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Microscopic Mites Can Pose Major Problem

July 24, 1993|From Associated Press

House dust is a major cause of allergic disease with symptoms ranging from mild irritation to severe breathing problems.

Of all the house dust components, microscopic mites are the biggest problem. They thrive in hot weather.

"Dust mites are probably the most important allergen in the world," says Dr. Michael Kaliner, head of the allergy disease section of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md. "All temperate regions are afflicted with the pests, which live in carpeting, mattresses, pillows and upholstery." Since the tiny insects can't survive when the relative humidity is below 50%, arid areas are spared.

"Most people can't control the dust conditions under which they work," says Kaliner, "but they can do something about the bedroom, where they spend six to eight hours a night and where dust mites most often reside."

Following are some of Kaliner's suggestions:

* Keep carpets out of the bedroom. They trap dust--particularly shag rugs, the worst type for a dust-sensitive person.

* Use products known as acaricides that kill dust mites. They are available in drugstores and can help control mites in carpets, mattresses and sofas.

* Encase the bed's box springs, mattress and pillows in dust-proof, zippered covers.

* Use window shades instead of Venetian blinds, which are dust traps. Other dust magnets include fuzzy wool blankets or comforters, and feather pillows.

* Use only washable materials on the bed, and wash bedding and curtains weekly in hot water. Warm or cold water won't kill mites.

* Keep toys that gather dust--particularly stuffed ones--out of any bedroom in which a dust-sensitive child sleeps.

* Consider purchasing a high-efficiency particulate arresting filtering unit, a device that can help reduce airborne allergens.

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