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For those suffering from seasonal allergies, the beginning of spring or fall can also mean sneezing, stuffy noses, and puffy eyes. And while seasonal runners are quick to blame pollen and grasses (and for good reason), there may be another factor that affects your allergy year-round: dust mites. To learn more about the possible link between year-round allergens such as dust mites and marine allergies, we spoke with Jacqueline S. Eghrari-Sabet, MD, FAAAAI, allergy and asthma specialist. Turns out, making a few small changes to your bedroom can help you control your sneezing and sighing.
Dust mites are microscopic critters that live inside pillowcases, mattresses, and bedding, and they feed on the flakes of skin that people shed while they sleep (yuck!). While almost all beds have dust mites, some people are sensitive to them, while others are not bothered by them. Dust mite allergy symptoms look a lot like seasonal allergy symptoms: sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, and congestion.
According to Dr. Eghrari-Sabet, year-round dust mite allergy could be priming people with seasonal allergies for more intense symptoms when these, such as pollen and ragweed, kick in. "So when seasonal allergies arise, you will have a more exaggerated response," he explains.
How to treat a dust mite allergy: mattress covers and pillows
"There is no better therapy than avoiding them," says Dr. Eghrari-Sabet. When it comes to dust mites, that means investing in dust mite-proof covers for mattresses, box springs, and pillows. These waterproof zippered covers create a barrier that traps dust mites on your mattress or pillow. While these covers tend to get a bad rap for being stiff and making a crumpled noise every time you move, there are several options on Amazon that reviewers recommend, including this top-notch 100% Allersoft cotton mattress protector. But don't stop with the mattress cover - pillow covers are essential, as pillows also harbor dust mites and are the closest thing to your nose while you sleep.
For bedding that is not contained in a cover, such as your duvet or sheets, washing them in hot water once a week can help kill the dust mites that live in them. While replacing pillows every two years is a good idea for your comfort, Dr. Eghrari-Sabet assures us that buying new pillows is not as important if you are already investing in high-quality covers for them. To learn how to clean your pillows in the washing machine, follow our step-by-step instructions.
Check the humidity
Dust mites thrive in a humid environment, so the humidifier you bought to help with your winter spells could be creating a happy home for dust mites. According to the American Lung Association, keeping your home below 50 percent humidity is ideal. What if you live in a humid area? A dehumidifier can help.
Consider other textiles in the bedroom
While your bed should be your primary concern when dealing with dust mite allergies, the carpets and curtains in your bedroom can play a role as well. If you practice yoga in your bedroom or spend time sitting on the carpeted floor, regularly vacuuming the carpet with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter can help. If it's a small rug, consider removing it from the room.
It's a good idea to visit an allergy specialist, who can test you for specific allergies, including dust mites. While avoiding allergens in the first place is your first and best line of defense (hello, mattress covers), your doctor may also prescribe pharmaceutical assistance.