Impact on Wellbeing
Leading indoor pollution and health expert, Professor of Global Environmental Health, Sotiris Vardoulakis, from the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Population Health
says, “There are many different types of pollutants in the indoor environmental that can exacerbate asthma symptoms or respiratory allergies when breathed in. This includes smoke from fires, chemicals, and dust particles, and biological contaminants like mould spores, dust mites, viruses and possibly bacteria. Most commonly, people will experience irritated eyes, nose and throat when exposed to household dust but prolonged exposure to airborne dust can lead to chronic breathing and lung problems, and potentially increased risk of heart disease.”
“As people move about their house, there are lots of activities that can re-suspend the dust in your home including cleaning, dusting, walking over carpet or simply sitting on a couch. Airborne spores can settle in your home and develop with the aid of moisture into mould and mildew. They can quickly grow and establish colonies, releasing mycotoxins, which are allergens. It’s important to have the best technology to help remove dust from your home including air purifiers with HEPA filters and vacuums offering advanced filtration, trapping microscopic particles such as pollen, dust and bacteria that you often can’t see.”
The impact of dust can be more serious to certain individuals. Positive tests for dust mite allergies are extremely common among people with asthma, types of dermatitis and frequent sinus infections. Studies also suggest that exposure to high levels of dust mites, especially early in life, increases your risk of developing a mite allergy and asthma too.6
With 1 in 9 Australians affected by asthma,7 Asthma Australia CEO, Michele Goldman
, says dust and dust mites can act as irritants for sensitive airways. Michele explains, “Dust and dust mites are one of the biggest triggers for people with asthma, treating your asthma and allergies will help keep your symptoms under control. If you know you are triggered by dust and dust mites, the best approach to preventing an asthma or allergy flare-up is to reduce the amount of allergen in your home by cleaning on a regular basis.”
Dust mites primarily feed on dander or dead skin cells shed by humans and animals. On average, humans shed 2g of skin per day,8
and even more at night where friction from bedding causes dead cells to shed. They can also get the nutrients they need from other household debris, like fish food, fungi and food crumbs.9
Gem McLuckie says, “Wherever you spend the most time and shed the most skin, that’s where you’re most likely to find dust mites, and we spend one third of our lives in our beds. In fact, most of us are probably sleeping in a bed full of dust mite faeces. It's also common to find more mites in the beds and bedding of people who suffer from dry skin, as their discarded skin cells have reduced lipid content, which are dust mites’ favourite meal.”
Indeed, there can be millions of dust mites in a single mattress.10
House dust mites thrive in warm, damp and dark conditions, particularly where humidity levels are around 70 per cent and temperatures rise above 25 degrees Celsius.11
That means that areas where we sweat, breathe and share our body heat are perfect homes for mites, like sofas, mattresses, pet beds and other soft furnishings are fertile ground for dust mites, particularly in their breeding season. But there are other daily tasks that can have an impact too.
“Few mites can survive in humidity levels less than 45 per cent, but even raising the humidity levels for an hour and a half a day can enable house dust mites to survive. Cooking a meal or having a hot shower can easily keep humidity levels high in your home.”
So, what can you do to battle the dust mite season in your home?
Dyson Microbiologist Advice
1. Starve your dust mites:
reducing the amount of skin cell debris in your home minimises the primary food source of dust mites, inhibiting them from reproducing exponentially during the dust mite season. Vacuum your mattress on both sides with a machine with an advanced filtration system, as well as your sofa and other upholstery.
2. Manage humidity levels:
dust mites hydrate themselves by absorbing water from the air, so keeping relative humidity levels below 45 per cent at room temperature will kill most of them off.12
Air out bedding and blankets frequently, as well as ventilating your home by opening the window or using a HEPA-filtered air purifier. Don’t forget to use the extractor fan after showering or while cooking too, as even raising the humidity levels for an hour and a half a day can enable house dust mites to survive.
3. Control the temperature:
dust mites thrive at temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius, so ensure you vacuum warmer areas in your home frequently to control levels of dust mites, like pet baskets, sofas or mattresses. Washing bedding or other soft furnishing at 60-90 degrees Celsius will break up allergens too.
4. Top tips:
don’t forget that dust mites and their faeces are microscopic. If you can see dust in your home, dust mites may already be thriving!