Little dust mites can be a big problem when dealing with allergies. Check out these indoor allergy tips to learn how you can decrease the amount of dust in your home.

 Dust in the home can be a major irritant for people with allergies. But the dust itself is not the most likely cause of sniffling, sneezing, and overall discomfort; dust mites are. These microscopic insects thrive in dust, and they're the ones that are triggering your “dust” allergy – more specifically, the proteins contained in their droppings are probably triggering it.
 Indoor Allergy: About Dust Mites

Every home has dust mites, says Bradley A. Becker, MD, an allergist at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis and associate professor at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. They are pretty much unavoidable, but you'll never see them — they are invisible to the naked eye.

Dust mites are considered the leading cause of indoor allergy. These mites can thrive inside throughout the winter, particularly if it is warm and humid in the home. They tend to flock to bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets and they feed on skin scales from humans and pets, as well as on pollen, fungi, and bacteria they find in your home.

"If you're not at a high altitude, they're in all the bedding after a few months," Dr. Becker says. "They also find their way into upholstered furniture and carpet after a few months."

Indoor Allergy: Bedroom Control

It’s practically impossible to completely rid your home of dust mites, but there are ways to reduce the amount of dust mites in your home.

Your bedding is the place to start. "If you’re allergic to dust mites, you're basically sleeping face-down in what you're allergic to," Becker says.

To make your bed less appealing to dust mites, you should:

  • Encase your pillows, mattress, and box spring in zippered allergy-proof covers so the mites can’t get inside them.
  • Wash your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets every week. "They used to say to wash in hot water, but the best way to kill the mites is to dry in high heat," Becker explains. That's because the water needs to be at least 130 degrees to kill dust mites, a heat that can scald hands if your hot-water heater is set at that level.

Indoor Allergy: Other Controls

Here are some other steps you can take to make your house mite-resistant and improve your indoor allergy symptoms:

  • Control the humidity in your home. Dust mites thrive in houses that have humidity greater than 50 percent. Becker recommends keeping the humidity level between 30 percent and 49 percent. "In humid parts of the country, like St. Louis, one would need to keep the windows shut, and use heat and air conditioning for comfort, as necessary," he says.
  • Vacuum your carpets and upholstered furniture. Be sure you use a vacuum equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, or you'll just keep stirring up the dust mite allergens around your house. "Dust mite protein is very small and it basically blows in and out of any vacuum that’s not equipped with a HEPA filter," Becker says.
  • Dust often. Be sure to use a damp cloth or furniture polish to dust, so you aren't just tossing dust up into the air. If you dust before you vacuum, the vacuum cleaner will help pick up whatever particles your cloth fails to capture.
  • Use an air filtration system. Again, you'll want to use a system equipped with a HEPA filter that can catch the dust mite matter in the air. HEPA filters have been proven to work better atridding the air of allergens than electrostatic air purifiers.

Even if you can’t entirely rid your home of dust mites, these tips will help you significantly reduce their impact on your allergies.