High levels of dust-mite allergens are present in 50% of American homes – they cause several health problems, and they love to hide in your mattresses.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Does Mattress Cleaning Treat Dust-Mite Allergies?, prompted this blog post about dust-mites. They really are a big problem – at least half the homes in America contain enough dust-mite allergens to cause health problems. How do you get rid of those allergens? The answer to the question in the headline “Does Mattress Cleaning Treat Dust-mite Allergies” appears to be ‘no.’ And I’ll explain why. But, first, a little info about dust-mites.
Dust-mites are microscopic arachnids (same family as spiders) that live in dust. They hide in dark places like upholstered furniture, dust bunnies under couches and beds, in blankets, sheets, stuffed toys, mattresses – even your baby’s crib mattress.
Although they do bite, they generally they feed off dead skin cells and hair. However, their waste is usually the source of allergic reactions. In fact, up to 30% of people in the U.S. are allergic to this waste and even those who are not allergic can develop a sensitivity if there’s enough of the allergen in the environment. A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that half the homes in the U.S. have enough of these allergens to trigger a sensitivity – which can have the same symptoms as an actual allergy.
What are the symptoms?
- Hay fever
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Persistent stuffy nose or ears
- Repeated sneezing upon awakening
- Runny nose
Generally, the symptoms are worse at night and when you first wake up. And they improve when you’re out of the house.
There are various services available that clean mattresses to remove dust-mites. It costs about $50 for a twin mattress, more for larger sizes. One such service (using ultraviolet light) was tested and found to reduce the mites by 98%.
That statistic sounds good, but it’s only one test and, worse, the mites build up to their previous levels within a month, according to Peyton Eggleston, a pediatric allergist and professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore. At that rate, the average household (cleaning all their mattresses) would have to spend about $150 to $200 a month to get their mattresses cleaned – which is hard to fit into the average budget.
So, what are your other alternatives? For your baby, get a Naturepedic crib mattress with a waterproof covering made with food-grade polyethylene. Dust-mites cannot penetrate this covering, so all you have to do is wipe down the surface.
For your own mattresses, and for bigger kids, get an organic waterproof mattress pad or airflow sheet. These will provide dust-mite protection for the top of the mattress which is where the majority of the problem lies.
There’s nothing worse than sick kids – especially babies. Their under-developed immune systems need all the help they can get. Handle the dust-mite problem, and that will be one less thing you have to worry about.