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We spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping in our beds, but we often overlook our sleeping space when we’re allergy-proofing our homes. Mattresses, pillows, quilts and comforters are havens for dust mites, small allergy-aggravating insects that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Dust mites feed off the moisture and dead skin we leave all over our homes, and our beds are a particular sanctuary for them. On average, you’re sharing your bed with over a million of these microscopic insects every night.

While dust mites don’t bite, their bodies disintegrate into a fine dust that builds up in our bedding, making allergies worse for roughly 20 million Americans. The allergens that dust mites’ bodies create, lie in the plush surfaces of our homes, not in the air, so if your allergies are strongest when you first wake up, your bed and pillows may be the culprit. If you wake up with a runny nose, watery eyes, congestion, or an itchy throat or skin, your bedding may have a buildup of dust mites. Fortunately, there are ways to exile these unwanted bedmates from our sleeping spaces. Here are seven tips to de-mite your bed and keep dust mites away:

1. Wait to make your bed.

A little procrastination can be helpful in this case. Since dust mites thrive in warm and moist environments, leaving your sheets thrown back helps starve them out. Move making the bed to the end of your morning routine to give your sheets time to air out, so there’s less moisture for those mites to move in.

2. Wash your sheets and pillowcases in hot water each week.

Cleaning your linen every week in hot water helps starve out dust mites by getting rid of built up moisture and skin cells that they thrive on. Choose the hottest setting available for the wash cycle on your dryer to increase the effectiveness.

3. Wash your comforter at least twice a year.

Providing that you have a sheet between you and your comforter, washing them once every six months, or ideally once every season, should be enough to keep your comforter clean. A thirty-minute cycle in the dryer can help refresh and fluff your comforter between washings.

4. Invest in dust mite proof covers for your pillows and mattress.

These covers go underneath your sheets and keep dust mites from settling into your pillows and mattress. They prevent mattresses and pillows from absorbing sweat and dead skin cells as well, helping prolong the life of your mattress and pillows, which can save you money in the long run. Strip these covers off and wash them monthly. Replace your covers every few years, or when they become stained or torn to maintain their performance.

5. Vacuum your mattress once a month.

Whenever you strip off your mattress and pillow covers for their monthly wash, use your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment to clean the tops and sides of your mattress, as well as the exposed part of your box spring. The crevice attachment of your vacuum cleaner is good for getting into the crannies around your mattress’ welting and quilting. Be sure to use firm pressure to draw out any dust below the surface that might have slipped past your cover.

6. Wash your pillows regularly.

Once every three months is best to take care of any dust and debris that may have snuck past your pillow covers. Down and fiberfill pillows are machine-washable, and can be tossed in the dryer for thirty minutes between cleanings to freshen them up. Foam pillows can be cleaned using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner or by running them through the dryer on the air only cycle for twenty minutes.

7. Know when to replace your pillows and mattress.

Good quality pillows can last three to five years. If your pillows no longer hold their shape, are stained or torn, or seem to make you itch and sneeze as soon as you lay down, it’s time to replace them. As for mattresses, a high-quality mattress can last for 8 to 10 years, but it’s important to know the signs of when it’s time to replace your mattress. If your mattress has lost its shape, if you wake up sore, or if you still sneeze as soon as your head hits the pillow despite regular cleaning, it may be time to update your mattress.

These tips can help temporarily relieve the effects of the unseen guests between your sheets, helping you breathe easier at night, but if your allergies persist, you should seek a long-term solution from a certified ENT specialist. Dr. Pasha can help you find the source of your allergies and the treatment that will best meet your needs. Schedule a visit with ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Pasha today Schedule a visit with ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Pasha to find the source of your allergies and to breathe freely again.