kingdom Insecta.

You can't see them with the naked eye. Other than triggering allergy and asthma symptoms, they don't cause any harm. They like to live in areas that are warm and humid and can be found in many homes. Some people are allergic to dust mites' decayed bodies and fecal material, which become components of airborne household dust.

Yes, dust mites are insects, and therefore, are living organisms that can be killed and eliminated. But, although they are living creatures, dust mites are surprisingly so small and so tiny that you can not barely see them with just your naked eye.

Dust mites are oval-shaped, eight-legged insects equipped with sticky pads on their feet that help them burrow deep into furniture and carpet fibers. Dust mites, when observed under powerful magnifying lenses will appear in a creamy color.

These insects thrive by feeding on small bits of finger nails, pollen, human shed skin, bacteria, fungi and animal dander.

Dust mites favor hot and humid environments because they absorb air moisture. Humidity between 70% to 80% coupled with optimum temperatures of about 75 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is the prefect environment setting for dust mites. Such climate will help dust mites consume their food well.

One of the most highly allergenic contaminants found indoors is house dust, often heavily contaminated with the fecal pellets and skins of dust mites. Estimates are that dust mites may be a factor in 50 to 80 % of asthma cases, as well as in countless cases of eczema, hay fever, and other allergic ailments. Common causes of allergy and asthma symptoms include house dust mites, mold, cat dander, cockroach droppings and grass pollen.

Types of other Allergies:

• Airborne Pollen Allergies - allergies and asthma symptoms triggered by trees, grass, plants and flowers.

• Pet Allergies - allergies and asthma symptoms triggered by animal dander, old skin scales.

• Mold Allergies - allergies and asthma symptoms set off by mold, mildew and fungi, inside and out.

• Food Allergies - allergies and asthma symptoms triggered by something eaten. Although any food can cause an allergy, life-threatening food allergies can be caused by allergic reactions to peanuts, shellfish, citrus and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Risk Factors:

More than 60 million Americans are affected by allergies. People between 15 and 25 years old are the most common victims of hay fever, with decreasing incidence in middle age.

The tendency to develop allergies is often hereditary, which means it can be passed down through your genes.

However, just because a parent or sibling might have allergies, that doesn't mean you will definitely get them, too. A person usually doesn't inherit a particular allergy, just the likelihood of having allergies.


The best way to prevent dust mite allergies from occurring is through maintaining cleanliness in the surroundings, especially home and bedroom, where dust mites normally thrive.

Remember that vacuum cleaners can only suck dead dust mites, but the living ones will always find the way to resist and escape them.

Thus, another option to keep your house dust mite free is by installing air conditioners and air dehumidifier.

Dust mites love hot and humid surroundings, and reducing heat and humidity inside home will surely knock them off.

A person often can drastically reduce allergy symptoms through controlling environmental factors. As listed by Gerald Klein, M.D., in Allergy and Asthma Magazine, the following are suggestions that may be helpful.

• Protect Home — One of the most common indoor allergens comes from the house dust mite, a microscopic spider-like creature often found in bedding, carpeting and upholstered furniture. Cat allergen is another potent allergic substance often found in homes and offices, even in those that have never had a cat. A laboratory test called the ALK Indoor Allergen Analysis measures cat and mite allergen levels in dust samples from the home or workplace.

• Maintain an Allergen-Free Bedroom — Ideally, the bedroom should contain as few dust collectibles as possible (books, papers, stuffed animals, etc). An allergy sufferer should also avoid feather pillows and down comforters. Tile, wood or linoleum floors are recommended over carpeting.

• Eliminate Mold — Mold is an allergic substance that often grows in the kitchen and bathroom. All leaks should be repaired promptly and mold removed as soon as possible. Products such as Impregnon and Captan can be used to kill or prevent mold from forming.

• Restrict Family Pets — Although it is highly unrealistic to expect an allergic person to get rid of a loved dog or cat, the person should at the very least ban family pets from the bedroom.

• Avoid Yardwork — An allergic person should enlist the aid of someone else to do yardwork.

• Keep the Car Clean — Portable air cleaners and filters can be used to keep a car clean and dust-free. Windows should remain closed and air conditioning used when driving in heavy pollen areas. Smoking should never be allowed in the car.

When to seek Medical Advice:


The best treatment to dust mite allergy is to cut or eliminate exposure to such insects. If that does not bring along immediate results, then allergy shots and medications available in drug stores can be taken in.

For dust mite allergy, like in most allergies, the most basic medication or drug administered is antihistamine. Antihistamines contain enzymes that help curtail allergic body reactions to allergens.

However, the efficiency of antihistamines in treating dust mite allergy will not be assured unless exposure to dust mite is significantly cut down or totally eradicated.

Conventional Medical Treatments for Allergies/Asthma :

A person suffering from allergies and/or asthma can choose from an endless array of OTC and prescription drugs. In an article appearing in Allergy and Asthma Magazine, Charles Jaffe, M.D., Ph.D., detailed the appropriate use, benefits and side effects of each class of these drugs.

Antihistimines — Commonly sold as brand OTC products, antihistimines are many people's first line of defense for allergy symptoms. Antihistamines do not prevent an allergic reaction, but rather block some of the symptoms after the reaction has occurred. While many antihistimines will prevent itching, they may do little to relieve congestion. The major side effects of antihistimines are drowsiness; however, several new products are marketed to cause little or no drowsiness.

Decongestants — Used to treat nasal swelling brought on by an allergic reaction, decongestants work quickly but may last only a few hours. Decongestants can stimulate the nervous system, muscles and cardiovascular system, and as a result, patients may experience stimulation, shakiness, insomnia and irritability. Pulse rate and blood pressure also may increase.

Combination Medications — Combinations of antihistimes and decongestants are widely available, with some requiring a prescription and others available OTC. These combination medications can prove very convenient and beneficial, but the appropriate amount of one medication may be combined with an excessive or inadequate dose of another.

Beta-Agonist Bronchodilators — The group of medications used by nearly all patients with asthma, beta-agonist bronchodilators are available as tablets, liquids and in aerosol form. As OTC products, they are sold as metered inhalers, such as Primatene Mist, or in oral form. Side effects of beta-agonist bronchodilators include agitation, rapid heart beat and shakiness. Overdosing may produce increased blood pressure and even heart strain.

Theophylline — The most important function of this medication appears to be its ability to relax the airway muscles, which become spasmodic in patients with asthma. Theophylline is taken by mouth, and it may take up to a day before there is any fundamental benefit. When given intravenously, it may work within hours. Coming from the same class of substances as caffeine, theophylline produces many of the same side effects associated with excessive consumption of caffeine including stimulation, insomnia, shakiness and irritability. Some patients cannot tolerate even a small does of theophylline, and it should be taken exactly in the prescribed dosing with a consistent product brand.

Cromolyn — A relatively new medication, cromolyn is beneficial for patients with hay fever, in addition to those with asthma. It is administered only in spray form, either in the nose or by metered inhaler for the lower airways. The onset of action is slow and may take from weeks to a month or more. In addition, a cromolyn medication such as Intal must be taken in the meanwhile on a regular basis of usually three to four times a day. The benefit of this medication is to prevent reactions, and it does not reduce symptoms after a reaction has occurred. However, cromolyn is free of side effects and is safe for infants, children and the elderly.

Corticosteroids — Misprescribed and abused when first introduced many decades ago, the side effects of corticosteroids such as AeroBid, Azmacort and Vanceril are today well-recognized and carefully monitored by physicians who prescribe them. In hay fever patients, their use is generally limited to nasal sprays. Corticosteroids also are beneficial for patients with asthma, and are given by injection, by mouth and by meter-dose inhaler. In 1991, the National Institutes of Health recommended inhaled corticosteroids as a first-line drug for mild to moderate asthma.

Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots) — For selected patients, regular injections of allergens may relieve allergy symptoms. These injections, given over a period of months, usually provide relief within the first year. Immunotherapy reduces allergic reactions and can result in decreased symptoms and less need for allergy medications.


Defined as a form of stimulating/regulating therapy where the aim is to influence the body's systems with the aid of natural remedies, homeopathy offers numerous remedies for both allergies and asthma.

Homeopathy makes uses of an extensive list of substances, which can cause symptoms in a healthy person, to cure symptoms in a person who is ill.

Because these homeopathic substances are often obscure and the manufacturing process (called succussion) and dosing (measured in centesimals and decimals) are unique, homeopathy often can seem esoteric and unapproachable

However, a great advantage of homeopathic remedies is that they are regulated as drugs rather than as dietary supplements. For this reason, homeopathic products can make health and illness claims for allergies and asthma. Thus, consumers do not have to be homeopathic experts and instead can simply look for homeopathic products that are specifically marketed for their health needs.

Many homeopathic companies offer homeopathic remedies for allergies and asthma. Heel/BHI Inc. markets BHI Allergy for the temporary relief of sneezing and coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, skin rashes and hives, and BHI Asthma for the temporary relief of shortness of breath, tightness in chest, wheezing and dry cough.

Dolisos, based in Las Vegas, offers Pollinil, which is marketed for the quick relief of symptoms of hayfever and allergies. Boericke & Tafel offers a number of products for allergies including Alpha SH, AllerAide, Hay Fever Aide and B&T Cough & Bronchial Syrup for relieving coughs and bronchial congestion. Hyland's Hayfever, which contains ambrosia, euphrasia, allium cepa and sabadilla in its formulation. Natra-Bio's Allergy Relief, contains cardiosperum, which has been shown in clinical trials to have an effect similar to cortizone, and is effective in alleviating allergic reactions.

Self Care strategies for Living with Allergies

One must control the levels of dust mites. Beds are a prime habitat, a typical mattress may have anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million mites inside. Mites prefer warm, moist surroundings such as the inside of a mattress when someone is on it. Their favorite food is dander (human skin flakes). Bedroom carpeting and household upholstery usually support high mite populations.

Dust mites are about .01 inches (250 to 300 microns ) in length and have translucent bodies, so they are not visible to the unaided eye. For accurate identification, one needs at least 10X magnification. Through a microscope, one will see many oval-shaped mites scuttling around and over one another. There are eight hairy legs, no eyes, no antennae, a mouthpart group in front of body (resembles a head) and a tough, translucent shell, giving a "fearsome appearance".


Recommendations focus on "dust control". One must reduce the concentrations of dust borne allergens in the living environment by controlling both allergen production and the dust which serves to transport it.

• Keep the house clean Dust mites, pollens, animal dander, and other allergy symptom triggers can be reduced, although not eliminated through regular cleaning.

• Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner once a week. A high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) vacuum cleaner is recommended because it is much better than ordinary vacuums at trapping very small allergen particles.

• Wash pillow cases and sheets once a week. Dust mites can be killed by water at 130°F (55°C) or hotter. Use non-allergenic detergent to help remove dust-mite allergens. They can also be killed by freezing.

• Keep relative humidity levels below 50 percent. Dust mites as well as other allergens thrive on high humidity. Homes with air conditioning constantly have lower mite counts then non-air conditioned homes.

• Use a high efficiency air filter. Most of the cheap ordinary air filters an not capable of trapping mites and their by-products. One should also look for a filter that has anti-microbial properties, to prevent the filter from becoming a breeding ground for allergens. Filters that call themselves "washable" should be avoided because it just is not possible to wash 100% of the biological contaminants out of them and they can also become a breeding ground for microbes.

• Use an allergen barrier pillow case. They creep, they crawl, they trigger allergies while you sleep. Dust mites are the leading source of allergens in the home, and their prime breeding ground is right under your nose. These microscopic, indoor inhabitants have set up camp in your pillow, the warm and humid environment where you spend one-third of your life.

Allergenic proteins from dust mites were found at high levels in a recent nationwide survey of 800 American homes by the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS):

• About 45 percent of American homes have sufficient dust mite allergens to trigger allergy symptoms.

• About 23 percent of American homes have sufficient dust mite allergens to trigger asthma symptoms.

There are two ways to try to control dust mite allergens in the home. One approach is to reduce dust mite proliferation by making the home environment as inhospitable to dust mites as possible. The other strategy is to reduce the amount of overall dust in the house.

How can you initiate the first strategy?

First, remember that environments that are moist — such as carpeted basements in warm climates — are perfect for dust mites. Mattresses and pillows also are excellent habitats for dust mites. If you're trying to reduce your dust mite exposure, keep indoor relative humidity low — definitely less than 50 percent. Eliminate any water leaks around the house, particularly in the basement. In addition, eliminate surfaces where dust mites can proliferate such as carpeting and upholstered furniture.

Is the bedroom of particular concern?

It is, mainly because most people spend about 8 of every 24 hours in the bedroom. As to the second approach — reducing the overall amount of dust in the house — techniques include putting allergy-proof encasements over the bedding, including the mattress, box spring and pillows. There are newer products that are somewhat more comfortable than plain plastic-bag encasements.

Cotton encasements with high thread counts (260 or more threads per inch) can prevent dust mites from crawling in and out of the pillow's interior. They are available at a variety of outlets, such as furniture stores, mattress stores, department stores and medical supply stores. Wash the encasement and your pillow case in hot water (130° F.) at least once each week.

Avoid going to bed with wet hair. Moist hair and bedding attracts swarms of dust mites.

Remove carpeting from the bedroom. Having a smooth surface on the floor helps keep dust levels low. It also can be helpful to remove stored paper, stored blankets, upholstered furniture and other dust-collecting materials.

The use of air cleaners or high-efficiency air filters is a secondary measure that can be helpful. But it's not helpful without first proceeding with allergy-proof encasements, without lowering the humidity. This is best achieved by installing air conditioners and air dehumidifiers and removing carpeting.

Ordinary vacuum cleaners are designed to remove fairly large particles. Vacuums stir up tremendous levels of small particles of dust, which can aggravate allergies. The best vacuum cleaners have high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filters that remove most of the very small particles.

Is there a dust mite season, as with pollen or molds? Are the summer months tougher on people with dust mite allergies because of the higher humidity?

The dust mite season is actually quite erratic. It may be higher in the summer in many climates because of the warmth and higher humidity. But people who are sensitive to dust mites often will have symptoms all year-round. And in the winter time, when people spend more time indoors and keep windows and doors closed, dust mite particles are often still in the house, and they still can be a problem.

Can exposure to dust mites actually cause the sensitivity, or are you just born allergic to dust mites?

The main area of concern is in very young children growing up in environments where there's high dust mite exposure — or other types of allergen exposure. There is some evidence that if an infant or a young child grows up where there's a high exposure to sensitizing substances, he or she will be more likely to develop allergy problems, asthma or both.

Alternative Treatments for Allergies/Asthma :

As consumers enter health stores looking for new choices to alleviate allergy and asthma symptoms, a number of nutrients, herbs and homeopathic remedies are available options

. • Vitamin C — As incidence of asthma has risen in the last decade despite improved knowledge about pathophysiology and treatment, researchers have intensified their efforts to locate the causes of asthma. While genetics, environment and viruses are all factors, nutrition also has been shown to influence incidence of asthma. With this in mind, researchers in recent years have examined which nutrients may specifically impact asthma. What has emerged from the research is that the most well known nutrient — vitamin C — may especially be of benefit to asthmatics.

Although researchers are careful to state that available data are insufficient to implicate any dietary constituent as a causal risk factor for asthma, data are strongest for vitamin C, which is associated with protective effects of airway responsiveness, lung function and asthma symptoms. High doses of vitamin C are reported to have a dramatic effect in improving allergy symptoms as a result of the vitamin's ability to counteract the inflammation responses that are part of such conditions. It has this effect by stabilizing mast cells so that they don't release histamines during allergy attacks and by aiding proper adrenal gland function.

Vitamin B Complex — It has been suggested that all the B vitamins are necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), in particular, has been noted to correct an abnormality of tryptophan metabolism in patients with asthma and to reduce the symptoms of asthma in long-term studies. However, a double-blind trial of vitamin B6 published in the February 1993 issue of Annals of Allergy concluded that "treatment with oral pyridoxine failed to improve the outcome variables in patients requiring steroids for the treatment of their asthma."

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) also is beneficial for allergies. "It is generally used to strengthen and restore adrenal function," said Janet Zand, OMD, L.Ac, formulator for Boulder, Colo.-based Zand Herbal Formulas. "With an allergic reaction, the adrenal gland is almost always overworked and debilitated. If the adrenal is stronger, it is more likely that an allergic reaction will not happen in the first place. The adrenals are trying to help the body protect itself from allergies, and vitamin B5 can help them from getting fatigued." Zand manufactures and markets Allergy Season Formula for support during the allergy seasons. Ingredients in the formulation include pantothenic acid, bromelain, nettle leaf, turmeric, quercetin, milk thistle seed and grape seed extract. Zand said that Allergy Season Formula can be taken as a preventative therapy, as well as to alleviate allergy symptoms after they develop.

"For example, I tell people who know that they are going to be allergic in February to take two capsules per day in January in preparation. When February comes around, I recommend taking 4 to 6 capsules per day, depending on the extent of their allergies."

Bioflavonoids — Bioflavonoids, particularly quercetin, have been indicated to stabilize the membranes of the cells that release histamine. Since its action is preventative, it's best to start taking quercetin a week or two before allergy season begins and continue use until the end of the season.

Grape seed extract, which contains a number of bioflavonoids, also is thought to possess an antihistimine effect. It also strengthens the cell membranes of basophils and mast cell, thus preventing hypersensitivity to pollens and other allergens. Bioflavonoids often are used in combination with vitamin C because of their ability to potentiate the vital nutrient.


Echinacea — This well-known and popular herb has been shown in a multitude of studies to be potently effective at boosting the immune system.

Nettles — Thought to reduce the inflammation in the sinus cavities and alleviate allergy symptoms,the potential biochemical actions of nettles include stabilizing mast cells and supporting theadrenals. Explained Zand, "Nettle leaf is a diuretic and helps to resolve excess mucus associatedwith allergies. It also is high in trace minerals and has small amounts of vitamin C."

Licorice root — Not related to the candy, licorice root supports the adrenal glands, which producecortisol — a hormone with anti-inflammatory activity to reduce swelling of inflamed mucous membranes. Other herbs that have been indicated to have this effect are turmeric, ginseng, horsechestnut and white willow.

Bee Pollen — Bee pollen has been indicated by some as a treatment for pollen allergies. When taken in small amounts, it is believed that bee pollen acts in the same manner as conventional immunotherapy.

Eyebright/Goldenseal/Mullein — Other herbs sometimes used in formulations for alleviating for allergy symptoms.

MSM (Methyl-sulfonyl-methane) — A white, crystalline, odorless compound, MSM is composed of 34-percent sulfur, which is an essential mineral used by the body in regulating energy, hydration and detoxification. It is necessary for the maintenance of healthy joints and connectivetissues, organs, blood vessels, skin and nails.

Sulfur plays a role in alleviating allergies through detoxification and elimination of free radicals. Research has indicated that MSM supplementation has the ability to enhance lung function and control diverse allergy responses. MSM also is of benefit for asthmatics, because it helps regulate the fluid that covers the surface of the airways.

Beta Glucan — A polysaccharide derived from the cell wall of common baker's yeast, beta glucan has been indicated in scientific articles to activate and modulate the immune system.

CoQ10 — Preliminary investigation suggests that CoQ10 may inhibit the release of histamine and leukotrienes, thereby preventing allergy symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to inhibit inflammatory biochemicals.

Nutrition support strategies:

Nutrition support can make a big difference to living with Allergies.

Over more than a decade of working with nutrition supplement I have found and interesting phenomena. If your general wellness is high then your immune system is able to better protect you. A lot of people with allergies find that the allergies diminish and often disappear when the sufferer uses a strong nutrition program.

I am not taking about treating symptoms. I am talking about core wellness.

It appears that there needs to be a certain level of pollen, mites, cat hair, whatever is triggering the allergic reaction, in the environment before the effects of most Dust Mite Allergy manifest themselves.

My experience is that when someone gets their personal wellness high and their immune system working properly then they can be in an environment where they previously would have had an allergic reaction but now they find that the reaction does not occur.

It appears that the allergy has been cured though I seriously doubt that this is the case. What is happening is that the level of contaminates that the body can cope with is much higher and so the symptoms are not being triggered.

I have seen people who are using asthma medication every day get to a point where they do not even carry their puffers to work. I recall sitting with a lady named Karen Winter (story below) and having lunch. She was a chronic fatigue sufferer and her food allergies were so bad that she had been restricted by her doctors to 5 different vegetables to be eaten raw or steamed and only drinking bottled water. The day I sat with her she was eating pizza. Her eyes sparkled as she explained her history as she had believed her life was over.

Some of the asthma people turn around in a matter of days, Dust Mite Allergy can improve in just a couple of weeks, Karen Winter had been on her road to recovery for two years. The time can vary but the knowledge that there is hope is critical to knowing you are still in control of your life.

Further reading through our articles on health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out.

We wish you well in your search for solutions to this problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.

If you would like more information I suggest you read the pages here on Nutrition for the Cells and maybe check our AtoZ page on Asthma.

An Allergy can be described as sensitiveness of the body to a substance which does not normally affect other persons.

There are innumerable substances in the environment which can cause mild to violent reactions in many people.

These reactions range from true allergies due to intolerance of certain foods and substances, to those resulting from pollution.

hay fever
Allergic hay fever, more commonly known as “hay fever,” happens when you breathe in something you are allergic to. The inside of your nose becomes inflamed or swollen.

When this happens, the body’s immune system overreacts to specific particles such as plant pollens, molds, dust mites, animal hair, industrial chemicals, tobacco smoke, foods, medicines, and even insect venom.

Food Allergy
To start with, food allergy is unusual reaction to certain type of food allergen. An allergen is the substance or thing that causes the allergic reactions.

Exposure to the allergen sets off the alarm in the human immune system which consequently releases antibodies to fight off the invasion of the perceived foreign body that is the food allergen.


Below here are examples of Health Success Results other people have had with using a self care strategy for dealing with Dust Mite Allergy:

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Machine Washing Removes Most Dust Mites

House dust mites -- the bane of allergy and asthma sufferers -- can be removed from sheets and clothes by washing in a machine with warm or cold water using detergent with or without bleach. Still, up to 40% of the mites will remain and repeat washings are needed to reduce contamination levels further.

Dr. Larry G. Arlian and a team at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, added dust mites to clothing and bedding items and then tested the cleaning ability of a residential washing machine using standard temperature settings and detergents. Items were tested in 6- and 8-lb wash loads.

The results are reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Washing removed 60% to 83% of live mites.

There was no evidence that washing with detergent alone or with bleach was any better than plain water washing in removing live mites, the authors note. In 6-lb wash loads, polyester blankets retained more mites than other items, whereas in 8-lb loads cotton shirts and polyester blankets retained the most.

The type of detergent did make a difference in removing allergy-producing material shed by mites, the scientists say. Washing in warm water with or without detergent removed 84% of allergen, whereas washing with detergent plus bleach removed 98%.

The team has a word of caution. In a separate experiment, they found that live mites could be transferred from mite-infested items to mite-free items during washing.


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