Allergy

Is your child's bedroom crawling with dust mites?

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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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