Do Dust Mite Covers Work? (The Studies Say Yes)

When searching for ways to protect from dust mites, many people hear about using dust mite proof covers on their bed.  This begs the question: Do dust mite covers work?

Long ago, I visited an allergist and was diagnosed with a severe dust mite allergy.  I had spent years with the allergy but I didn’t realize it and didn’t understand my symptoms.

I’d never seen a dust mite and wondered “how could I be allergic to something if I don’t have them”.   Little did I know, almost all households have dust mites and they can’t be seen with our naked eyes.  We need a microscope see them.

For most people dust mites are harmless and are a normal part of the household ecosystem, however for those allergic and with asthma, dust mites can be annoying and dangerous.

I had been suffering from various allergic symptoms.  My symptoms were:

  • Itchy eyes and mouth
  • Eczema
  • Rhinitis and post nasal drip
  • Constant fatigue

One of the first recommendations of my allergist was to purchase affordable dust mite proof covers for my bed.  He emphasized a few brands and shared that many covers on the market were poorly made or made with polyurethane, a waterproof cover that can cause night sweating (we should be careful sleeping on polyurethane because of the chemicals it’s made from).

My allergist suggested a few polyester and 100% cotton options that he viewed as highly effective.  I went home that day and immediately started researching information about dust mites and protective covers.

I learned quickly that the main place we are susceptible to dust mites is in bed.  Given the fact that we spend 1/3 of our lives in bed, bed protection should be the first step to address dust mite allergy.   After reading about dust mite covers, I also asked myself the question…do dust mite cover work?  First, let’s examine how they work.

How Do Dust Mite Covers Work

Dust mite covers form a barrier between your skin and the surface of the bed or pillow.  Dust mite covers are made for mattresses, pillows, and blankets.  In my opinion, the most important place to put dust mite covers is on pillows and the mattress.  If you are sensitive then also apply dust mite covers to blankets.

Dust mite covers shouldn’t be confused with covers used for bed wetting.  Moisture covers, while often effective for dust mites, are made with a vinyl or plastic-like material that doesn’t breathe.

By breathe, I mean that air doesn’t pass through the material freely and has a tendency to make people sweat. For children who have a smaller surface area unbreathable barriers might be ok, but for adults, they will likely make for a sweaty night of sleeping.

There are dust mite cover options made from breathable cotton and microfiberwe share the details below.  The fabric is woven so tightly that dust mites and other allergens like cat dander and pollen can’t penetrate the fabric (but air and moisture can).  These covers are soft, protect the mattress/pillow, and protect your skin.

Before we discuss dust mite covers further let’s look at the research.  I spent a number of years in graduate school and learned to find reputable research from trusted, peer-reviewed journals.

Below are excerpts from 3 highly cited articles on dust mite covers. They come from peer-reviewed journals so their conclusions should be trusted.

Research – Are Dust Mite Covers Effective? Do Dust Mite Covers Work?

Study 1: Control of house dust mite antigen in bedding Do dust mite covers work - 1

According to a study in 1990 by Stephen Owen, dust mite covers are effective.  In Owen’s study, 16 mite-sensitive asthmatics were chosen.  Ages ranged from 7-25 years old with an allergic test that showed significant dust mite allergy.

Of the 16 participants 8 were subjects for the control (no dust mite cover) and 8 were subject to a dust mite proof cover called ventflex that covered mattress, pillow, and duvet covers. All washed the covers weekly for the study lasting 12 weeks.

After 12 weeks, the allergic protein found in dust mites found to be much less with the dust mite proof cover.  In fact, the amount found in dust mite covered beds was 1% of what was found in uncovered beds.

This study shows that dust mite proof covers are highly effective for dust mite control. Yes, dust mite covers work.

Study 2:  Effect of a bed covering system in children with asthma and house dust mite hypersensitivity

In a study published by the European Respiratory Journal, 31 sensitive asthmatic children were chosen.  The children were monitored before and after covering their mattress, duvet, and pillows with real and placebo covers.  The study lasted 6 months.

While there was no significant improvement in the symptoms of asthma, there was a significant reduction in dust mite proteins when the mattress, duvet, and pillow were covered by a dust mite proof encasement.

As a result, dust mite covers were effective in reducing dust mite populations.  Unfortunately, asthma symptoms were not significantly reduced.

Reasons for symptoms not being reduced could be because of other allergen causing sources in the home like carpets, couches, and pets.  In this study, dust mite covers worked to reduce allergens.

Study 3:  Preventing Severe Asthma Exacerbations in Children. A Randomized Trial of Mite-Impermeable Bedcovers

In 2017, Clare S. Murray and colleagues conducted a 12-month study with mite-proof bed covers and measured asthma attacks warranting visits to the hospital.  This study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

For the study, they used 484 children, ages 13-17, who were diagnosed with asthma.  Half of the children received a placebo cover for their bed and the other half received high-quality dust mite-proof covers.

After 12 months, 29% of children using dust mite proof covers had attended the hospital for emergency medical attention while 42% of children without dust mite covers attended the hospital for an emergency.

One of the scientist’s conclusions were that dust mite covers were effective in reducing asthma-related emergency medical visits.  In this study the dust mite covers worked!

Yes, Dust Mite Covers Work: Common Conclusions

All of the above-mentioned studies found significantly less dust mite populations on the bed after using covers.  Yes, dust mite covers work!  This is the good news.

The bad news is that many allergy symptoms did not disappear.  Researchers suggested that while covering the bed is a great idea, they were not able to control other areas of the house.

For example, these studies did not address dust mites in the carpeting or in furniture.  Researchers eluded to the fact that people with dust mite allergy should combine covering their bed with other dust mite protective measures around the house.

So, how can you further reduce allergens in the home? Consider including an air purifier or allergy HVAC filters.  Another option, although it might be logistically difficult, is to remove carpets and use hard flooring to discourage dust mite populations.  Dust mites love carpet because it’s a warm hiding place with plenty of food.

In the following section I’ll share a few tips and tricks to further reduce dust mite allergy symptoms within the house.  Watch how this woman fights dust mites in her home below:

Dust Mite Covers Work, But What Else Can I Do?

These studies prove that covers can help control dust mite populations, but should not be the only step to overcome dust mite allergies.  Using covers combined with regular cleaning with HEPA vacuums, good household ventilation, and use of HVAC filters can improve indoor air quality and help minimize dust mite exposure.

Below are a few tips I suggest to protect from dust mites.

Tip 1:  Buy a HEPA Vacuum

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance.  This means that HEPA vacuums capture the smallest of allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.

Since many allergic people have multiple allergens, HEPA vacuums help all kinds of allergies.  If you have or are looking for a vacuum be cognizant that most vacuums do not use a HEPA filter.  Regular vacuums will simply blow around allergens without cleaning.

When I was growing up, I always wondered why I felt worse after vacuuming.  I would spend hours vacuuming and dusting my room and the rest of the house.  I expected to breathe easier afterward, however, I always found myself with watery eyes, and itchy nose and skin.

My vacuum was a cheap model that made my allergies worse.  It did a great job picking up big items in the carpet like dirt and hair, however, the filter was more porous so the microscopic allergens that we are unable to see (pollen, dust mites, pet dander) were actually blown around the room.  Once airborne these allergens can float in the air for hours afterward – this is exactly why I felt bad!

Now I use Dyson vacuums (pictured right) that are the strongest and healthiest on the market.  My family breathes better thanks to a HEPA filter vacuum!

Tip 2:  Use Allergen Filters in Your HVAC

Most people purchase the cheapest filters for their central air and heating.  Unfortunately, these filters do little to capture dust.  In addition to cheap filters, Filtrete makes high-quality allergy filters that remove dust mites, pollen, smoke, and odors from the air – run your AC and get fresh filtered air!

There are a lot of healthy filter options but you’ll never see them at the big box stores.  We’ve created a Filtrete comparison to show the best filters available.  When you use, you’ll notice a big reduction of dust around the house too (bonus!).

Tip 3: Dust Mite Covers Work: Wash Bedding Weekly

As we discussed earlier, dust mite covers will improve bedroom hygiene and reduce dust mite populations.  There are many poor-quality covers made of plastic and there are fewer excellent quality covers on the market from.

For breathe-able microfiber or 100% cotton, we recommend any products from Mission Allergy, Bed Care, and Allersoft.  The fabric is soft-to-the-touch and won’t make a plastic crinkling sound when you sleep on top of it.  Because these brands stand by their product, their warranties are generous, sometimes lifetime!

Dust mite covers don’t need to be washed often because they reside under your regular bedsheets.  In most cases you’ll never feel them or see them.

Your sheets, however, should be washed often.  When washing, use very hot water which will kill dust mites on contact.  If you don’t have hot water use essential oil to ensure you kill dust mites.  Essential oils are inexpensive, organic, and a proven strategy to kill dust mites.

Conclusion

Dust mite allergy is a growing problem in the world.  The mites cause a variety of allergic symptoms ranging from asthma, hives, rashes, and congestion.

Though the effectiveness of dust mite covers is debated, research shows that they do reduce live/dead populations in our beds and reduce contact with our skin.  In other words, dust mite covers work!

By using covers we also improve bedroom hygiene and cleanliness and reduce other allergens like pet dander and pollen from settling in our bed.

In addition to covers, other household strategies such as vacuuming with a HEPA filter, using high quality HVAC filters, and washing bedding regularly can help us improve our dust mite allergy symptoms.

I can attest that these options work, as my allergies have drastically improved.  My allergist recommended I begin using bed covers for my allergies and I’m thankful he did.

I sleep better and have less congestion in the morning when I wake up.

Thanks for joining us and reading this article on “Do dust mite covers work?”

Sources

Owen, S., et al. “Control of house dust mite antigen in bedding.” The Lancet 335.8686 (1990): 396-397.

Frederick, J. M., et al. “Effect of a bed covering system in children with asthma and house dust mite hypersensitivity.” European Respiratory Journal 10.2 (1997): 361-366.

http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/rccm.201609-1966OC

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