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Don’t let the bedbugs bite
Life Cycle of a bed bug
Bed Bug Myths Busted
Bed bug bites
War on dust mites
See also

Bed Bugs and Dust Mites

Let's get one thing straight - bedbugs and dust mites are not the same. The first is a nasty little bloodsucker that makes you itch and the second is a nasty little dead skin eater that makes you sneeze.

How about we start with the nasty little bloodsuckers?
Remember what your Gran used to say as she tucked you in? "Sleep tight; don't let the bedbugs bite"? Well, she should know, because fifty years ago one in ten homes had them. Thankfully the little monsters are much less common than they used to be, mainly due to the modern, clean homes that we now live in. They feast on human blood, but will slum it on pets if they have to.

How do you know if you have bedbugs?
You'll wake up with itchy, whitish bites, usually on your neck and arms. Bedbugs don't carry disease - but don't scratch the bites because they may become infected. Another way of finding them are the telltale spots of blood you will find on your bed linen after they've had dinner at your expense.

You're not likely to see your houseguests, because they only come out to feed at night when you're asleep. They are about the size of an apple pip, a reddish brown colour and have six legs. By day they hide in cracks and crevices around the home like skirting boards, behind loose wallpaper and in your bed.

Bedbugs live between six and 12 months and adult females will lay an average of 2-3 eggs a day. So once they've moved in, they tend to take over. They also love to travel - on clothes, luggage and in second hand furniture. Therefore, houses or hostels with a lot of people coming and going are more likely to be infested.

The only way to get rid of bedbugs is to call in a reputable pest control company to spray your home with insecticide. Your local council should be able to recommend one, and may even pay for the treatment.

Before they visit, pest control will ask you to wash all bed linen, soft toys and clothes in the hottest wash allowed - 60 – 80 degrees if possible. You'll need to expose all potential hiding places and make sure the kids and pets (especially fish) are out of harms way. After the spray has dried, expect a break from the housework because you won't be able to vacuum for at least ten days!

Invisible filth
Like it or not, no matter how clean you think your house is, you live in invisible filth. Eighty per cent of house dust is made of dead, human skin. We shed 5-10 grams a week and this is what dust mites like best for dinner.

The average house will be home to 100,000 to 10 million of the little monsters. You can't see them; they're translucent and only about 0.3mm long. Most people don't even know they share their home with dust mites, but their existence is evident is you have asthma, eczema or allergies due to the enzymes in the mite droppings.

The good news is you won't have to call in the pest controllers; the bad news is you'll never get rid of them completely, no matter how much you clean your house.

There are ways to control dust mites by simply reducing the dust they like to eat. They love bedding; a two year old pillow is full of dust and will be made up of 10% dead mites and their droppings, so start by getting new ones. Vacuum your bed regularly, you might think it sounds bonkers but it helps! Wash your bed linen on the hottest temperature allowed and air duvets and pillows regularly. Dust mites love moisture but hate air and light.

Dust mites will aggravate asthma so if you or any members of your family are sufferers, it would be a good idea to get rid of carpets and rugs as they are real dust traps. These can be replaced with wood or vinyl flooring. If this isn't an option, vacuum everyday if possible and dust surfaces with a damp duster (a feather duster just moves it from one place to another).


Don’t let the bedbugs bite ...
All but eradicated in the 80s, these tiny pests are back with a vengeance - and no one is safe, as Michael Hann discovered 
The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

The Bed Bug - numbers and infections on the increase againI can't decide where, in our battle with the bedbugs, we reached the nadir. Was it when my son's reception class teacher called my wife to express her concern about the number of bites on his arms, body and face?

"He says they're ... bedbug bites," she said, disbelievingly. "That's right," my wife replied. "We've got an infestation that we're being treated for." "Oh, I understand - I've come across bedbugs, when I've been travelling in Africa." The words "but not when I've been teaching in north London" went unspoken.

Was it when, for four nights running, our eight-year-old daughter kept us awake with her star-shaped sleeping position, because she was too afraid to sleep in her own bed after having awoken to see a pair of bedbugs lazing on her pillow?

Or was it when, a fortnight after we'd had the house chemically treated, I laboriously took apart the wooden frame of her bunk bed? I had spread white sheets across the floor, so I could see what fell out of the nooks and crannies of the frame, and by the end of the process the sheets were streaked red with blood from the 40 or so live and well-fed bugs I had squashed. My daughter marvelled at how much blood came out of each bug. I didn't have the heart to tell her where the blood had come from.

At this point, you're probably thinking that our house must be a vile hovel. You're probably right. It has all seemed a bit 14th century this past month, what with the bedbugs, the mice and the clothes moths. But be warned: we are not unusual. Bedbugs are on their way back, despite having been all but eradicated in the developed world by the 1980s.

In the US, in the postwar years, DDT was used to kill them off. In this country - what an English solution - the authorities shamed the population into seeking their own treatment, by drawing a link between infestation and slovenliness, thus establishing a stigma that survives today. In fact, your cleanliness or otherwise makes no difference to whether bedbugs set up home with you. All they're interested in is your blood. If you encounter them, there's a decent chance they're coming home with you. And you stand a decent chance of encountering them.

Stuart Hine, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London, estimates that there has been a threefold increase in London's bedbug population this decade. That figure is backed by the research of Bedbugs Limited, an extermination company founded by microbiologist David Cain after he became obsessed with the creatures.

No one is exactly sure how prevalent bedbugs are, though. There is no requirement to report infestations, and though many people do call their council's pest control department when they find them, different councils record reports in different ways. Cain used the Freedom of Information Act to request London borough council records of bedbugs. At the broadest level - borough by borough - the data offers little help. It's only when broken down almost street by street that patterns emerge: a corridor of bedbug infestation running from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham in south London, or corridors running from Gatwick and Heathrow to central London.

So why are the bedbugs biting? What brought them back to Britain? The simplest explanation is globalisation. Bedbugs are hugely effective hitchhikers: if you sleep in an infested room, they may climb into your luggage, or into your clothes. When you get home, they disembark and set up home in the darkest nooks of your bedroom, coming out in the hours before dawn to suck blood from your slumbering body. With more and more of us travelling abroad to regions where bedbugs were never eradicated, more and more of us are likely to bring them back. They thrive in homes inhabited by large numbers of people, where they are able to feed and breed freely.

We realised we had a bedbug problem just after Christmas. My wife came downstairs with a small insect - rust coloured, with a flat, oval body, a few millimetres in length - in a bowl. "This bug was crawling about on the bunk beds," she said. "What do you think it is?" Within 20 seconds, Google Images had supplied the answer.

In fact, the warning signs had been apparent for a while, we just hadn't seen them. Before Christmas our son had a perplexing rash on his leg that wouldn't clear up and the doctor had suggested it was an allergy. His room turned out to have relatively few bugs, while our daughter's had a much more severe infestation - yet we never saw a mark on her skin. Many people, it transpires, don't react to bites and so don't realise they have a problem until they find a live bug. The real eye-opener, though, was what the exterminator pointed out when he came round. At virtually all the joins in the wooden frame of the bunk beds were little black dots, as if the tips ballpoint pens had been tapped against the wood. Those black marks turned out to be bedbug faeces.

Where did we get our bugs? The exterminator estimated our house had been occupied for five months, which - to my mind - suggested we'd picked them up from a holiday house in France in the summer. Certainly, I remembered being bitten one night there, when I had been certain there was no mosquito in the room. But the exterminator reckoned we'd got them from public transport. That, he told us, is where most people pick up bedbugs. It's simple logic really: a vast number of people, including plenty who have returned from abroad (think about those corridors of infestation from the London airports into the city), offering bedbugs an array of hosts. But the transport companies are hardly at fault. Do we expect them to frisk every traveller for bedbugs? Could they check every bus and every train every night for bedbugs? That is what it would take to get the transport system clear. In the meantime, David Cain has a piece of advice for commuters: "Don't sit down on public transport."

When the exterminator had treated our kids' rooms, he left us with a lengthy manual of instructions. The kids needed to stay in their rooms because if the bugs' food source was removed, they would just infest new rooms. We were to examine the beds every day for living and dead bugs, and after two weeks we were to "deep clean" their rooms in the hope of eradicating the last stragglers. That fortnight seemed to last for ever. It was during that time that our son's teacher made the call that shamed us. It was on the last day of the fortnight that I took apart the bunk beds to find them crawling with living bugs. Even after the deep clean - performed by a woman who advised us that, in addition to never sitting down on public transport, we should always remove our clothes before entering a bedroom - we still needed another chemical treatment. That took place last week. We are praying that by next week we are clear - so we can get back to killing the mice.

So does no one have a good word for the bedbug? Even Stuart Hine, who - being an entomologist - says he can appreciate the beauty of every insect, can find nothing to admire. David Cain expresses grudging respect for their ability to thrive alongside humans for thousands of years, despite our best efforts. But I will stick up for these banes of my life. Among the things I have discovered is that the bedbug has a unique style of mating, known as traumatic insemination, in which the male simply stabs his sperm into the female's body cavity, bypassing her genitals. Professor Mike Siva-Jothy of Sheffield University has discovered that there is a "25% reduction in female lifespan" as a result - a surprisingly low figure. Siva-Jothy believes a unique organ, the spermalege, which protects the females, could in future help scientists produce a drug that reduces the transmission of diseases. There's more: what does a well-fed bedbug contain? Human blood. Some criminologists believe that scouring crime scenes for live bedbugs could provide investigators with a source of DNA. I'm not saying I won't be glad when ours are gone. But I have a little more sympathy for them than I did a month ago.

How to spot an infestation
• Look for unexplained rashes, although one in 10 people doesn't respond to bites. If you react badly, use antihistamines.

• Check your bedframe, or the joints of furniture, for black dots of between 0.5mm and 1mm - bedbug faeces. Contrary to myth, bedbugs do not live in your mattress, although they may be found in the seams.

• Check your sheets for bloodstains: you may have rolled over and crushed a bug after it has fed on you.

• If you have a severe infestation, you might notice a sweet, musty smell around your bedframe.

What to do if you're infested
• Call a professional extermination firm, and check its credentials. Many pest-control companies have diversified into bedbug control without any expertise. Following the advice of one company's website, we put grease-lined tins around our bed legs (to prevent bugs crawling up them). The exterminator guffawed at our stupidity. Don't try to kill the bugs yourself: last year an American woman blew up her home by lighting several insecticide "foggers" simultaneously: the propellant caused her gas supply to ignite. Don't use an aerosol-based insecticide, either: you'll kill some, but the fit ones will simply flee to another room.

• Don't throw away your furniture. The chances are that you will spread the bugs through your home.
• Don't flee the infested room. The bedbugs want food and warmth: if you go, they'll follow.

• Talk to your neighbours. It's possible your bugs have come from them, or that you have given them yours. One of David Cain's customers reported a recurring infestation. He was being reinfested by a neighbour, whose property was home to an estimated 150,000 bedbugs (the average infestation is around 100).

• Don't panic. Bedbugs don't carry diseases, and their presence does not make you unclean.


Life cycle of a bed bug

Diagram shows the Life Cycle of the Bed Bug

Bed Bug Myths Busted

The following are a list of myths about bed bugs which are not true, correct awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding bed bugs is essential to clearing an infestation.
1. You can't see bed bugs
 This is clearly not true, adult bed bugs are easily spotted as they are 3mm - 5mm in size and a reddish brown colour. The recently hatched babies are much harder to see as they are 1mm - 2mm in size but someone who knows what they are looking for will often detect them. This myth started when people got confused between bed bugs and dust mites. They are different species and are handled in completely different ways, what works for dust mites will not necessarily remove bed bugs.
2. If I throw out the bed I will no longer have bed bugs
They may be called bed bugs but they don't just live in bed and they can occupy almost any dark crack or crevice in a room. Disposing of ANY furniture prior to it being inspected and treated by an experienced and competent pest controller can be a costly mistake and certainly a false economy. Almost everything can be treated to remove bed bugs but if not properly handled the removal of furniture can simple spread an infestation to other areas of the property. We have recently been alarmed to hear that several companies in the London area have been recommending that furniture is removed via the window, this is clearly and obviously not a professional way to mange a problem and we would advise anyone told to do this to think extremely carefully about the consequences of such actions. Bed bugs will survive outside of the property and will enter again at the first opportunity.
3. You only get bed bugs if you are dirty
 This is the greatest of all inaccuracies!  You get bed bugs by exposure and coming into contact with a source of them. We treat more properties that are immaculately clean and of the highest standards than we do houses and flats that would benefit from a good deep clean. Increasingly people who extensively travel internationally are becoming more exposed to bed bugs as the global epidemic intensifies. In an ideal world people would understand that there is no more social stigma associated with bedbugs than head lice. They are an exposure pest and not associated with living conditions.
 4. You need to wash all of your clothes for a bed bug treatment to be effective
We are increasingly hearing this from people who call other companies. The simple fact is that without inspecting the property there is no way of telling if this is needed, our experience tells us that it is only needed in 2% — 5% of cases and is most commonly used as an excuse by an organisation which does not actually want to work on an infestation. There are also a lot of other decontamination methods available that are more effective than washing.

 5. There are no bed bugs in <insert country>
 We are often told by people that there are no such things as bed bugs in our country.  The simple fact is that bedbugs can occur in almost every country and region on this planet, some areas have always been worse than others but they are a global pest. The resurgence in activity has caught many countries unaware but they do exist everywhere.
 6. My neighbour has bedbugs will I get them as well
Transmission from a neighbour is a lot more common than people would believe and the likelihood of you getting infested depends on how they handle the problem. In flats and apartments the risk is greater if the building does not have a sturdy party wall. A few years ago this method of transmission was widely discounted by pest professionals but is now recognised by most people who have experience of dealing with infestations. In worst case scenarios we have seen 10-20 adjoined properties infested by this method in the same street and several floors in apartment buildings and blocks of flats. If you think your neighbour has an issue with bed bugs you should check your bed and living area on a weekly basis to make sure that you detect any bed bug signs at the earliest possible stages.
 7. I can't have bed bugs because I have not been anywhere
Unfortunately travel, whether overseas or in the UK, is not the only possible source of bed bugs.  In an increasing number of cases people are finding it hard to pin down a case of bed bugs to a obvious source such as a trip abroad or the acquisition of a piece of second hand furniture.   We are increasingly finding that bed bugs may be spread on the public transport network, via the workplace, from an adjoining property or even from a house guest who has unwittingly brought the problem with them.  We have treated many people who have not travelled in the last 4 years and have had bed bugs for as long as 6 - 12 months before realising it.
 8. It can't be bed bugs because I get bitten but my partner does not
The simple fact is that two people sleeping in the same bed may both be bitten by bed bugs but respond in a different way. Some people immediately have a reaction to the bites while others show little or no sign -  it all depends on how much you respond to different types of insect bites, the environment you live in and your immune response. There is also some anecdotal evidence that, like most blood feeding insects, bed bugs do not feed from people with certain blood disorders such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia.
9. Bed bugs can be killed by the cold
Yes they can be killed by extremes of cold and hot but it is unlikely in the UK that outside temperatures will rise or fall enough to effectively kill them. In the USA where heating houses has been attempted, 3 hours at 70°C will only kill about 78% of bed bugs and needs to be an incredibly rapid otherwise they simply adapt. The same goes for extremes of cold - unless you ship your whole house to the Arctic or Siberia it will not get cold enough to kill bed bugs.
10. Bed bugs are resistant to all pesticides
This is not true but they are becoming increasingly resistant to over used pesticides which unfortunately means the ones that are readily available over the internet. Libel laws do not permit us to name and shame the worst offenders but you should be particularly careful of products sold via the USA which may not be approved for use in the UK and electronic devices that claim to repel bed bugs. The most common group of chemicals that bed bugs are resistant to are simple Pyrethrins, organic Pyrethrins, Bendiocarb (Ficam products) and simple cypermethrin compounds. If they were such miracle cures we would use them ourselves but they just don't work efficiently enough.
11. Bug bombs like they use in other countries are the only solution
We don't use smoke bomb products for a variety of reasons. They are best summarised by some research we read while looking at techniques. Limitations of Home Insect Foggers (“Bug Bombs”) University of Kentucky Department of Entomology, EntFacts Information Sheets. If they were of benefit to dealing with infestations we would use them or make them available via the web site.
12. The bed bugs have been exterminated but I still itch and get occasional bites
 Although rare, we are seeing more cases of chitin hypersensitivity which is a temporary condition that can be brought on by contact with bed bugs. Effectively you become sensitive to the compounds in insects shells which can if present cause an itch and in some cases what appears to be a bite. We have even witnessed someone showing a bite response to a dead insect when it was placed on their skin. The only solution is deep cleaning to a hypoallergenic level to remove all the traces of insect casings from the property and your possessions this can be time consuming and is best done by a cleaning team as it reduces your exposure to the irritants.
13. There was a website claiming to get rid of bed bugs quickly but there was little detail on it
Like all industries there will naturally be people who jump on the band wagon writing simple web sites and well presented pages. Some even claim to be copyright for longer than the domain has been registered. We can only suggest that you do a little homework to see who these people are - a little cleaning and application of a domestic grade product or smoke bomb is not going to clear an infestation. With Bed Bugs Limited you have the peace of mind of dealing with an established UK registered Limited company that has grown steadily since 2005 and not just registered a domain in 2007 to jump on a bandwagon.
14. Bed bugs don't like metal beds -
 Although it is true that metal beds are less hospitable to bed bugs simply replacing all beds with metal ones will not cure a bed bug problem.  In some cases because there are not as many obvious hiding places for bed bugs in metal beds they can make the matter worse.
15. You cant bring bed bugs back from holiday because they will not survive the temperatures of the planes cargo hold
Bed bugs are a lot more resilient that many people give them credit for, they will survive at low temperatures even below freezing for significant lengths of time.  Unless you are planning on staying in the air for several days don't rely upon this as a method of decontaminating, isolate your bags before they re-enter your property and make sure they are processed correctly.
16. If one insecticide does not work why not mix two together. 
As much as this may make some sense it is highly illegal to do so.  The control of pesticide regulations in the UK forbid this activity and any cases we hear about will be immediately reported to the Health and Safety Executive for investigation.  As much as it pains us to say it we are seeing this happen even with experienced pest controllers.  Make sure you look after your health and safety by only using pest controllers who know what they are doing.
17. The pest controller soaked the property surely nothing could survive?
We are often called in behind companies that have used 10 litres of insecticide per visit for 3 or 6 visits and the problem is still ongoing.  This is because like many jobs it is not only what you use but how you use it.  On average we only use 1 litre per room per visit and yet achieve a much greater efficiency than better known pest control companies.
18. I have been treated 3 times by another organisation and they say the bed bugs are resistant to all insecticides is this true?
In our experience as the saying goes a poor workman blames his tools, pest control is sadly no exception.  It is more likely that a lack of experience of the problem has led them to this conclusion, we are yet to witness a confirmed case of resistance to all professional grade insecticides.
19. The local pest controllers seems great value at less than £100 per visit for the whole house 
Yes the initial deal may look appealing but when the problem does not clear and the costs start to rack up it no longer looks such good value.  If you end up disposing of the furniture on top of these costs it is certainly a false economy.  Our fees are actually below the industry average and yet we are acknowledged as the leaders in Bed Bug removal worldwide.
20. I saw an eBook about bed bugs is it worth getting?
Over the years we have red many eBooks on bed bugs, sadly most of them are based purely on the content of other peoples websites with little or no original information.  The fact is that an eBook at $8 is a waste of $8 because you can obtain more information from this website and the other quality sites listed on our information portal  .  Cheap me too eBooks simply rip off people who find themselves in difficulty with bed bugs.  Our managing director feels so strongly on this subject that he considers the authors to more parasitic than bed bugs  themselves.


Bed bug bites

Bed bug bites vary dramatically between individuals which is why they are not really strong indicators of the presence of bed bugs, although they are undoubtedly the most distressing side effect of an infestation. If you wait till you get bites the problem may already be more advanced than you would care to imagine. We have documented cases of literally thousands of bed bugs being present before any of the room occupants responded.

Key facts:
Not everyone responds to the bites at the initial stages, there is a threshold effect and individual immune response effect as well as an environmental factor.
Some people do not respond at the start of an infestation and it may take many bites to get a response. Some people never get a bite response. Those with sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia tend not to get bitten at all. The time from bite to response can vary by as much as 2 weeks and is often brought on by heat, hot showers or exercise which may aggravate bites.
Individual immune responses play a factor in that some people are allergic to bites and the welt can be up to 3 inches across. We have seen one case of anaphylactic shock from bed bugs but as that is out of over 1000 people it's not a major issue although the effect can be fatal. This accounts for a massive degree of the variation between individuals.
The environment can also play a massive factor. We have seen people only start to respond when exposed to a higher level of environmental pollution and the effect has been reported to be near instantaneous in the case of rapid exposure.
They will not bite through materials so covering up will help avoid bites although exposed limbs and face may become an easy target. We advocate protecting limbs and face while leaving the rest exposed as hidden bites are less obvious. It is also essential not to scratch the bites.   They will fade and pass unless you scratch and damage the skin in which case secondary infection is common. Using an antiseptic or antihistamine cream will help but you should always consult a medical professional.

Bed Bug bites will not scar if they are left to heal by your bodies natural processes.  If the heads of the bites are removed by scratching they may develop a secondary infection which can result in a scar forming

It is not really possible to identify insects by bites alone and although they may be the most obvious symptom to an infestation they are not going to change the way that the property needs to be treated.


Michael Saunders FRCS. Consultant ENT Surgeon,
Bristol Children's Hospital and St. Michael's Hospital Bristol

The House Dust Mite
Background - know the enemy
This is the house dust mite (also known by it's latin name Dermatophagoides). It is a few fractions af a millimetre long and cannot be seen with the naked eye. It lives off dead skin. This sounds revolting but dead skin is all over the house, in nearly everybody's house. A lot of household dust is dead skin. 10-20% of the weight of old pillows may be dead skin. The bed is full of it, and although the dust and mites are everywhere, you spend more time in bed than in any other room, and you are in very close contact with the mites throughought the night.

As if this is not revolting enough, the dust mites, having eaten the dead skin, then leave droppings / excrement everywhere which contains some of their stomach enzymes. It is these stomach enzymes that we are allergic to; these allergies can lead to asthma, rarely skin conditions, but most importantly for us, rhinitis - a blocked, itchy, runny or sneezy nose. This in turn can cause sinusitis and ear problems.

What mites like
Dust mites like warmth, humidity and dead skin. Lots of it.
The ideal room for them to grow in is a bedroom, over centrally heated, under ventilated, with lots of fabric:
•  thick curtains
•  long pile carpet - ideal for trapping dust
•  lots of bedding
•  cuddly toys like teddies
•  infrequent laundry, especially using warm washes only.

What mites don't like
Cold and dryness. Good ventilation, being exposed to the atmosphere to dry up, direct light. Temperatures over 60 degrees centigrade and under freezing will kill them. Some chemicals will also kill them.

The dust mites worst possible room is:
•  somewhere with a dry climate - like the Alps or Arizona
•  no carpet (stone, wood or lino)
•  no soft furnishings at all
•  window wide open
•  no heating

Obviously the above may be a bit impractical, but there are more realistic steps you can take to make a difference to your home.

Reducing the mite population in your home
Before you start:

•  ensure that you are actually allergic to house dust mite. Although the following measures will not actually harm your health, they may harm your wallet and cause you a lot of fuss you may not need.

Allergy testing is the usual way of determining this and it is undertaken at ENT outpatient visits. This can be discussed with your GP or ENT surgeon.

•  Don't go into this half heartedly. You need to reduce the mite population by a minimum of 90% to make any real difference and a few occasional measures will not achieve a lot. This is a laborious process.

Generally speaking, although killing mites is initially very desirable, if the dust is left in place, the mites will soon come back, so take action against the dust and the mites.

•  Aim most of the serious attention at the bedroom, this is where the problem is biggest.
There is little point doing any of this if you are going to smoke inside your house as well. Smoking makes asthma worse, causes rhinitis and other problems and increases the risk of glue ear and tonsillitis in children exposed in the home.

Many people who are allergic to HDM are also allergic to furry pets. Having made your bedroom hell on earth for dust mites, don't go and ruin it all by letting the cat sleep on the bed all day.

Step by Step Around the House

Carpets are an ideal place for dust to settle. When you walk on them the dust is thrown into the air and even the best vacuum cleaners leave some dust. The best thing is to get rid of them and either have bare floorboards, which when polished up actually look very nice, of lino or stone. People in flats may not be able to do this for reasons of noise. In this instance a short pile carpet is a good idea and a very good vacuum cleaner used regularly.

Much the same applies. Wooden blinds or plastic curtains are ideal. Damp dust them regularly (weekly) to stop the dust building up.

Wash all bedding regularly (weekly) in temperatures above 60 degrees centigrade. This gets rid of dust and kill mites.

Mattresses harbour lots of dust. Turn the mattress over regularly and vacuum it with a good vacuum cleaner. An old mattress should really be replaced.

Mattress and Pillow covers
Probably the single most important item to get. They stop the dust getting at the mattress and pillows and stop the mites under them getting out. The cheapest are available from Argos (mediguard) at around £12-15 for a single mattress cover and pillowcase, more for a double. These may not last very long. A variety of more expensive ones are available (ask at a department store, Boots or other chemists, or look on the internet) and can cost £100 or so. The mattress and pillow covers will also need to be washed at 60 degrees regularly. Plastic sheets are great because they are so impermeable, but a bit sweaty and uncomfortable in long term use, and there is a risk of suffocation in children.

A lot of pillows and some duvets are sold as 'Anti allergic' or non - allergic. This normally only means that they are non feather. In fact dust can still build up inside these pillows, so they are not as effective on their own as you might think. You will still need to use dust proof pillow cases on them.
Just get rid of very old pillows, regardless of type. They will be heaving with dust.

Making the Bed
Instead of making the bed normally, turn the duvet down to expose the mattress and underneath of the duvet every morning and leave it like that until bedtime. This will expose the mites to light, cold and ventilation and dry them out.

Upholstered furniture traps dust. Ban all upholstered chairs and sofas from the bedroom. Plastic, leather or wood is fine. In the rest of the house this helps, but is less important.

Furry toys
Unfotunaltely many children go to bed clutching bears, rabbits and a wide variety of other wildlife. Sadly, this is bad news as they will be full of mites and dust. The best thing is to get rid of them completely and if your child wants something to cuddle, a blanket (especially a cotton one) is ideal, as long as you can regularly wash it at 60 degrees. If parting with teddy is a worse prospect than the underlying problem, then regularly wash it in the machine (when your child is looking the other way). Tumble dry on hot to be extra sure.

Putting teddy into the chest freezer for 24 hours sounds a bit bizarre, and you may find it difficult to explain this satisfactorily to your 3 year old. However, this will kill all the mites in it, so it will help. Unfortunately, the dust will still be there, so the mites will come back quite quickly. Pillows can be treated this way too, if you have freezer space. It would be a good idea to put the items into a plastic bag first however.

Vacuum Cleaners
You want a vacuum cleaner to keep the dust inside it and not spray it back out all over the room. Get the best one you can realistically afford. Don't spend thousands, usually one costing a few hundred pounds is good enough.

Ask advice form the  British Allergy Foundation or the Consumers Association in the UK if you are not sure. Very expensive cleaners, usually sold aggressively by door to door salesmen are not really that much better, and often ludicrously priced.

It may sound obvious, but get someone other than the allergy sufferer to empty the bag.

A variety of chemical preparations to kill mites are available. These certainly kill mites, but in practice, the evidence that they make a lot of difference to the overall picture is less convincing. I am also a bit skeptical of putting any insect killing chemicals too near the bed, despite the safety guarantees, so I would personally not advocate the use of these formulas.

Mites certainly like humidity and centrally heated British homes usually have plenty of it. Don't be too tempted to buy an expensive de-humidifier. The expert view is that they will reduce the humidity, say from 60% to 50%, but this is nowhere near enough to make any difference to the mites. Better to make sure that the room is well ventilated and cool.

Don't have your heating on too high. Better to be a bit cooler and put on a jumper. This sounds old fashioned but it will make a difference.

You could obviously end up spending a fortune on this so take it carefully. Here is a suggested order in which to go about things, you may not need to take up all of the suggestions.

1. Make sure the room is cool and well ventilated
2. Regular laundry above 60 degrees for bedding
3. Wash / remove soft toys
4. Regular turning of mattress, vacuuming it as well
5. Dust mite proof mattress and pillow covers, new pillows
6. Vacuum once a week damp dust all surfaces.
7. Remove fabric curtains and furnishings
8. Remove carpet

See also:
All you wanted to know about sexually transmitted infections and disease
Zero Tolerance

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