The first step in treating a dust mite allergy is detecting where dust mites are located inside the home. Dust mites are usually detected by taking samples from several locations and then visually inspecting them under a microscope. Those areas testing positive for dust mites can then be treated through one or more means. Some of the most common and effective ways of treating dust mite allergies are as follows:
- Over-the-counter drugs – The symptoms of dust mite allergies can be controlled with over-the-counter antihistamines. These types of drugs reduce the histamine levels that are causing the symptoms. However, antihistamines can have other side effects, such as drowsiness.
- Mattress encasements – Mattress encasements are one of the most effective means of treating a dust mite allergy because some of the highest concentrations of dust mites are in mattresses. Mattress encasements create an impervious barrier around the entire mattress, so dust mites and their excrement are trapped inside, and no new ones can get inside. The dust mites already inside eventually die when their food supply and moisture run out.
- Hot water and steam – Washing clothes and bedding in very hot water for at least 10 minutes will kill any dust mites inhabiting the items. Steam-cleaning carpets, rugs and furniture will also kill dust mites. If hot water or steam cannot be used on certain items, they can be frozen for 48 hours as an alternative.
- Dust mite air purifiers – Air purifiers can help to remove dust from the air. When less dust is in the air, fewer allergens are inhaled. In addition, removing dust from the air also removes dead skin cells, depriving dust mites of their primary food source. Air purifiers with HEPA filters are recommended because they remove up to 99 percent of allergens from the air.
- Atmospheric controls – Dust mites thrive in temperatures higher than 70° F and relative humidity higher than 50 percent. Reducing temperature and humidity will create a less hospitable environment.
- Pesticides – No pesticides are currently labeled for the control of dust mites. However, two substances that are not considered pesticides are known to kill arachnids of all types: benzyl benzoate and tannic acid. Although studies show that the health risks of using either of these substances is low, it is still only recommended as a last resort.