Did you know that dust m allergy can be exacerbated by humidity? I didn’t know this until years after I was experiencing allergy symptoms. One of the reasons I wrote this article is to help others discover why their allergies are so much worse when it’s humid.
All over the world dust mites are commonly found in homes. They’e microscopic creatures, unseen to our eyes and they’ve evolved alongside humans, cleaning up after us by eating dead skin flakes. Although unpleasant to think about, dust mites likely live in your house by the 1000’s and are commonly found in the air and in beds, carpets, and couches.
There are 2 main types of dust mites: Dermatophagoides farinae and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, better known as the American and European dust mites. For most people, dust mites won’t cause any health problems.
We’ve lived alongside them for centuries without problems and it’s only in recent decades we developed sensitivities and allergies to them. I wonder if they’ve developed allergies to us as well?
Both species of dust mite can irritate respiratory systems and skin. A few of the allergy symptoms they provoke are, but not limited to:
Fatigue (lack of sleep)
Dust Mite Allergy and Humidity
Humidity is a measurement of moisture in the air. Because dust mites don’t actually drink water, they must absorb moisture from the air into their body.
Thus, humidity is a key factor that has a profound influence on the population of dust mites. Without moisture in the air, they can’t survive – that’s one of the reasons they love our beds (sweat, food, and warmth).
Studies show that the lowest humidity dust mites can survive is 55-74% and 59-95 degrees Fahrenheit. When humidity levels are less than 55%, dust mites will gradually dehydrate and die. In high desert areas of the U.S. like Alburquerque, there is little humidity, little precipitation, and therefore dust mites can’t thrive.
With this said, dust mites have strategies to prolong their lives during dry times, such as grouping together to preserve moisture. Sometimes they can withstand less humidity for periods of time.
Heaters and air conditioning can impact dust mite survival since they can dry out air. Heaters and air conditioning call also make allergies worse in the home by stirring up the allergens and circulating them throughout the house.
But when humidity is high, dust mites will thrive. They can reproduce quickly if the conditions are right. Conditions are often perfect during summer. The ideal conditions for dust mites include:
Humidity – moist air to absorb water
Warmth – that’s why summer is perfect
Hiding place – carpets, beds, rugs, couches
Food – beds, carpets, corners of room, places where dogs/cats sleep
If dust mites have all the above conditions in your home, you better believe they’re thriving. If your family doesn’t have allergies, then there is no need to worry.
If you have allergic kids in the house then look for signs of early morning sneezing, allergic shiners, itchy eyes and skin, morning cough, sinus congestion. Often, the allergy symptoms become normal for kids and adults and the problem is left untreated.
Dead Dust Mites and Feces
An important thing to remember is that most dust mite allergies are reactions to dust mite proteins (dead and alive) and their fecal matter. Therefore, don’t simply concentrate on killing dust mites. You need to clean them up as well. Dead dust mites and their dropping will still cause allergies. This is why cleanliness is so important.
People who suffer from dust mite allergy often experience symptoms throughout the year. this is unique to most other allergies and a very good indicator that someone has dust mite allergy. Pollen allergies are seasonal, usually occurring at various times throughout the spring, summer, and autumn. Mold is also a seasonal allergy. Pets can be year around if kept inside.
Because they are one of the only year-round allergens, routine cleaning is essential to improving allergies.
Dehumidifiers and Dust Mites
Studies have shown that using a dehumidifier will help keep relative humidity below 50%, thereby reducing dust mite populations. Dehumidifiers are often useful during humid summers.
They effectively remove moisture from the air and dry out damp areas in the house. In homes with basements, they are particularly useful. Dehumidifiers are commonly used in America’s Mid-west, East, and South. West of the Rocky Mountains, humidity remains fairly low throughout the year and they are seldom used.
There are different types of dehumidifiers available. Some are large, for the whole household. Others are solely used for individual rooms, such as the bedroom. They have an air intake area, a filter, and a basin to collect water.
Many dehumidifiers have a drain hose that can be placed in a sink for continuous drainage. A hose reduces the need to empty the basin. High-quality dehumidifiers also have a digital display that measures relative humidity and turns on/off based on your specific settings. We reviewed the best dehumidifiers for small rooms, basements, and crawlspaces.
My Experience Living in the Southern U.S.
For a short time, I lived in the South. I loved it there. People were warm and friendly and there was a lot to explore. Unfortunately, once summer arrived I began to feel ill.
At the time I didn’t know why I felt that way so I tried to push through. I was sleeping poorly and feeling itchy.
The house I lived in had carpeting and a basement that I spent a lot of time in. In the summer I felt the humidity but never thought of getting a dehumidifier.
For a few months, I felt terrible, so terrible that I moved back to the West Coast. I turned down a job from a good employer and my family wondered what was wrong with me. They didn’t understand how I felt.
Once I returned to a drier environment I felt much better and a few months later I was tested for allergies. If I would have known my allergies while living in the South, I could have enjoyed myself more. In hindsight, I know a dehumidifier would have helped tremendously. We live and we learn.
Beds and Carpets
It makes sense that there’s more humidity found in beds and carpets. When we sweat at night (even lightly) enough moisture is produced to keep dust mites hydrated.
Shed skin is found in greater quantities in beds, making it a great habitat for dust mites.
Utilizing dust mite proof mattress covers, duvet covers, and pillow covers will significantly reduce dust mite populations by trapping them inside and keeping them from contacting skin or being inhaled.
Covers are relatively inexpensive and do wonders for people suffering from dust mite allergy. If you like cleanliness, dust mite covers will significantly improve bedroom hygiene. Who knows what else is in your mattress and pillows.
People with dust mite allergy should wash bedding weekly with essential oils. Frequent washing is an effective strategy to reduce dust mite populations.
If you can’t get rid of carpeting, vacuuming with a high-quality HEPA filter will suffice. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance. These filters capture the smallest allergens from the carpet – particles we can’t even see. Using a standard vacuum will simply blow dust around the house, possibly making allergies worse. We recommend Dyson vacuums.
Opening windows to increase airflow and sunlight is a good practice to reduce moisture levels and circulate fresh air. The heat from sunlight has a drying effect.
If windows cannot be opened due to other allergies, air conditioning and heating will help. For central air and heating, make sure to use a quality air filter, such as those by Filtrete.
Many people purchase the cheapest filters thinking they are all the same, but high-quality air filters will capture dust mites, pollen, dander, smoke, and odors. They are slightly more expensive, but indoor air quality is extremely important for people suffering from allergy.
Before I was diagnosed with dust mite allergy I paid no attention to HVAC filters. I rarely changed them and occasionally bought the cheapest available brand at the local home improvement store.
Once I began learning about dust mites and their impact on my health I decided to try thick, allergy filters. I couldn’t believe how much dust they collected. After only a month of using the heater or air conditioning, it was brown. Quality filters clean the air in your home, similar to an air purifier.
Getting rid of dust mites from your home is a challenge and high humidity can increase their population. Learning to reduce humidity by using dehumidifiers, bed covers, and HEPA vacuums, in addition to good ventilation and air circulation can help reduce dust mite allergy symptoms. Make sure to also reduce dead populations and fecal matter with regular cleaning because their proteins, whether dead or alive, are what we are allergic to most!
I’ve learned a lot since I was diagnosed with dust mite allergy and I always keep an eye on relative humidity. In addition to dust mites, humidity can also spur the growth of bacteria and mold. If you’re allergic take steps to improve the conditions in your home. A few small steps go a long way to improving your quality of life.
Thanks for stopping by. We hope this article on dust mite allergy and humidity helped you. For additional reviews and products, visit our blog.
Arlian, Larry G., et al. “Reducing relative humidity is a practical way to control dust mites and their allergens in homes in temperate climates.” Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 107.1 (2001): 99-104.
Calderón, Moisés A., et al. “Respiratory allergy caused by house dust mites: what do we really know?.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 136.1 (2015): 38-48.