Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Dust mites                                               November 2009 



dust mitesNo one lives alone. All of us are surrounded by tiny insects sharing our lives – and even worse, eating us up! It is weird that we can’t see them, but tiny translucent eight legged dust mites are everywhere, nibbling at the tiny bits of skin we shed each day, drinking our sweat and hiding up all over the house but especially in our beds.


Dust mites (dermatophagoides farina) are not pretty insects, but the good thing is that they are so small you can’t see them without the help of a microscope. They thrive in any area which is moist, warm and with a reasonable food supply, and as we shut up and warm up the houses for winter, they will settle happily in our furniture, carpets, soft toys and our beds. If your mattress is older than two years, then you will probably have over 2 million dust mites living happily in it.

Much as we hate the thought of them, happily they are not dangerous. Their biggest threat is to cause an allergic reaction – sneezing, itchy eyes or in worse cases asthma and wheezing. This is because of an allergen in the faeces of the dustmites. In rare cases they can cause eczema and other problems.

Today, if you buy a new mattress you can buy dust mite covers. Getting rid of established mites is very difficult. The easiest way is to control the atmosphere – they love warm humid conditions – but few of us want to keep our windows open during the depth of winter.

The very best way is to dehumidify your home – dust mites don’t do well in air with humidity of less than 45 per cent.

Vacuuming the house regularly including your soft furnishings and bedding can help but you have to do this thoroughly, dust mites have little suckers and hooks on each leg which helps them cling on. Electrostatic dusters which trap the dust rather than just swish it around are better for the collection of mites. When washing bedclothes, keep in mind that dust mites can survive up to 60 degrees, so you need a really hot wash to kill them. Freezing gets rid of them, if you fancy stuffing your pillows or blankets into the freezer for a while! One tip is not to dry clothes over radiators, and certainly put the clothes away only when they are completely dry.

There are some dust mite detection kits available that can measure the presence of dust mite allergens to give an indication of infestation levels – but for most of us, these little insects cause few problems; although it isn’t a restful thought that every night you are sharing your bed with millions of tiny creatures!



Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.




Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti