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The house dust mite is a major factor in allergies such as rhinitis and allergic asthma, and it’s thought to aggravate eczema too.

There is no way to eliminate house dust mites from your house. These microscopic creatures are found in all textiles, fabrics, upholstery and clothes. The main places the mites reside are mattresses, pillows and upholstery, where it lives on flakes of human skin and produces droppings, no bigger than a grain of pollen, that contain the cause of the problem.

If you really want to reduce the number of mites in your environment, the first steps are to change you pillows and mattresses. Most mattresses and pillows are approximately 15 years old so mould, mites, droppings and dead skin flakes could account for one tenth of their weight.

2 Keep soft furnishings to a minimum.
3 Choose synthetic fibres where possible and fabrics that can be laundered at 58 degrees which are hot enough to kill the mites.
4 If textiles are not washable, vacuum them regularly – mattresses, curtains and upholstery as well as carpets – preferable with a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner or one that offers an extra filter for maximum dust collection, like those by Miele or Medivac.
5. Keep dust to a minimum by dusting with a damp cloth.

Because beds often harbour house mites, it may be worth investing in covers for pillowcases, mattresses and duvets made from a special microporous fabric that keeps housemite debris but still allows your body to breathe. This is especially recommended for eczema, asthma and allergy sufferers. Other approaches include sprays to eradicate the mites; most are available from pharmacies.

For further information about prevention of allergies/asthma send a large SAE to The British Allergy Foundation, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, West Smithfield, London UK EC1A 7BE.

Good Housekeeping Magazine publishes a fact sheet on allergic asthma, which lists products that may help. Contact: Good Housekeeping, National Magazine House 72 Broadwick Street, London W1V 2BP UK Tel: 0839 141414 Calls cost 49p/minute and lines are open from 9.30a.m. - 5 p.m.