How To Get Rid of Dust Mites, According to Allergists

It's all about preventing the situations these pests thrive in.

Dust mites are a pain for many people with indoor allergies. Those microscopic pests can cause intense flare-ups of allergies as you hang out in your home.

The common ways to get rid of dust mites are:

  • Wash and change your bedding regularly.
  • Use allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers.
  • Maintain low humidity in your room.
  • Remove dust.
  • Vacuum often.

But it's hard to fight a villain you can't see, making it frustrating to try to get rid of dust mites. Luckily, some allergists have advice. But before you learn more about eradicating them from your home, you must know more about the critters and what makes them thrive.

What Are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are insect-like pests that usually live in house dust. Dust mites like to eat flakes of dead skin, also known as dander, that people and pets shed.

"Dust mites are tiny and cannot be seen by the naked eye," allergist and immunologist Priya Patel, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told Health.

If you're not allergic to dust mites, they probably will not cause any issues for you. But they are one of the most common airborne allergens, allergist and immunologist Purvi S. Parikh, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York, told Health.

So, for many people, dust mites can spark an allergic reaction and make symptoms of allergies and asthma worse.

Why Dust Mites Make You Sick

Dust mites don't bite. Instead, you get sick from being exposed to dust mite feces.

"The proteins in the fecal particles are perfectly sized to cause allergy symptoms in those who are dust mite-allergic," explained Dr. Priya Patel.

Also, how many of those pesky mites you come into contact with matters, David Corry, MD, a professor of immunology, allergy, and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told Health.

"Dust mite allergens are among the most abundant foreign substances people are exposed to, depending on the exact house," explained Dr. David Corry. And if your home packs a lot of dust mites, you're more likely to express allergy symptoms.

Where Do Dust Mites Live?

Dust mites can technically live anywhere there's dust. But you can usually find them in the following spots:

  • Mattresses
  • Bedding
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Carpets
  • Curtains

How to Get Rid of Dust Mites

Here's the thing: You can't completely eliminate dust mites.

"It is almost impossible to completely get rid of dust mites in the home," said Dr. Priya Patel. Still, there are "some things that you can do in the home to help decrease dust mite load without needing a professional."

However, knowing the conditions that can increase your risk of having a thriving dust mite population in your home in the first place, according to Dr. David Corry, is essential to decreasing allergy symptoms.

How long it takes to get rid of dust mites "depends on the intervention and the specific environment," explained Dr. David Corry.

"You can achieve dramatic reductions in mite allergens by removing all carpets, old mattresses, old pillows, and cloth furniture and doing a thorough cleaning," added Dr. David Corry.

Unfortunately, getting rid of dust mites isn't a one-and-done treatment. They come back, which is why regular cleanings are important. Think of the fight against dust mites as an ongoing war rather than one battle. Here are a few ways you can get rid of dust mites.

Wash Your Bedding

Dust mites thrive in your bedding because you shed flakes of dead skin on your bedding that dust mites use as their food. So, it's important to change and wash your bedding frequently.

One of the best ways to get rid of dust mites is to wash all your bedding—including sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and duvet covers—on a hot cycle of at least 130 degrees. If you are unable to wash your bedding in hot water, place them in the dryer for 15 minutes at 130 degrees.

If you cannot wash or dry your bedding, try freezing any unwashable items for 24 hours. Although freezing your bedding will not get rid of the allergens, it kills dust mites.

Use Allergen-Proof Mattress and Pillow Covers

Allergen-proof covers can protect your mattress and pillows from a dust mite infestation. Covers that have zippers to keep them tightly shut around your bedding trap dust mites and prevent them from multiplying. The dust mites inside the covers will eventually die, while others will be unable to enter.

If you use allergen-proof covers, keep in mind that it is still important to clean your bedding. Wash your covers frequently.

Maintain Low Humidity

Humid environments (like a steamy bathroom) attract dust mites, so make sure that the humidity inside your home is lower than 50 percent.

Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to keep humidity inside your home low. Also, you can purchase a hygrometer to keep track of humidity levels.

Choose New Bedding

Although you can regularly clean your bedding, some bedding may be difficult to keep clear of dust mites. For example, large, bulky duvet covers are often hard to wash. So, think about swapping that duvet cover for a washable blanket or quilt.

Decorative bedding, such as bed skirts, throw pillows, and throw blankets, provide additional environments for dust mites to settle, so you may want to skip those while making your bed.

Buy Toys That You Can Easily Wash

If you have children that play with toys, think about only keeping ones that you can throw in the washer and dryer.

Use a Damp Cloth to Remove Dust

Using a damp cloth to clean your house can help efficiently remove dust by preventing it from escaping into the air and resettling in a different area.

Use water or disinfectant to wet your cloth. While cleaning, once your cloth becomes dirty, toss it in the washer or shake out the collected dust outside your house.

Vacuum Often

Vacuum your carpet and upholstered furniture regularly to get rid of dust. Although it is not the most effective method of removing dust, vacuuming can decrease your risk of developing dust allergy symptoms.

Add double-layered microfilter bags or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to your vacuum to efficiently clean the dust off of your carpet and upholstered furniture.

You should vacuum upholstered furniture once per week. However, consider replacing your upholstered furniture, which attracts dust mites, with washable covers.

Steam cleaning can also kill dust mites at 200 degrees, so try using a steam cleaner on your carpet and upholstered furniture once per season.

Remove Carpeting

Carpeting is a breeding ground for dust mites because carpet tends to catch and trap flakes of dead skin cells. Specifically, wall-to-wall carpeting attracts dust mites and is particularly difficult to clean.

Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with hard surface floors—including tile or wood.

Symptoms of a Dust Allergy

There are a number of dust mite allergy symptoms—often including:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Postnasal drip
  • Cough
  • Itchy skin
  • Itchy nose, mouth, or throat

If you're experiencing any of those symptoms, make sure to document when they began and how severe they are, as well as your family history regarding allergies, and any medications that you're currently taking.

A healthcare provider can use that information to determine whether you may have a dust mite allergy. For instance, if you notice that your allergies become worse while you're lying in bed, where dust mites often live, a healthcare provider may suspect an allergy to those pesky creatures.

There are a few different ways that a healthcare provider can confirm a suspected dust mite allergy. Those include examining the lining of your nasal passages, performing an allergy skin test, and taking a blood sample.

What to Do if You Still Have Allergy Symptoms

If you've followed all the steps to dramatically reduce the dust mite population and you're still struggling with indoor allergy symptoms, Dr. Priya Patel explained that it's time to talk to an allergist.

Medical Treatment

Allergists can help develop a comprehensive plan that may include allergy medications—including nasal sprays and oral antihistamines—to help reduce your symptoms.

  • Antihistamines—available as nasal sprays, pills, or liquids—reduce sneezing, runny nose, and itching.
  • Nasal corticosteroids, as a nasal spray, reduce swelling and block the allergic reaction.
  • Decongestants—available as nasal sprays or drops, pills, or liquids—relieve stuffiness by shrinking the nasal passage.
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists, usually in pill form, prevent your body from producing leukotrienes, chemicals in your immune system that trigger inflammation related to asthma and allergies.

Your allergist may even recommend that you undergo immunotherapy treatments through the use of allergy shots that expose you to tiny amounts of dust mite proteins, which build up your exposure over time.

Other Symptom Relief

Flushing mucus out of your nasal passages using a neti pot and salt water may also help lessen symptoms.

"We can lessen your dust mite allergy over time," explained Dr. Purvi Parikh. The ultimate goal is to help reduce or stop your dust mite allergies.

A Quick Review

Dust mites are microscopic insects that eat skin flakes you and your pets shed. If you have an allergy to dust, it's your body's reaction to the dust mites' feces. The best way to prevent a dust allergy is to get rid of the dust where the mites hang out: Change and wash your bedding often, remove dust from upholstered furniture and curtains, and vacuum often.

Dust mites will lurk around your home in some capacity, no matter how much and how intensely you clean. But if you clean regularly and take other steps to take out those pesky dust mites, the odds are high that you'll be able to breathe easier at home in the future.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dust Mites and Cockroches.

  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Indoor Allergens.

  3. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus. Allergies, asthma, and dust.

  4. Aggarwal P, Senthilkumaran S. Dust mite allergy. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  5. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Dust Mite Allergy.

  6. Choi J, Azmat CE. Leukotriene receptor antagonists. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

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