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Dealing With Triggers: Dust Mites

A variety of things in the environment can make asthma or allergy symptoms worse. These are called "triggers." Your doctor can help you figure out what your child's triggers are.

Dust mites are a common trigger for many kids.

What Are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in household dust. They eat skin cells that people shed. They're especially plentiful in upholstered furniture, on some kinds of bedding, and in rugs. The highest concentration of dust mites in the home is usually in bedrooms.

How Can I Help My Child Deal With Them?

  • Vacuum and dust your home (especially your child's bedroom) often — at least once a week. Use a special small-pore filter bag on your vacuum or buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter. When you dust, use a damp cloth to avoid spreading dust mite particles in the air.
  • Avoid feather or down pillows or comforters; choose bedding made with synthetic materials instead.
  • Wash or change sheets weekly. Every few weeks, wash all of your child's bedding in hot water (higher than 130ºF or 54.4ºC) and dry it on a high setting.
  • Cover mattresses, pillows, and box springs with mite-proof covers (available at many large retail stores and also online). Be sure to regularly wipe down the covers.
  • Remove any carpeting, especially wall-to-wall carpeting, from your child's bedroom and other spaces where he or she spends a lot of time.
  • If you have area rugs, make sure they're washable and clean them weekly in hot water.
  • Make sure window coverings in your child's room can be washed or cleaned easily. Stay away from blinds, which have lots of horizontal surfaces that catch dust, or fancy curtains with lots of folds, which have to be dry cleaned. Wash all window coverings regularly.
  • Avoid upholstered furniture and pillows.
  • Clean up clutter. Clear away knickknacks, picture frames, and plants that collect dust.
  • Store most of your child's books in a room other than his or her bedroom or playroom.
  • Keep your child's collection of stuffed animals to a minimum. Any plush toys that your little one just can't live without should be washed often in hot water (if they don't contain batteries) and then dried on your dryer's highest setting. You also can seal these toys in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for at least 5 hours or overnight (dust mites can't survive more than 5 hours of freezing temperatures).
  • Avoid using a humidifier, especially in your child's bedroom.
  • Run a dehumidifier in the basement or other damp areas of your home. Empty and clean the water pan often.
Date reviewed: August 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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