House dust mites

After a long time we had a scratching attack last night. J. didn’t sleep well the last couple of nights, which might be because my husband was gone for a few days, which interrupted our sleeping routine. J. is scratching more these days, which might be due to my husband’s absence, the bad sleep, the birthday party where he ate a piece of cake, the absence due to sickness of his favorite educator at his daycare, the glass of goat milk he drank yesterday, everything together, or something entirely non-obvious to me. Oh, if I just knew what bothers him…. Or, he might just be getting sick. Since yesterday he has a bad flare-up of a bacterial infection at the back of his neck and is generally very tired. And it is very difficult to keep him from scratching his neck.

I keep reading about allergens that could potentially worsen eczema, and especially because J. doesn’t have a clear food allergy, I am starting to look more closely at potential external and airborne irritants. For long time already we are using only organic cleaning supplies, I stopped using perfumes, etc. and we are trying to keep the house as clean as possible, vacuuming and washing the floors every week. But I have not been militant about dust and dust mites. House dust mites seem to be a very prominent trigger for asthma (many children with eczema seem to develop later asthma as well) and according to the “Handbook of atopic eczema” [1] and references there in, they do play a role in eczema (chapter 3.8.8.):

House dust mite allergens have long been known as a provocation factor for atopic eczema […]. The efficacy of measures to reduce the allergen load of house dust mites was investigated in several randomized controlled trials focusing both on the allergen load and clinical endpoints. The majority of these studies indicate a beneficial effect, although some smaller studies were not able to confirm this […]. The clinical association between atopic eczema and a sensitization to house dust mites was shown in an epidemiological study in 2,201 school children. A significant linear association between the degree of sensitization (kU/l) to house dust mites and the severity of atopic eczema (intensity score) was reported […].

So, it might be worth to put a bit more effort into the fight against this tiny (ca. 1/3 mm) member of the spider family. As I understand, the problems are not the mites themselves but their droppings, so any fight should concentrate on eradicating the mites as well as washing out the droppings.

Mites live off tiny bits of organic tissue, in particular small scraps of skin. So, the bed of a person with eczema is heaven for them. They like even more the mold that grows on this tiny organic particles in a warm and moist environment – and pillows and fluffy toys which collect the warmth and moist of the breathing are the best places for this. On the other hand, mites don’t like (it kills them) temperatures above 60 °C (140 °F)or below freezing.  Besides washing and freezing all bedding and toys regularly and keeping rooms well ventilated,  pillows, mattresses and bedding can be covered with special mite prove micro-pore envelopes.

For a start I had all our pillows and blankets outside during the days when we had temperatures below freezing. But this doesn’t wash away the droppings and I have to think how I deal with this. This weekend we are planning to do a thorough cleanup of J.’s  room, packing away all toys and books he doesn’t play with, so that we can easily clean all surfaces. And I will look for these mite prove envelopes. Maybe that will help J.’s eczema, or at least lowers the risk for him to develop asthma later.


[1] Ring J, Przybilla B and Ruzicka T (Eds.) (2006). Handbook of Atopic Eczema. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. (available as electronic version online)

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4 Responses to House dust mites

  1. Spanish Key says:

    I’ve always been aware that dust mites might be a problem, but eczema is so unpredictable, and the effort required to reduce dust mites so huge, that I’ve never tried eliminating them as a factor, even when I was living by myself. On top of the work required for normal childcare, it seems too much to ask, especially because nothing is guaranteed.

  2. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things! I have anti-allergy pillows in those envelope things, and I change them fairly regularly. I have laminate floor in my bedroom now so you can physically see how quickly dust and stuff accumulates- scary! Carpets will be just as dusty but obviously you can’t see it, so at least I’m encouraged to get the floor wipes out regularly. Good luck with J x

  3. Check out Eucalyptus oil for killing dust mites. I know there’s info on the web. I put some drops in the laundry rinse cycle. Frebreeze also make an allergen spray that I use on window treatments when my son is out of the house (I don’t like to use chemicals around him, and use vinegar for most all my cleaning.)

    • Caroline says:

      Thank you, Eczema Mom, for the tip about eucalyptus oil! I do wash almost all our laundry at 60 degrees Celsius, but for some things that I cannot wash so hot or freeze, I will try to use eucalyptus oil.

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