Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol Foil
House dust mites (Dermatophagoides farinae, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) are bugs that are in every home, and some pets are allergic to them. Because these mites are very small, they cannot be seen without a microscope. House dust mites eat the skin scales and dander shed by humans and animals. They are most commonly found in the sleeping areas of people and pets. House dust mites also like to live in homes with high humidity.
A house dust mite allergy is NOT a sign of a dirty house. Homes with carpeting and areas with high humidity will always have some dust mites.
The following are some ideas that can be used to reduce the amount of house dust mites in your home.
- House dust mites are most numerous in mattresses and beds. If possible, please keep the pet off of your bed. If this is not possible, use plastic mattress covers or some impermeable barrier for your pet's sleeping area on the bed and wash and heat-dry bed linens weekly. Replace bedspreads, pillows and mattress covers regularly.
- Feather pillows are full of house dust mites and should not be used around your allergic pet.
- Pet beds should be covered in plastic, filled with cedar, or treated with insecticides inside the cover. Covers should be washed weekly and the pet beds should be aired out or put in the dryer. You should replace all pet beds every six months unless the whole bed, including the stuffing, can be laundered weekly.
- When possible, choose décor and furnishings that either do not retain dust or can be easily cleaned such as: closed bookshelves instead of open shelves, washable curtains instead of blinds and heavy draperies, furniture with simple designs instead of ornately curved pieces, wooden or plastic furniture instead of upholstery, and easily cleaned decorations instead of dried flowers or straw.
- Any upholstered furniture that is used by your pet should be covered with a plastic throw cloth (anti-bed-wetting mattress pads can be useful).
- Stuffed pet toys should be replaced with new ones that can be laundered and dried weekly.
- Vacuum and dust your pet’s environment frequently. Try to clean when the dust-sensitive pet is not at home as vacuuming and dusting stir up the allergens and increase exposure to them.
- Use air conditioning or central heat to keep household humidity low. Change or clean filters on air conditioning or heating systems on a regular basis. Do not confine your pet to the laundry room, bathroom, utility room, basement or other high humidity parts of the home.
- Regular use of pet flea control products is associated with lower levels of house dust mites in the home. If your pet has house dust mite allergies, we recommend that all pets in your household be kept on year-round monthly flea control.
- Large amounts of house dust mites can live in carpeting. If possible, remove the carpeting in your home or keep your pet out of carpeted rooms. If your home must contain carpeting:
- Area rugs that can be thrown into the washing machine and heat-dried once a week are preferable.
- Sprays that breakdown the house dust mite particles that cause allergies are available but it is uncertain how effective these sprays are.