House dust mite allergy is the number one allergic disease in people in Singapore. According to Corey’s allergist, 1 in 2 children in Singapore will have some sort of allergy by 2025, be it to house dust mites or others. This is a pretty alarming statistic. No prize for guessing chances are high that house dust mite allergy will be increasing in the coming years. The worse part? There is no way to completely eradicate these annoying, almost invisible pests call house dust mites.
The Vicious Cycle of house dust mite allergy
Anti-allergy meds are such a norm they are readily available at all pharmacies.
Although they work to relieve symptoms, these are only stop-gap measures.
Because you will simply be maintaining your dust mite allergy if you do not reduce your house dust mites exposure.
It is easy to see this results in a vicious cycle: dust mite allergy symptoms show up results in taking meds – feel better – continual exposure to dust mites – trigger symptoms – get overwhelmed by symptoms and here we go again.
Most want to do something about, but spend money chasing the wrong solutions
I wrote a few months back on how the main thing I learnt from managing a dust mite allergy is knowing that each person has a different threshold to dust. Since then, many people have approached me asking for more specific tips. When I listed out the things I did that worked and did not work, it was an alarmingly long list. Because there are so many products that claim to work, I found many people (myself included), having spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars chasing the wrong solutions.
So here’s my cheat sheet of what is effective, and what is not effective for me after battling house dust mite allergy intensely for the past 2 years.
Hope it gives you some helpful tips on where your money can be better spent.
A few important facts about house dust mites to keep in mind as you work through the list:
- You are allergic to certain proteins secreted by the house dust mite. These proteins can be found in their saliva, poop and dead carcasses.
- They thrive in ANY material of bedding (even the hypoallergenic ones!). But especially love natural materials like down and goose feathers.
- They feed on our dead human skin for food and can survive anywhere from 1 to 2 months.
- They are 0.3mm and cannot be seen with the naked eye. They don’t bite humans, they are only after our dead skin-flakes. Therefore not to be mistaken for bed bugs.
CHEATSHEET FOR BATTLING HOUSE DUST MITES:
ZERO IN ON YOUR BEDROOM – THE BED
We spend approximately 8 – 10 hours in our bedroom each day. For babies, this might be even longer if they have multiple naps. House dust mite party central is THE BED. Zero in on the bed and start making changes there.
Get rid of any pillows or mattresses made with natural down, goose feathers, coconut husks, bean husks, etc.
I discovered Corey’s house dust mite allergy when he started to develop hives playing on my sofa filled with natural down feathers.
Natural pillows are the rage now, claiming to give superior comfort. Natural feathers and down are also superior house dust mite breeding grounds. Get rid of them NOW. Instead, opt for full synthetic materials.
Corey was sleeping on a natural coconut husk cot mattress for almost a year after we confirmed his house dust mite allergy. He would go to sleep with good skin and wake up with fresh rashes on his back. Thinking the mattress may have been too old, I replaced the old coconut husk mattress with a new coconut husk mattress. And also because the salesperson told me its natural fibres made it hypoallergenic and repel dust mites.
Blah blah blah and I only heard the words hypoallergenic and repel dustmites. BUT a new natural coconut husk mattress was still made with a natural material. Within a week, the rashes were back. I even bought expensive protective covers for that mattress. All claiming to be anti-dust mite and hypoallergenic. But nothing improved his condition.
Finally one day, I got so frustrated with my troubleshooting of his mattress and covers, I removed the mattress and gave him a thin PVC mat to sleep on.
His skin improved literally over the next few nights.
Who would have thunk it?
This cheap plastic mat used in childcare centres for naps was my solution. He still sleeps on it, except I custom made a firmer one pictured here.
Buy the cheapest pillows and mattresses and replace as often as possible.
No matter how intensely you vacuum and clean you will NEVER be able to remove house dust mites faster than they can reproduce. Dust mites can burrow deep into your pillows and mattress so no matter how often you Sun, hot wash, vacuum you will not be able to get them all. All the money you spend on thousand-dollar vacuums and expert cleaning services can be channelled to just replacing the pillows and mattresses often.
I buy my children’s pillows and mattresses from Ikea. I try to change them between 6 to 12 months. Not very environmentally friendly I know, but it’s kept my children’s house dust mite allergy symptoms to a minimum.
Bedrooms should be kept as uncluttered as possible. No carpets if possible. Light curtains or curtains that can be laundered every few months.
More stuff means more places for dust mites to live in. Any loose items should be placed in enclosed wardrobes. Open shelves with lots of items attract dust so these should be kept minimal. Carpets and curtains are a minefield for house dust mites. If allergic symptoms are bad, remove carpets and curtains (or change to new ones) to see if there are improvements.
No soft toys
This is usually harder for girls than boys. This no soft toy rule is non-negotiable. No matter how you hot wash soft toys at 60 degrees and sun them, it is never a guarantee that you can get them dry enough to prevent recurrence of new house dust mites moving back in. Freezing them is not a practical option because even if you kill the house dust mite, you still need a way to get rid of their carcasses which is exactly what causes the allergies. Plus I don’t fancy soft toys smelling like frozen meat, do you?
Corey has 2 comfort blankets affectionately termed his ‘smelly blankies’. These are hot washed in rotation and hung out to dry every few days. He also likes to bring some of his plastic toy cars to bed and these are easy to wipe.
THINK THIN: Use thinner pillows and thinner mattresses. Thin blankets and if possible no duvet blankets.
The lesser foam or cotton there is, the lesser ‘real estate’ for the house dust mites to set up camp, hence lesser dust mites. The thinner ones tend to be the basic and cheaper ones anyway. So this should save you some money.
Sun all beddings as often as possible
House dust mites hate the heat, so sunning pillows and mattresses as often as possible is a good way to kill them and force them to vacate and find a new home. Corey’s allergist calls this a day-out, night-in method where pillows stay out in the sun to be aired in the day, and only goes back into the room at night.
It also helps if these mattresses and pillows are vaccumed before heading back in.
Buy the CORRECT anti-dust mites pillow and mattress covers.
So here’s where a majority of my bedding budget goes to. But which ones really work? Products with a special chemical coating that claim to be antibacterial or anti-dust-mite are not proven effective and could be harmful to the skin. I will not try house dust mite sprays because the ingredients and warning labels highlight skin irritation as a possible aftereffect. The last thing I want is to complicate matters by adding harmful chemicals as a possible allergen for my children.
Logically, if the house dust mites cannot get out and come into contact with your nose at night, it reduces the impact of allergy. So the best kind of cover must be fully occlusive in preventing the dust mites from getting out of the pillows and mattresses and into the air.
I have been unable to find anything that is fully occlusive in retail shops in Singapore.
When I came across www.AllergEnd.com.au and read up about their product, it met my needs and made sense. Their product claims the threads are woven so tightly that dust mites cannot escape. Plus they do not use chemical treating. I now use their covers on my children’s pillows and my older son’s mattress. So far they seem effective as my children seldom sneeze at night and Corey’s skin no longer flares at night.
*update as of 22nd May 2019: I have also in recent months tried out full waterproof pillow cases which can serve the same purpose.
Very affordable to try and can be found in www.Lazada.com Search for ‘waterproof pillow cases’ and remember to check reviews first before buying.
It is important to note that the protection works if the cover is fully occlusive meaning no cracks in waterproofing layer, and no gaps or defects in the zippers. Once there are holes, the dustmites can escape.
It only takes very little to maintain a dustmite allergy so making sure your protective covers do their job and check them often. Also, a big gauge for me is keeping track of whether there are improvements in symptoms when I try something new.*
My cheat sheet is based on my experience and observations. This list is not exhaustive as there are other things that I have either not tried, or not able to draw a firm conclusion on. My go-to motto when I analyse a new product is, will it help me form a permanent, significant barrier between the house dust mites and my children’s nose and skin? If yes, then the next measure is whether it is cost effective and easy to execute.
Each child’s symptoms are different and each country’s climate is different I urge all parents to adapt and adopt what is most viable first and work your way to making more changes as symptoms show improvement. Use a test, observe and record approach when making changes to see which methods yield the biggest improvements in your child’s symptoms.
All opinions stated are my own and this is not a sponsored post.
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