We spend roughly one-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.
One of the most common allergies in Houston in particular comes from dust mites. These pests feed off the moisture and dead skin we leave all over our homes, and our beds are special sanctuaries for them.
On average, you share your bed with more than 1 million of these microscopic insects every night.
What Are Dust Mites?
You can’t see house dust mites with the naked eye. They’re in every home regardless, no matter how much you clean.
To make matters worse, heat and humidity encourage mite proliferation. They live in warm, moist environments between temperatures of 68 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and with humidity greater than 70%. They dine on the skin flakes that we humans naturally shed.
Plus, dust mites live in fabrics, not on hard surfaces. You can find them mainly in upholstered chairs, mattresses, pillows, window treatments and carpets.
Thankfully, dust mites don’t bite. However, their bodies disintegrate into a fine dust that builds up in our bedding and makes allergies worse for roughly 20 million Americans. The allergens that dust mites’ bodies create lie in our homes’ plush surfaces, not in the air.
So if your allergies are strongest when you first wake up, your bed and pillows may be the culprits. If you wake up with congestion, a runny nose, watery eyes, an itchy throat or prickling skin, your bedding may have a buildup of dust mites.
Fortunately, you can exile these unwanted bedmates from your sleeping spaces in multiple ways.
Here are tried-and-true tips to de-mite your bed and keep dust mites at bay.
Wait to Make Your Bed
A little procrastination can be a good thing in this case.
Because 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. This gives your sheets time to air out, so there’s less moisture for those mites to move in.
[Related: Cold vs. Allergies: How to Spot the Differences]
Clean Your Sheets and Pillowcases in Hot Water
Cleaning your bedding weekly in hot water helps combat dust mites by getting rid of the built-up moisture and skin cells that they thrive on. Choose the hottest setting available for your dryer’s wash cycle to increase the effectiveness.
Wash Your Comforter at Least Twice a Year
If you have a sheet between you and your comforter, washing the bedding once every six months — or ideally once every season — should be enough to keep your comforter clean. A 30-minute cycle in the dryer can refresh and fluff your comforter between washings.
Invest in Dust Mite-Proof Covers
These covers go underneath your sheets and keep dust mites from settling into your pillows and mattress. They also prevent mattresses and pillows from absorbing sweat and dead skin cells. This also helps prolong the life of your mattress and pillows, which can save you money in the long run.
Strip off and wash these covers monthly. Replace them every few years or when they become stained or torn to maintain their efficacy.
[Related: Guide to Seasonal Allergy Triggers]
Whenever you remove 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.
Your vacuum cleaner’s crevice attachment is good for getting into the crannies around your mattress’s welting and quilting. Be sure to use firm pressure to draw out any below-the-surface dust that might have slipped past your cover.
Wash Your Pillows
Washing your pillows once every three months is best — that usually takes care of any dust and debris that might have snuck past your pillow covers.
Down and fiberfill pillows are machine-washable, and you can toss them in the dryer for 30 minutes between cleanings to freshen them up. You can clean foam pillows using your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment or by running them through the dryer on the air-only cycle for 20 minutes.
Know When to Replace Your Pillows and Mattress
Good-quality pillows can last three to five years. Here are three signs that it’s time to replace your pillows:
- They no longer hold their shape.
- They’re stained or torn.
- They seem to make you itch and sneeze as soon as you lie down.
A high-quality mattress can last for 8 to 10 years, but it’s important to know when you need to replace one. If you notice these signs, it may be time to update your mattress:
- Your mattress has lost its shape.
- You wake up sore.
- You still sneeze as soon as your head hits the pillow despite regular cleaning.
[Related: Traveling With Allergies]
Decrease Your Use of Fabric Materials
If possible, limit your use of fabric materials in your home. Opt for hardwood floors, and use fewer rugs. Try to avoid decorating with upholstered furniture, thick drapes, heavy curtains and stuffed animals.
Because mites find their homes in upholstered materials, decreasing the number of places they can set up shop can help alleviate your allergies.
Schedule an Appointment With Dr. Pasha
These tips can temporarily relieve the effects of the unseen guests between your sheets and help you breathe easier at night. But if your allergies persist, you should seek a long-term solution from a certified ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
Fortunately, ENT specialist Dr. Pasha can help you find the source of your allergies and the treatment that best meets your needs.
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Pasha today to find the source of your allergies and breathe freely again..