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Allergen Avoidance

Allergen Avoidance

Research has shown that lowering exposure to dust mite allergens can help allergy sufferers by reducing the frequency and severity of their symptoms and by reducing their need for medication. To achieve these goals it is essential to understand the most important allergen reservoirs and learn how deal effectively with them. Many people waste a lot of time and energy cleaning their homes without having much impact on allergen exposure. The Bedroom - the most important area!!!!

The Mattress

In most homes, the mattress is THE major reservoir of dust mite allergen. The depth and complex construction of the mattress means that no amount of vacuuming or treatment with mite-killing sprays or powders (acaricides) will render it free from dust mite allergen. Complete encasement with a specialised allergen-barrier cover such as MiteGuard is the only effective means of protection. The allergen barrier cover should be lightly vacuumed or wiped with a damp cloth each week and hot water (at least 55°C) washed every 3 or 4 months to kill dust mites and prevent a build up of allergen on the cover.


Pillows are a major source of dust mite allergen which our noses are pressed up against all night long! Most of the dust collected from pillows consists of flakes of dead skin and dust mite droppings! A dust-mite proof pillow cover (such as the MiteGuard range) and regular weekly hot water washing of the outer pillow case will protect you from this major source of allergen.

Other Bedding

All sheets should be hot water washed weekly. Blankets should be hot water washed monthly (at least) or if woollen, dry cleaned. A duvet fitted with a dust-mite proof barrier cover, such as a MiteGuard cover and weekly hot water washing of the outer duvet cover is the best way of eliminating dust mite allergens from the outer bed covers.


Polished flooring is really the best solution. Loose rugs which can be regularly cleaned will help create a more comfortable atmosphere if you prefer.

Soft Toys

Soft toys should be washable. If a regular schedule for washing the soft toys in hot water is adhered to from when the toys are new, allergen build up should be reduced to a minimum. Alternatively, regularly placing soft toys in the freezer overnight is an effective way of killing any dust mites which may have taken up residence. Older soft toys which have been "loved" for a long time may contain large amounts of allergen.

Dusting and Cleaning

Regular cleaning, putting things away, reducing clutter, removing hiding places for dust! All should be done as often as possible.When dusting furniture, window sills etc., use a damp duster to avoid "stirring up the dust".There is no need to vacuum more than once or twice a week but it is very important that your vacuum cleaner is properly maintained. Clean the filters and replace the dust bag frequently - don't wait until your vacuum cleaner stops sucking because the dust bag is overflowing!If dust created during vacuuming causes obvious problems to the allergy sufferer, buy a new vacuum cleaner with a very high efficiency 'HEPA' exhaust filter.


When was the last time you had your curtains cleaned?! Curtains can become very dusty over the years. Have them cleaned once or twice a year and take the opportunity on a sunny day to air them on the washing line.

A note about hot water

Current building regulations require the fitting of 'tempering valves' to the hot water system. These effectively reduce the temperature of water in the washing machine to less than 55°C resulting in "hot" water washes that are not hot enough to kill dust mites. A plumber may be able to by-pass the valve, allowing hotter water to the laundry. Alternatively, consider buying a 'front-loader' washing machine which heats the water to 60°C.

Are dust mites a problem in the rest of the house?

The lounge is often found to contain high dust mite numbers, particularly in and around soft furnishings where people spend most time sitting - and shedding skin! Unfortunately it is very difficult to reduce dust mite allergens to low levels in most types of lounge furnishings.
Frequent steam cleaning of fabric coverings can lower allergen levels but smooth coverings such as leather (if your budget will stretch to it) or vinyl are easiest to keep clean and will retain the lowest levels of allergen.

As in the bedroom, smooth flooring with loose rugs which can be regularly cleaned are ideal. If you are lucky enough to have native timber floors hiding under your carpets, sanding and sealing will certainly be a very attractive option.

Alternatively, regular steam cleaning of carpets and use of an air conditioner or dehumidifier can reduce dust mite populations and levels of allergen in the carpet.
However, in older homes with timber joinery and floors, smaller domestic dehumidifiers are generally inadequate to reduce humidity to below 50% which is necessary to reduce dust mite survival. If your home does tend to be damp or musty, a dehumidifier can be of value by reducing the growth of moulds to which many allergy sufferers are sensitive.
If you have a family history of allergies, exposure of your new born child to high levels of dust mite allergen can increase the likelihood of their developing asthma in later life. Particular attention should be made to maintaining low allergen levels in the nursery, especially during the first year of life.


Our thanks to Richard Thorogood, Allergen Control Specialist, for this excellent information from his website Richard is an allergy specialist.