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Dust mites in your home

Patient information A-Z

This leaflet is designed for people who have been diagnosed as being allergic to house dust mite. The measures described below should only be used if a diagnosis of an allergy to house dust mite has been made. This leaflet is intended for use in conjunction with advice from an allergist in our clinic.

Some allergies are caused by house dust mite. They can cause rhinitis (runny nose, eyes), asthma or eczema. If you are allergic to house dust mites, reducing the levels should reduce symptoms. This may also result in a reduction of medication.

What is house dust mite?

It is a very small and invisible living creature, living in everyone's home, despite normal cleaning.

Where does it live?

House dust mites are found in all homes, particularly the bedroom, in mattresses and bedding. It can also be found in carpets, upholstery, chairs, curtains etc.

How can I reduce the number of mites in my house?

Measures to avoid house dust mite will lower but do not completely remove the house dust mite allergens. It is essential to lower the levels of mites sufficiently to reduce symptoms. A slight reduction will have no effect as house dust mites keep breeding and multiplying. Therefore, you must persist with the measures stated below. Concentrate on the bedroom area as you spend most of your time there and more mites are found there. It is best to do as many of the measures as possible, thoroughly and repeatedly, otherwise they are not effective.


Barrier mattress bedding covers

This is the single most effective measure but is not enough to help on its own; it is made of special fabric which does not let house dust mites through. If the mattress cover is used there is no need to vacuum the mattress. It forms a barrier between you and the house dust mite. These covers should be breathable, allowing water/body moisture to pass through them, and should completely enclose the item. Buy products that have been tested to show they prevent the escape of the house dust mite allergen Barrier covers are also available for duvets and pillows.

A clean bed

  • If you do not have bedding covers: Vacuum the mattress once a week, paying particular attention to the area around the buttons. Arachicide sprays are not recommended, as they are of limited help and may be an irritant.
  • Please note: Do not do the vacuuming if you have an allergy to dust mites. You should stay out of the bedroom while the bed is being stripped, staying out for at least half an hour after the bed is remade.
  • Hot wash all bedding on a 60 degree cycle. This includes pillows, quilts, blankets, duvets (try to select materials which allow this). If a hot wash is not possible, dry-clean them. A cooler wash will only partly kill the mites, but is better than nothing.
  • An alternative to washing pillows is to freeze them. Place in the deep freeze for eight hours every month. This kills the house dust mite.
  • Padded bed heads should be removed; the house dust mite will live in it.

Children’s bedrooms

If they have bunk beds, the child with the allergy should be on the top bed. Soft toys kept on the bed will contain house dust mite. Keep these to a minimum. Wash or freeze them at least once a month. You do not need to deprive a child of a favourite night time toy.

General tips

  • For those with a severe allergy, have vinyl or wood floors instead of fitted carpets in the bedroom.
  • Avoid heavy curtains. Use lightweight washable curtains or blinds that can be easily washed and cleaned.
  • Vacuum at least once a week.
  • Damp dust the room at least once a week.
  • If you have the allergy and do the vacuuming, cleaners which do not blow out dust may be helpful, for example, Dyson.

Other rooms

Thorough vacuuming (carpets, sofas, upholstered chairs etc) and damp dusting will help. Avoid heavy upholstery and curtains as above, so that they can be washed/cleaned easily.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151