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Dust Mite Allergy

Information on symptoms, causes and practical tips

Do you ever wonder why you are ‘bunged up’ with a stuffy nose in the morning, sneezing and wheezing when you wake up? Dust mite allergy could be to blame.

Dust mite allergy symptoms can include sneezing, wheezing and a runny nose. This is often worse in the mornings. Other symptoms include trigger wheezing, asthma and particularly heavy breathing during the night. House dust mites can even exacerbate eczema. One of the reasons this allergy often goes unaddressed is that people simply become accustomed to the constant nasal problems.

House dust mites are present in virtually every home. If you’re allergic, you need to commit to tackling the causes of the allergens in your home to see a reduction in your symptoms. 

View this selection of helpful products and make morning sneezes a thing of the past! If you need assistance, call our friendly advisors on 01453 752216.

Questions and answers on dust mites and their allergens

What are dust mites?

If you’re wondering what dust mites look like, they are microscopic creatures, measuring about 0.25mm long. They are invisible to the human eye. Their main food source is keratin (human skin scales), which needs to have been broken down by fungi. They also like to eat cellulose fibres (mainly from textiles) and chitin (tiny parts of fungi and outer covering of insects)[2].

They thrive in humid environments, as they need to draw moisture from the air in order to survive. This, combined with a rich source of their food, makes bedding, carpets, soft furnishings and clothing perfect breeding sites for them.

Dust mites multiply very quickly. They can colonise a new home within a year. Each mite can lay up to 80 eggs within 6 weeks[3].  

They are sometimes referred to as ‘bed mites’ as this is where they are very common. Dust mites are commonly confused with bed bugs

What causes dust mite allergy?

Do dust mites bite? No. It isn’t the mite itself that causes allergy symptoms but their faecal pellets, which contain Der p 1 (the main dust mite allergen).

Each dust mite produces around 20 droppings per day, which can continue to cause symptoms after the mite has died[4]. These droppings can crumble into tiny fragments, which can be inhaled.

An allergy to dust mites is the result of a hypersensitive reaction to the proteins in these droppings.

Where do dust mites live?

Dust mites thrive in the warm, humid conditions found in modern houses.They tend to live in mattresses, bedding, curtains and carpets and any dark, damp place where food is plentiful.

Exposure to sunlight can kill dust mites (although it will not remove their droppings). A well ventilated bed under a bright window may have low dust mite levels. Because the weather is often damp here in the UK, we sometimes have to dry clothes indoors and we are less likely to have our windows open. Dust mites are not more common in dirty houses and there is certainly no stigma connected to the presence of dust mites. In fact, a dusty house may have hardly any dust mites if the conditions are not warm enough or moist enough for them to survive.

These factors contribute to the moisture content in the home and combined with the warmth from central heating, this gives dust mites the ideal atmosphere in which to thrive.

Dust mite allergy symptoms

The most noticeable symptoms include:

  • Rhinitis (inflammation of the nose). This can cause congestion, sneezing and a running nose. This may be worse in the morning, after inhaling large numbers of dust mite droppings overnight[5]. Similarly, your symptoms may worsen when making beds, cleaning or turning the mattress as these activities tend to distribute the dust mite allergens into the air.
  • Wheezing and tightness of breath, coughing.
  • Sinusitis leading to blocked ears and headaches.
  • Less commonly, skin problems such as eczema and dermatitis.

Symptoms may be worse in the bedroom but can also be caused by dust mites in sofas, armchairs and carpets in your living areas.

Dust mite allergy and asthma

Dust mite allergy can be a feature in many other allergies.

Dust mite droppings are a known trigger for asthma. If you have asthma, and think that dust mites could be increasing the likelihood of you having an asthma attack, then the most important thing is for you to manage your asthma well.

Ensure that you follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your medication. Following the control methods below can also complement this.

Sensitisation to dust mite allergens

Dust mite allergy can develop at any age, so that even as an adult you may find that you have symptoms that you haven’t previously experienced.

There is evidence to suggest that keeping dust mite levels low in the home can help prevent children from developing dust mite allergy[6]. However, it is also influenced by environmental and genetic factors so more research is needed on this topic. 

Tackling dust mite allergy symptoms

For effective dust mite allergy treatment, we suggest an allergen avoidance approach.

It is virtually impossible to remove all dust mites from the average home, but by taking some simple steps you can significantly lower their population.

Getting rid of dust mites needs a wholistic approach, though how much you do depends on how severe your allergy is. For a mild allergy to dust mites, sometimes using just protective bed covers is enough to see an improvement. With more severe reactions, measures should be taken to reduce dust mites in the bedroom and then throughout the whole house.

Mite-proofing your living space requires commitment and patience in order to achieve a noticeable reduction in your symptoms.

The bed

The bed is a logical starting point for tackling allergy to dust mites, for two reasons. Firstly, we spend a lot of time in bed. Secondly, beds provide perfect conditions for dust mites – food, humidity and darkness help them to thrive.

Dust mites are almost 3 times as likely to be found in beds as they are in carpets[7].

Dust mite allergens can be released into the air every time you roll over or move the pillow or duvet. Most mattresses and bedding that have been in use will have been colonised by dust mites.

Dust mite proof barrier cases are woven so densely that the mites and mite faeces are unable to break through. Using these special cases on the mattress, duvet and pillows creates a physical barrier between the person in the bed and the dust mites in the bedding. Read this case study of Ally’s experiences of using dust mite proof bedding for her son’s dust mite allergy. 

As part of a comprehensive dust mite-proofing regime, these barrier cases can help to reduce your symptoms. They may also be of benefit if you have asthma as well as dust mite allergy, as evidence suggests that reducing dust mite allergen levels can improve morning peak flow in asthmatics[8].

We recommend the use of dust mite proof barrier cases for the mattress, duvet and pillows, or alternatively choose a dust mite proof barrier case for the mattress and a dust mite proof duvet and a dust mite proof pillow.

You may find this more convenient since you then cover the duvet with your own cotton cover rather than having a dust mite proof case and then your usual case.

If buying elsewhere, we suggest that you are careful to avoid bedding that has been treated with insecticides.

Look for washable bedding

Washing bedding at 60 degrees or above will kill dust mites[9].

Alternatively, you can use FabriCleanse laundry liquid in the washing (independent testing revealed this to be effective at temperatures as low as 30 degrees[10]) to kill the dust mites and to neutralise the mite allergens.


Carpets trap moisture, and as such they can be a prime breeding ground for dust mites. When vacuumed, walked on or disturbed in any way, the allergen can be released into the air and cause discomfort for the sufferer. Bear this in mind if you have small children crawling or playing on the carpet.

  • Wherever possible and particularly if the allergy is severe, replace carpets with hard flooring. This flooring should be damp mopped regularly.  (We recommend the use of hard wood flooring or ceramic tiles, rather than PVC, which can off-gas toxins into the air when first installed[11]). Allergy UK suggests sealing hard floors with a vapour barrier before covering with a washable surface[12].
  • Vacuum carpets and floors regularly with an efficient HEPA-type vacuum cleaner which does not release allergens back into the air. Steam cleaning can also be effective for killing dust mites in the carpet or on suitable hard floors.
  • A non-toxic solution such as FabriCleanse can be added to your regular carpet cleaning solution to denature dust mite allergens.

Upholstered furniture and curtains

Upholstered furniture and curtains in the warm, humid conditions found in the average home can also harbour dust mites.

For severe allergy, you may benefit from switching from curtains to flat blinds. They harbour less dust and trap less moisture, leading to reduced numbers of mites.

Using our natural allergy sprays will help to control airborne allergens like dust mites, without insecticides.

  • Use AirCleanse to denature allergens in the air.
  • Use HomeCleanse to spray onto curtains or upholstered furniture.
  • Use FabriCleanse in the washing machine for washable items.

Humidity control and ventilation

Keeping relative humidity (rH) levels in check is a key part of dust mite allergy treatment. It is a good way to help control their population in your home.

Dust mites cannot drink but draw moisture from the air. If the atmosphere is not moist enough for the mites, then they cannot survive. Ideally in order to reduce mite population the humidity level should be below 51%[13].

  • Check the rH level in your house using a weather station (these are useful in giving you an idea of what your relative humidity is and how it fluctuates with activities within the home, for example showering).
  • If the levels are above 51%, we suggest using a dehumidifier to reduce moisture levels in the air. We don’t normally recommend that you allow rH to get below 40%, as very dry air can make respiratory symptoms worse.
  • Remove all sources of damp, rising damp and water leaks.
  • Ventilate the room well and open windows whenever possible. This will lower the humidity and help to discourage allergens.

It is the dust mite’s faecal pellets that contain the allergen Der p1. They are very light and very brittle so that they break up into tiny fragments. These tiny sub-particles can be inhaled[14].

  • An efficient air purifier is helpful to clean the air in the room, as part of a comprehensive mite-proofing regime.
  • Independent research found the Airfree air steriliser to be very effective at reducing levels of Der p1 (the main house dust mite allergen), by on average 70.6%[15]. The Airfree sterilisers have the added benefit of reducing concentrations of ozone, bacteria and other airborne particles.
  • The Radic8 air sterilisers also help to eliminate dust mites, dust mite allergens, mould and fungi, viruses and VOCs.

Top Tips for getting rid of dust mites

  • Remove as much clutter as possible as this makes it easier to clean!
  • Encase your mattress, pillows and duvet in dust mite proof barrier cases. Alternatively, use a case on your mattress and dust mite proof pillows and duvets.
  • Always wash your bedding at 60 degrees (or use FabriCleanse, which can be used with temperatures as low as 30 degrees). This will denature dust mite allergens by dissolving the faecal pellets. We suggest that you wash your dust mite proof cases and dust mite proof pillows and duvet 2 to 3 times a year (3-4 times for more severe allergy).
  • Always air your bed out in the morning, fluff up the pillows and fold back the duvet – dust mites don’t like cool air or sunlight!
  • Open the window to bring in fresh air.
  • Replace your carpet with hard flooring if practical, otherwise keep your carpet clean and treat it with FabriCleanse or HomeCleanse.
  • Replace heavy curtains with washable ones or use blinds that can be damp dusted.
  • Damp dust surfaces daily.
  • Use the Bio-Life allergy sprays in the bedroom and living room, on soft furnishings and in the laundry to denature dust mite allergens.
  • Place soft toys in the freezer for 24 hours – dust mites can’t survive in extreme temperatures.
  • If you have an electric blanket, we recommend keeping it on top of your encased mattress. Unplug and spray it lightly once a month (on both sides) with HomeCleanse.
  • Make sure clothes are put away at night as these can harbour dust mites.
  • Never allow pets in your bedroom as they can transport dust mites.
  • Use an air steriliser in the bedroom to help eliminate mould and dust mites.
  • Use a weather station to monitor humidity and keep it between 40% and 51%.
  • If humidity is above 51%, using a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air may help with your symptoms.
  • Always open the window after having a shower until all signs of condensation have disappeared.
  • Do not dry laundry on the radiators as this increases the humidity, encouraging dust mites to proliferate. If you can’t dry laundry outdoors, look for a dehumidifier with a laundry drying function.
  • A dust mite bed cleaner using UV light can help to denature dust mites (and bacteria) on a mattress, on carpets and flat surfaces.
  • Use a good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and regularly vacuum (and/or steam clean) the house.
  • If you are the allergic person, and you have to do the cleaning, wear a mask to protect from the airborne allergens.

References and Information Sources:

[1] Respiratory allergy caused by house dust mites: What do we really know? Calderón, Moisés A. et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2014 (http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(14)01482-1/pdf)
[2] Ibid., pg. 4
[3] Ibid.
[4] House Dust Mite, Allergy UK (https://www.allergyuk.org/avoiding-respiratory-allergens/house-dust-mite) last updated March 2012.
[5] House Dust Mite Allergy, Dr Roger Henderson, http://www.patient.co.uk/health/house-dust-mite-and-pet-allergy Last checked: 03/03/2015  Next review: 02/03/2018.
[6] Respiratory allergy caused by house dust mites: What do we really know? Calderón, Moisés A. et al.,Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2014 pg 2
[7] Ibid., pg 4
[8] Clinical effectiveness of a mite allergen-impermeable bed-covering system in asthmatic mite-sensitive patients van den Bemt, van Knapen et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Oct;114(4):858-62.
[9] House Dust Mite, Allergy UK (https://www.allergyuk.org/avoiding-respiratory-allergens/house-dust-mite) last updated March 2012.
[10] Independent testing by RSS Laboratories.
[11] Emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from PVC floor coverings, Wiglusz, Igielska et al. Bull Inst Marit Trop Med Gdynia. 1998;49(1-4):101-7.
[12] House Dust Mite, Allergy UK (https://www.allergyuk.org/avoiding-respiratory-allergens/house-dust-mite) last updated March 2012.
[13] Reducing relative humidity is a practical way to control dust mites and their allergens in homes in temperate climates. Arlian, Neal et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001 Jan;107(1):99-104.
[14] Environmental Medicine in Clinical Practice, Anthony, Birtwhistle et al., 1997, p.71[15] Report by Insect R&D Ltd., (http://www.airfree.uk.com/Files/Billeder/AirFree/Testes/Insect%20Research%20Institute%20UK.pdf), 2005

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