Allergy

Updated 23 June 2014

Is your child's bedroom crawling with dust mites?

You can't see them, but they could be affecting your child's allergies and asthma. Here's how to hunt them down and kill them.

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Taking steps to aggressively control dust mites in the children’s bedroom and rest of the home may reduce the occurrence of allergies and asthma.

Pillows

  • Never use feather pillows, duvets or eiderdowns, but rather synthetic foam or polyester/acrylic filled bedding.
  • Cover the pillows with a air-permeable protector, but not vinyl. Vinyl acts as a barrier to house-dust mite, but movement of the head and the body on the pillow causes a “ballooning effect, which creates a high pressure jet of allergen bearing air which then escapes through seams and stitching.
  • Replace foam pillows every six months.
  • Place the pillows and the mattress in the sun for five hours every week to kill the mites.
Read more: How healthy is your bedroom?

Mattress

  • Cover the mattress completely with a plastic, vinyl or micro-porous material – use shower curtaining and sew up or seal the ends.  The disadvantages of vinyl covers include: SA’s hot climate makes it hot and uncomfortable, instead of cool and dry to prevent the mites from breeding.
  • Lightweight air permeable bedding protectors have been recognised as a significant advance in the war against house-dust mites, according to the ALLSA. 
  • Wash the mattress cover regularly.
  • Turn your mattress monthly. If possible place in the sun every week for five hours.
  • If you have double bunk beds, let the asthmatic child sleep on the top bunk.
  • Wash bedding at 60 degrees Celsius to destroy mites.
  • Pull the bedcovers back in the morning to allow the bed to air thoroughly.
  • Avoid padded headboards and cot bumpers for babies.

Read more: Your mattress is alive!

Carpets and vacuum

  • Vacuum bedroom carpets and all other carpets where children play, daily.
  • Vacuum the whole house at least twice a week.
  • Vacuum cleaners without efficient filters will disperse allergens.
  • Very few living house-dust mites are sucked up because they have claws to keep them in place. “Wet” vacuum cleaning is more effective.
  • Damp dust at least twice a week.
  • Polish wooden floors with wax regularly to seal them.

Soft toys

  • Keep soft toys to a minimum and store them in a cupboard.
  • Remove dust collecting books, dried flowers, thick curtains, blinds, upholstered furniture, or keep them very clean.
  • Select closed bookcases and cabinets.
  • Wash soft toys every month at 60 degrees Celsius. 
  • Place them in the freezer for six hours every week.
  • After freezing, vacuum them to remove dead mites. 

Ventilation

  • Make sure the room is well aired every day. Keep the bedroom windows open when possible.
  • Keep furry pets out of the bedroom.

Keep humidity down

  • Avoid creating excess steam in the bathroom by running cold water first. Keep the door closed.
  • Keep windows open.
  • Do not use humidfiyers or ionisers.
  • Electric blankets in winter will help eradicate mites from the bed.
  • Use externally vented tumble-dryers to avoid increasing humidity levels in the home.
  • Use ventilator extractor hood or extractor fan when cooking, or open a window and close the doors to the rest of the house.

Chemical sprays to kill mites

  • Chemical sprays like benzyl benzoate, tannic acid, bromopol and others can kill mites. Use them regularly.
  • Dead mites can be vacuumed up more easily. This must be done.
  • Conventional insecticides are of no benefit and can aggravate allergic symptoms, according to the ALLSA. 

(Health24, updated April 2014)

Post a question to EnviroHealth expert
Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA)
National Asthma Education Programme (NAEP)

 

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Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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