What do dust mites look like
House dust mites
150 species worldwide
The house dust mite cannot be seen with the naked eye because it is just 0.1 to 0.5 millimeters in size. Its Latin name is Dermatophagoides, it belongs to the arachnid family. We mainly have the species Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farinae.
Otherwise, the 150 house dust mite species are distributed worldwide, provided that the areas are below an altitude of 1200 meters. Then they can be found wherever people and animals live - because they not only feed on tiny mushrooms, but mainly on flakes of skin. A person loses about one to two grams of it per day. This small amount is enough to feed up to 1.5 million house dust mites.
It takes around four weeks for an egg to develop into a sexually mature animal. The lifespan of the light-shy arachnids is three to four months, during which time females lay up to 300 eggs.
Mites especially like the bed
House dust mites love it warm and humid: They feel particularly comfortable at a room temperature of 25 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 70 percent. Under these conditions they multiply particularly strongly.
The bed in particular - mattresses, pillows and blankets - is the ideal place for mites to multiply, because humans, their main source of food, spend a lot of time in it. The sweat secreted by it also ensures sufficient moisture. Around 4000 of the insects can be detected in one gram of bed dust.
But dust mites are not only found in bed: They spread over many textiles and therefore also like to live in upholstered furniture, soft toys, pillows, carpets and curtains.
The insects are actually harmless and do not transmit diseases. Nevertheless, they are feared because they can trigger the so-called house dust allergy. The allergen can be found in their feces. When this dries up and falls apart, it combines with the usual house dust. The immune system of an allergy sufferer can be overly sensitive to certain proteins in the excrement balls.
The main multiplication time of the mites is between May and October, which is due to the usual temperature in summer and the high humidity. When the heating season begins in autumn, the humidity decreases, the drought increases in the apartment, and most of the mites die.
However, this does not mean the all-clear for allergy sufferers, as a lot of mite excrement and dead mites have accumulated, both of which carry the allergens.
Inhaling house dust that contains dead mites or their droppings can cause allergic reactions. Typical symptoms are watery or itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, eczema and in severe cases even shortness of breath or asthma.
The German Allergy and Asthma Association points out that it can be a house dust mite allergy if the symptoms occur all year round and intensify especially at night and in the early morning after getting up.
Tips against house dust mite allergy
In order to reduce the health problems caused by house dust mite allergies, experts recommend a number of measures: Basically, you should avoid high humidity in the apartment, i.e. reduce it to less than 50 percent. In dry weather, you should therefore ventilate the room more frequently.
In the bedroom, where most of the mites are usually found, the room temperature should not exceed 18 degrees Celsius. You should avoid green plants here, which ensure a higher level of humidity.
For allergy sufferers, it is also advisable to equip their vacuum cleaner with water or fine dust filters so that the mite excrement does not stir up and distribute it throughout the apartment when vacuuming.
Mattresses, pillows and blankets should be covered with mite-proof, breathable protective covers. These are available, for example, in pharmacies or medical supply stores.
If there are several beds in a room, they must all be provided with these covers to ensure effective protection against the small parasites. You should buy new mattresses every eight years.
Avoid dust catchers
Those who suffer particularly from house dust mite allergies should think about replacing upholstered furniture with leather or wooden furniture. If that doesn't work, you should clean these pieces of furniture, as well as pillows and carpets, twice a year with an anti-mite agent available in pharmacies.
However, it would be better to reduce dust traps as much as possible, i.e. to forego decorative items, to replace carpeting with laminate or parquet and to hang up plastic roller blinds instead of fabric curtains.
Anyone who describes cuddly toys as dust catchers is likely to be in trouble with the offspring. Teddy and co should be washed regularly at more than 60 degrees Celsius.
If the cuddly toys are not washable or not suitable for such high washing temperatures, it is best to store them in the freezer for 24 hours at minus 20 degrees. Because mites do not postpone extreme cold or extreme heat.
If you want to recover from your allergy, you should vacation in mountain regions at an altitude of more than 1200 meters, as the insects cannot tolerate the dry and cool climate. Many allergy sufferers are still without complaints for months after such a vacation.
If all preventive measures do not help, you can, after consulting your doctor, consider desensitization: Over a longer period of time, the allergy sufferer is given an increasing dose of the allergen. In the best case scenario, the symptoms will go away in around two to three years.
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