Did you know?

House-dust mites want a warm bedroom, particularly one that's about 70 degrees Fahrenheit with enough humidity (over 50 percent) to keep them well hydrated.

A bed can contain more than 10,000 mites and more than two million fecal particles (the unpleasant stuff that causes allergies). Dust mites are so small that 7,000 can fit on a dime.

Why the need to cook laundry in hot water? Because dust mites love warm temperatures, even warm baths. Warm washing temperatures don't kill them; they just think it's a pool party. Only hot, and we mean 130 degrees Fahrenheit/54 degrees Celsius, water does the job. If you have young children at home and want to keep the water heater at a lower setting, take your linens to a commercial laundromat. Call first, though, to make sure the laundromat keeps temperature settings above 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

If cooking your linens will ruin them, consider the opposite strategy: Put them in the freezer for 24 hours and then wash them in warm water. There are no guarantees about the scientific validity of this tactic, however. The deep freeze should kill the mites, but it won't eliminate their droppings.

How to Allergy-Proof Your Bedroom

The average person spends about eight hours a night in their bedroom. Whether you sleep alone or with a significant other, you always have unwanted company in the form of dust mites, mold spores, and possibly animal dander. Microscopic mites, in particular, love lounging in your bed, your pillows, and your comforter, feasting away on dead skin flakes. You can't help shedding your skin, but you can put the "No Vacancy" sign out for the mites.

How to Allergy-Proof Your Bedroom: General Tips

Here's how to make your bedroom inhospitable to allergens:

  • Using a damp rag, once a month wipe down the bed frame and other wood or metal parts that are covered with dust.
  • Enclose the mattress and box spring in zippered allergen-impermeable, mite-proof covers, which can be purchased at some department stores or through mail-order companies that sell allergy-related products. Make sure the encasing permits perspiration-vapor-transmission: technical talk for "breathability." A washable mattress pad can go atop the allergen-impermeable coverings for added comfort.
  • Each week, wash all linens in hot water. Wash the mattress pad and blankets every two to four weeks in hot water. Wash the mite-proof encasings as recommended by the manufacturer or every three months.
  • Encase pillows in allergen-impermeable covers. If you have synthetic pillows, wash them monthly in very hot water and chuck out any pillows of dubious age or origin.
  • Avoid wool blankets and mold-attracting foam-rubber cushions, pillows, and mattresses.
  • Encase comforters in allergen-impermeable material.
  • Avoid cushioned headboards, billowing canopies, cute ruffles, flowing bed skirts (unless washed regularly with the linen), upholstered furniture, and accent pillows.
  • If possible, remove all carpeting. If that's impossible, low pile is preferable to shag carpeting. Have a non-allergic person vacuum twice weekly. Remove all boxes, old shoes, knickknacks, and junk hidden underneath the bed, all of which collect dust and make regular cleaning more of a chore.
  • Blinds and heavy curtains help keep daylight out but dust mites in. Try installing window shades instead. If the curtain is not coming down, at least launder it in hot water once a month. The same is true for blinds: If you don't replace them with shades, take them down and wash them.
  • If the bathroom is attached to the bedroom, keep humidity down by closing the bathroom door when you take a shower. Just be sure to keep the bathroom's exhaust fan running or the window open to allow moisture an easy escape outside.
  • Dust mites don't care if their dander dinner comes from a two-legged or four-legged restaurant. Reduce dander by keeping pets out of the bedroom. Always shut the bedroom door to prevent pets from making a sneaky entrance. Remember, your pet is a walking dust mop and can quickly undermine your best efforts at environmental control.
  • Set a schedule for regular cleaning and washing of linens. Then stick to it! Real improvements may not be noticeable for several months because it takes several washings to get rid of the mite infestation. And if you slack off, a whole new crop will move in. Washing linens regularly not only kills dust mites, it also reduces their food source (i.e., dead skin flakes). Washing only kills the adult mites, however, not their larvae. That's why it's important to wash linens weekly -- every week there's a new crop of critters.
  • Don't eat in bed. Cockroaches are attracted to food and will join you in the bedroom if that's where the feast is. If you have roaches, don't bring food into the bedroom.
  • Don't place your bed over a heating vent because that just invites a dust gathering. Being inaccessible, the vent won't be cleaned regularly. Dust will develop, and once the heat is turned on after a seasonal recess, a volcanic eruption of dust particles will fly into your mattress.
  • Remove candles from the bedroom, especially the scented variety, which can release irritating or harmful substances.
  • Keep bookcases away from the bed, or move them out of the bedroom.

Not all bedrooms are created equal, of course. In the next section, we will focus on how to allergy-proof two types of allergen-prone dwellings -- a child's room and a dorm room. Keeping your closet allergen-free is also covered.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.