When winter approaches and the outside temperature drops, the furnace at home fires up and your cat or dog starts scratching.
That’s because dust mites are being stirred up from the heating ducts and other surfaces, causing allergic reactions for your household pets.1
If you find this happening in your home, a dust mite air purifier is going to be an important part of your pet’s allergy solution. They’re not the only ones who’ll benefit, though: because household pets are allergic to many of the same allergens as humans are, those dust mites blown into the air from the furnace may be affecting your pets and affecting you, too.2,3
What are dust mites and why are they a health concern?
Dust mites are tiny eight-legged creatures – they’re arachnids like spiders, not insects. They’re typically 250-300 microns in diameter, invisible to the eye without the aid of a microscope.4 That’s fairly large compared to the abundant fine and ultrafine air pollution particles that also trigger allergies and asthma.5 Dust mites feed on dead skin from both pet owners and pets alike. They are common and year-round sources of potential allergic reactions.
In the case of dust mites, the mites themselves contain protein molecules that trigger respiratory problems.6 Even if dust mites die, as they may in low humidity environments, their droppings, skins, dead bodies, and body parts can cause allergic reactions.
These allergens get stirred up and become airborne when the furnace turns on and dust accumulated in the vents begins blowing out into the occupied spaces of your home.
Even the interior of our vehicles can be a source of dust mites.7 According to a study published in the Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine 2015, dust mites both driver and child seats are habitats for a wide range of dust mite species.8 The mites were found at concentration levels known to cause or aggravate allergies in some individuals.
What are the symptoms of a dust mite allergy? If you suffer from a dust mite allergy, you may experience some of these symptoms:9
- runny or congested nose
- eye irritation
- itchy skin, nose, mouth, or throat
- facial pain and pressure
- breathing problems
Dust mite allergens can contribute to worsened asthma and allergic rhinitis.
While not everyone is allergic to dust mites, a 2007 study in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology found that early childhood exposure to dust mites could lead to an increased chance of developing asthma and wheeze.10
What do I look for in a dust mite air purifier?
Experts say a mechanical HEPA air purifier is a first line of defense against mites and their remains once they are airborne.11
But inexpensive air cleaners that use unproven or dangerous technologies, such as ozone generation or ionization, are not the solution. In fact, by adding ozoneinto the air, they will trigger even worse allergies.12,13,14
Ozone is a serious pollutant and respiratory irritant. Ground-level ozone, or smog, is created when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds chemically react with sunlight. Exposure to ozone can harm respiratory systems.
Pro tip: Go for HyperHEPA
Instead of bringing additional dangerous pollutants to your environment, seek out an air purifier with HyperHEPA filtration technology that effectively cleans your indoor air.
If you want to reduce the risk of dust mite allergies, you’ll want an air purifier that moves a significant volume of air through its filters. You should purchase a system with a pre-filter to trap large particles, and one with a motor to actively draw air into the unit.
The HealthPro Series PreMax prefilter helps filter coarse particles, while the HyperHEPA filter captures up to 99.5% of ultrafine particles as small as to .003 microns — particles far smaller than a dust mite.
It’s important to replace an air purifier’s filters as frequently as recommended.According to a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, concentrations of dust mite allergens increased significantly in dining room, shopping mall, hotel, and household dust samples after air conditioning had been used for one hour.15 The study concluded that air-conditioned filters that haven’t been cleaned or regularly replaced can increase exposure to dust mite allergens, potentially leading to asthma.
Experts recommend high-efficiency particle filtration
While a high-efficiency air purifier is an essential first-line of defense against dust mites, there are several steps you can take to combat dust mites and dust-mite related allergens in your home.16
- Use allergen-proof and dust mite-proof coverson your bed and the pet’s bed.
- Avoid dust mite-friendly fabrics.Wall-to-wall carpeting, upholstered furniture and down-filled covers, and pillows are good hiding places for dust mites. If you can, choose vinyl, hardwood, or tile flooring solutions.
- Replace your mattress and pillows at least once every eight yearsor more if you have severe dust mite allergies and use dust mite-resistant casing for your bedding.
- Keep humidity levels low.17 Dust mites thrive in humid environments, between 50 and 70% relative humidity. Try to keep your indoor humidity between 30-50% so that the air doesn’t get too dry and cause other respiratory issues.18
- Buy washable pet toysmade of rubber, silicone, or washable materials used both inside and outside the toy. Try to buy toys from companies that use tough and sustainable materials that won’t generate airborne particulate matter from being used or contribute plastic or chemical pollutants into your home environment.
- Wash pet beds regularly(about once a week or so) with hot water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit or more and gentle, unscented detergents without artificial chemicals or dyes. Avoid cedar shavings to reduce potential allergies for dogs.
- Frequently groom your pet, outdoors if possible.Besides keeping your pets clean, you’ll reduce their dust mites and pet dander as allergens in your home.
- Vacuum regularly using a vacuum with a HEPA filterto capture dust and particulate matter rather than disturbing it and making it airborne again. Household dust carries chemicals that can be dangerous when inhaled, especially to young children.19
- Minimize dust and clutter.Cluttered areas attract dust. Clean surfaces with a damp rag or mop to remove dust. Without the damp, dust and dust mites may become airborne and resettle on surfaces.
- Clean air duct vents regularlyto keep your HVAC system free of dust, dust mites, and allergen build-up.
- Consider installing a whole-house air purifierto prevent particulate matter and outdoor pollutants from ever entering your HVAC system in the first place and circulate fresh air throughout your entire home.
- Add a purifier to your car.Since dust mites can hide in your vehicle’s interior, consider installing a car air purifier to your vehicle interior.