After years of waking up in the wee hours with a head full of mucus, the need to scarf yet another allergy pill disrupting my ability to sleep through the night, I recently decided to try something new.
I grew up allergic to cats in a house with four of them, and as an adult I still attributed my allergies to animal dander, though I no longer shared my home with anything furry. I recently learned, however, that a dust mite allergy might be contributing to my nighttime woes.
Dust mites, or Dermatophagoides farinae Hughes, typically live on dead skin cells, according to www.ehso.com. Though dander is their primary diet, they can also thrive on bits of food or fungus.
The life cycle of Dermatophagoides farinae Hughes is anywhere from two to four months, according to EHSO: one month transitioning from egg to adult, followed by one to three months of adulthood.
The average bed can house anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites, according to www.mayoclinic.com. Dust mite “residue,” the allergenic culprit, consists of dead mites and mite feces.
A bit disgusted but optimistic about the possible implications for my own allergy issues, I bought a set of Aller-Ease brand mattress and pillow covers.
So far, I have been impressed with the results. It's nice to be able to sleep through the night, and I'm sure my roommates appreciate the lack of after-hours hacking and wheezing.
I was relieved, as well, to find that the covers are virtually undetectable beneath sheets and pillowcases. My only other experience with mattress covers involved a crunchy plastic one my parents bought my little brother when he started wetting the bed.
Encasing the mattress is a two-person job: one to hold the thing upright and one to slide the cover over it, giant-sock style. The cover itself is made of polypropylene and polyethylene. Care instructions on the package indicate it can be machine-washed and dried, but I wouldn't recommend going that route. Even using cold water and my dryer's "low heat" setting, as per instructions, my first cover warped a bit and had to be exchanged. Just use a damp cloth to wipe it down (the other officially-sanctioned care option). The pillow covers were hardier, surviving a hot-water wash with no problems.
Of the many allergy-bedding options out there, Aller-Ease offers some of the most competitive prices. I outfitted two pillows and a queen-sized mattress for just under $50.
Besides sealing mattresses and pillows with a protective barrier, there are other ways to reduce your exposure to Dermatophagoides farinae Hughes.
The Mayo Clinic recommends purchasing synthetic bedding and washable stuffed toys, laundering bedding in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) once a week, maintaining low humidity in the home (30 to 50 percent relative humidity), removing dust-collecting clutter, dusting with a damp cloth, and vacuuming floors and upholstery using a machine with a HEPA-filter or a double-layered bag.
Of course, air-borne mite residue is at its highest during cleaning, so wear a dust mask or ask an allergy-free housemate to take over the dusting duties.