Your kid’s bedroom should be a relaxing and safe environment for them to play and sleep in. For my son Ethan, however, his room was making him sick. After a hospital visit, we discovered he has a severe dust mite allergy and asthma.
Dust Mite Allergy
I immediately started researching about allergies, dust mites and what changes I needed to make around the home to help Ethan’s condition. The Allergy Foundation of South Africa has helpful information on allergies, patient brochures, recommended products and a list of allergy specialists.
According to AFSA, allergy to dust mites is common with around 10% of the general population showing clinical symptoms. Further, around 30% of all allergic patients react to dust mites, making it the single most common allergen in South Africa.
I will be sharing what I have learnt about dust mite allergens, what signs to look out for as well as how to make your kid’s bedroom allergy friendly. I want to stress that you can never rid your home of house dust mites completely, but you can make a big difference with these changes.
What is a dust mite?
House dust mites are tiny 8-legged creatures that live in warm, humid environments such as bedding, carpeting and fabric furniture. You can’t see them without a microscope, but they are there, feeding off dead skin scales, pet dander and dust. It is the protein found in their faeces that is the main cause of allergy symptoms.
Since we spend around 8 hours sleeping in our beds every night, a warm and humid environment in which we are shedding skin scales, it is no surprise that this is where you will find dust mites. You will find around 1,000 dust mites in your bed.
In hindsight, all the signs where there that Ethan had allergies. Unfortunately, we did not realise the seriousness of it and that he was also asthmatic. We put his symptoms down to childhood colds, his eczema and that he is a poor sleeper.
Whilst Ethan was hospitalised, they ran a series of blood tests to test for allergies. Turns out he is Class 6 for dust mite allergy, the highest class recorded on the allergy scale. A non-allergic person would record a result of 0.00 – 0.35 in the test. Ethan’s result is > 100.00.
To ascertain if your child’s symptoms are triggered by allergens, you must visit your doctor and undergo tests to confirm a diagnosis. In Ethan’s case, the following symptoms of a dust mite allergy were present:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Blue coloured skin under the eyes
- Trouble sleeping
In the bedroom
When designing my kid’s bedrooms, I never thought to make it an allergy friendly space. I didn’t know much about allergies, and that my kid’s suffered from them.
When Ethan was diagnosed, I immediately moved him into his sister’s room as it is sunnier and warmer. Then I replaced the carpets, removed wall hangings and bought new furniture. They will share this room until I make changes to his previous bedroom.
I now know I cannot control every environment my son comes into contact with. He is exposed to dust mites and other allergens on a daily basis in our home, at school and at the shops. That’s why he has daily medication to help manage his symptoms and let him lead a normal life.
I also know that allergy avoidance is still the best way to manage allergies and reduce reliance on medications. If I can help my son in any way to ease his symptoms and hopefully avoid severe allergic reactions, I will do what is in my control.
Allergy avoidance checklist
According to AFSA, the bedroom is the most important room to focus on for allergy avoidance. Taking onboard their advice, I have made changes in the kid’s bedroom to reduce Ethan’s contact with dust mites. Dust and fabric are your two main concerns, so keep to minimal décor and easy to clean fittings.
- Pillow and mattress protectors: use air-permeable fabric protectors to prevent coming into contact with mites. Read my Protect-A-Bed post for more detailed information.
- Direct sunlight: place bedding in direct sunlight for several hours every week to kill dust mites.
- Bunk beds: allergic persons should use the top bunk.
- Replace carpets: dust mites live in carpets and are difficult to vacuum up as they use their claws to cling to the fabric. Replace carpets with vinyl, wood laminate or tiles to reduce contact with mites and make cleaning easier.
- Vacuum cleaner: vacuum daily or twice weekly. Vacuum cleaners installed with HEPA/electrostatic filers are most effective.
- Remove shelving: use closed cabinets instead of dust-collecting shelves. Keep furniture to a minimum, preferably made of wood or plastic.
- Upholstered furniture: remove upholstered furniture and clutter from the room.
- Window shades: remove thick heavy curtains. Use washable window shades and curtains.
- Wall hangings: minimal wall hangings to prevent dust collection. Wall vinyls are preferable. Damp-dust all surfaces weekly.
- Salt lamp: my son has a salt lamp as a nightlight. There is no scientific evidence that they are effective at relieving allergies and asthma. I still think it was worth replacing his normal lamp with a salt lamp, as they not only look nice, it may provide some health benefits.
- Soft toys: remove all soft toys. Only keep your child’s favourite soft toys which can and should be washed weekly. Place washed toys in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight to kill any mites. Since my son won’t part with his Tigger at bedtime, he has avoided the freezer so far.
- Toy boxes: store all toys in plastic or wooden boxes, or in a closed cupboard. Wipe clean regularly.
- Damp dusting
- Store toys
- Wash and air bedding in sunlight
- Wash soft toys and place in freezer
- Wash pillow and mattress protectors
- Wash window shades/curtains
This is not a sponsored post. Information obtained from the Allergy Foundation of South Africa website. Images my own.