Updated 05 April 2017

A dust mite free home

It’s disconcerting that bugs live in your bed. But there are plenty of them. They’re called house dust mites and they might quietly live off the flakes of skin you shed.

It’s disconcerting that bugs live in your bed. But there are plenty of them. They’re called house dust mites and they might quietly live off the flakes of skin you shed, or they can make your life hell.

Recent technological advances have been recognised as a major step forward in the war against house dust mites.

In the past, only products made from vinyl based air impermeable fabrics were available, but they have major disadvantages:

  • They’re hot and uncomfortable in South Africa's climate;
  • Although acting as a barrier to dust mite allergen, the effect of moving the head and body's weight particularly on the pillow, causes a so-called ballooning effect. This in turn creates a spume, or high-pressure jet of allergen-bearing air that then escapes through seams and stitching;
  • It’s important to maintain a condition which allows for the ventilation of mattress, duvet and pillow. They must remain cool and dry to discourage infestation;
  • Individuals with allergic predispositions can also be susceptible to eczema and rhinitis. Their symptoms are made worse by moist warm conditions and other bacteria thrive;
  • Air permeability is essential for comfort and safety, especially with the growing number of younger allergic sufferers;
  • While the bed cover must allow for air flow it must also prevent the dust mites and their faeces from escaping;
  • The use of double flap closures on protectors for mattresses, duvets and pillows is more effective than conventional zip fasteners.

Allergen avoidance
Here are some hints as how to reduce house dust mite allergen levels in the home:

  • Fit mattresses, duvets and pillows with air-permeable occlusive protectors which act as a barrier to dust mites and their droppings;
  • Wash bedding at 60°C to destroy mites;
  • Vacuum bedroom carpets and all other carpets on which children play daily. Vacuum the whole house at least twice a week. Vacuum cleaners without efficient filters will disperse allergens, aggravating the problem. Buy the best vacuum cleaner you can afford;
  • Pull the bedcovers back each morning to allow the bed to air thoroughly;
  • Turn your mattress and vacuum it each month. Expose it to fresh air and sunlight whenever possible;
  • Keep soft toys to a minimum and store them in a cupboard. Place them in the freezer for six hours each week. After freezing, vacuum them to remove dead mites. Wash them once a month in hot water;
  • Keep bedroom windows open whenever possible;
  • If you have pets, keep them out of the bedrooms and off the furniture;
  • Avoid cloth-padded headboards and cot bumpers for babies;
  • Use externally vented tumble-dryers to avoid increasing humidity levels in the home;
  • Limit the amount of steam you generate in the bathroom by running cold water first when showering. Keep the door closed during and immediately after using en-suite bathrooms. Keep windows open;
  • When cooking, use a ventilated extractor hood or an extractor fan, or at the very least open a window and close doors to the rest of the house;
  • Avoid vacuuming, cleaning or dusting with an asthma sufferer in the room and don’t clean the room just before bedtime.

Dust mite from Shutterstock.


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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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