Have you heard about house dust mites?

22 September 2021

By Amena Warner, Head of Clinical Services at Allergy UK

Amena Warner explains how allergic symptoms can triggered by house dust mites, and describes some practical steps to reduce their impact.

Allergic rhinitis (hay fever symptoms) is common and affects 10-15% of children and 26% of adults in the UK. It can affect school and work attendance, quality of life and is a major risk factor in the development of asthma. The typical symptoms are sneezing, itchy nose, a stuffy blocked nose, a runny nose (usually with clear fluid coming down) and a feeling that mucous (snot!) is running down the back of your nose and throat.

Many people think that it is only grass and tree pollen that cause these hay fever symptoms (which is where it got its name).  However, they can also be caused by allergens in the indoor environment.

Many children and young people have asthma, but don’t know what is triggering it. If allergies keep you or your child up at night or are worse first thing in the morning with coughing, tight chest, blocked nose etc, this might be an indication that the allergen is in the home environment. If this is the case, you need some information to help.

Have you heard about house dust mites? No? Well, read on and learn more.

House dust mites are microscopic, which means that they are tiny and cannot be seen by the human eye.  But they do exist and are present in everyone’s home, thriving in warm, humid conditions.  These tiny creatures can be a major trigger of allergy so it’s important to try and reduce them in our homes as much as we can. There are a number of practical things we can do.

Keep your room well ventilated

It’s important to keep your room well ventilated to help limit allergens in your bedroom. We would recommend keeping your window slightly open at night to allow for air in the bedroom to circulate and to cool the room.

Reduce dust mites in your bed

It’s estimated that the average bed has over 10,000 house dust mites living in it, which results in over two million of their droppings. Not a nice thought. The best way to tackle this is to wash bed sheets at 60 degrees or above. So a nice hot wash kills the house dust mites, but you do need to do this regularly. Get your bed sheets changed at least once every other week to help keep those mites under control.

Maybe you might invest in mattresses and mattress covers and bedding that are designed to be hypo allergenic.  And definitely try to keep your pets out of the bedroom, and especially off your bed to reduce allergen levels!

Keep the temperature down

A cool bedroom is ideal for the perfect sleeping environment.   Having the central heating too high creates ideal conditions for house dust mites.  So be sure to turn the heating temperature down a degree or two.  It’s also a good idea to regularly vacuum behind the radiator where dust can build up.

All of this may not be enough to resolve symptoms so medication will be needed to keep them under control. Your GP will be able to give you advice on this.

There is lots of information on house dust mites on the Allergy UK website as well as our Allergy House which identifies ‘hot spots’ for allergens.  Be sure to look us up.


See more from #AskAboutAsthma 2021