Allergy to house dust and dust mites

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House dust is a common cause of asthma and allergic nasal disease. This is particularly so in children and young adults. Recently it has been found that certain house mites occur with the dust and particularly in mattresses and other bedroom furnishings.

These mites, present in everyone’s house, are small organisms invisible to the naked eye. Except to those allergic to them, they are harmless. They feed on the skin scales we shed from our bodies and their growth is improved by high humidity and dampness. Attention to the bedroom and the bedding can produce a significant improvement in the symptoms of patients with allergic nasal disease and asthma.

It is essential to have dry walls in the bedroom. The bedroom floor should be polished or vacuum cleaned daily (or at least every other day). Soft furnishings in the bedroom (carpets, curtains, soft toys, cushions etc.) should be kept to a minimum and should be damp-dusted and/or vacuumed. Curtains and carpets should be synthetic and vacuumed free of dust.

Spring or rubber mattresses and synthetic pillows are advisable, and the mattresses should be thoroughly vacuum-cleaned. In sensitive patients, the replacement of old mattress should be considered. The dust should be removed from around the piping and buttons. The mattresses should also be

frequently aired and turned. It is desirable to separate the patient’s nose from the ‘reservoir’ of house mites which reside in the mattress and this can be achieved by using a soft polythene cover to the mattress which can be damp dusted. Any underblanket should be washed as frequently as the sheets.

All washing of bedcovers, sheets etc. should be carried out at 60°c

For pillows, a soft polythene cover should be used under the pillowcase and neither pillow nor duvet should contain feathers.

Mites have been found in bedroom dust of all homes, but they are not found on mattresses in hospital, which are polythene covered and are damp dusted.

Reducing the volume of dust and dust mites is an important part of preventing the impact and symptoms of allergy related diseases such as allergic rhinitis and asthma, and in certain cases will reduce the need for medical, i.e. drug, treatment. Attention to the bedroom and bedding is therefore an essential part of managing the condition.