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    The Dust mite
    The house dust mite Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus is about half the size of a dot or period on a newspaper. The mite has no eyes, no organised breathing system, cannot drink and lives for approximately 3-4 months. Twenty droppings a day may be produced by the mite, which means approximately 2000 during its lifetime. The HDM can get nourishment from its own droppings and may eat them up to three times over. The females can lay from 60-100 eggs depending upon living conditions, which ideally, are warm dark and damp for breeding mites. Most modern conventional beds provide perfect breeding conditions!

    The mite will not bite. It is a scavenger with a preference for discarded old mouldy human skin scales. As a scavenger, however, it will eat pollen grains, insect scales, house dust, plant fibres and old bits of dead mites. The mite is a necessary cleaner in nature. We must learn to understand and respect the house dust mite. This simple creature has been on earth for about 23 million years. It has lived with man for about 10,000 years.

    The most important thing to know about the mite is that it consists of up to 80% water. A tiny bag of water! Without water it will not thrive!

    How do they affect me?
    One of the major results of sensitivity to mites for certain genetically predisposed individuals is an allergic reaction . Allergic asthma, rhinitis ( hay fever) and some types of eczema can be the result of this sensitivity. Up to 85% of asthmatics are allergic to the mite in the UK and it is recognised as a major cause of allergy world-wide.

    Mite droppings are a main source of the problem. Dung pellets, if disturbed by activity, are pushed into the air. If this happens in an unventilated room, they can remain suspended in the still air to be breathed in by unsuspecting people. An invisible soup of dirt! It takes approximately for 20 minutes for this 'dust' to settle. Powerful enzymes in the droppings that are designed to break down scraps of food may also break down the protective lining of the lungs, nasal passages or lining of the eyes. This will only happen to certain sensitive people described by doctors as atopic.
     

    Critter Control
    Reduce the humidity in your home. The mites will not thrive below 64% relative humidity.
    Air all beds and bedding all day. Don't make your bed in the morning!
    Regularly wash all bedding on a hot wash (+60°C).
    If possible have two duvets. These can be difficult to clean and dependant upon weather for drying. One duvet should be clean and ready to put on the bed.
    Cover conventional mattresses and pillows with micro-porous material to prevent infestation. Make sure you damp-dust these regularly.
    Open a window after a shower or bath or while cooking (if possible) to let steam out.
    Use a vacuum cleaner with high filtration features. If your vacuum cleaner is not a high filtration variety, never reuse soiled bags.
    Always open windows (if possible) when cleaning. Any disturbed allergens will be blown outside on a draught of air.
    On sunny dry days, air your home and hang out rugs or blankets. Mites hate sunlight and will try to hide!
    Mites cannot control their body heat. Therefore a visit by soft toys or other small items to the freezer or tumble drier (hot) will devastate a mite colony. However, a hot wash followed by thorough drying is really the best way to prevent mite colonies from becoming established.
     


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    Moulds
    House mould allergies have been linked to a number of health concerns, including asthma, fatigue and chronic cough. Moulds can be found almost anywhere, although they prefer dark, humid and warm locations. Bathroom condensation, leaky areas of the roof, plumbing leaks and water seepage in basements can all attract mould. You may also discover mould in some of the following, less obvious, locations:

  • foam pillows
  • washing machines
  • carpets
  • refrigerators
  • closets (where the mould may be transferred to clothing or bedding)
  • wood panels
  • basements.

    Symptoms of a mould allergy vary. In addition to those mentioned above, you might experience wheezing, skin rashes, nasal congestion, a sore throat, itchy eyes and shortness of breath.

    The best way to avoid moulds is to take pre-emptive action. Keep plumbing in good repair, and try to maintain and indoor humidity of between thirty and forty percent. Remove items that have been contaminated by moulds, including carpet, if necessary.

    Someone who doesn’t react to the allergen should clean areas with mould, preferably with detergent. If you have to clean the area yourself, wear gloves and a protective mask. After showering, wipe the shower clean to hinder mould growth. If you have a fan in the bathroom, use it while showering or bathing to lower humidity.


    Toxic Mould Allergy
    Toxic mould produces substances called mycotoxins, chemicals that can cause seizures, skin rashes, respiratory difficulties, fatigue, coughing up blood, and even death. Toxic mould can harm anyone's health, but is especially dangerous for people with mould allergies.

    If you suspect toxic mould has entered your house or workplace, talk to your allergist. Have your house inspected for the deadly intruder. In extreme cases, toxic mould has spread throughout buildings so thoroughly that the buildings have had to be demolished.

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    Cockroaches
    Cockroaches and Allergies

    The cockroach is an unwelcome guest anywhere. If you needed another reason to dislike the pests, consider this: between 17 to 41 percent of Americans are allergic to cockroach allergens. People react to the faeces of the cockroach, which can easily become airborne. The cockroach actually shares an allergen, tropomyosin, with dust mites.

    Cockroaches prefer dark areas with plentiful food and water. For that reason, they can often be found lurking in kitchens, bathrooms, and often inside walls. They also favour areas behind dishwashers, refrigerators and water heaters. They reproduce prolifically, so elimination of the little beasts is a problem best left to professional exterminators. In order to keep your house roach-free, consider taking some of the following precautions:

    Seal all cracks in walls to prevent entry.
    Wash dishes promptly, and clean up any spilled food immediately.
    Store food in airtight containers.
    Seal garbage containers.
    Keep plumbing in good repair.

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    Pets

    Animal dander.
    Your pet's dead skin flakes, urine, faeces, saliva and hair can trigger asthma. Dogs, cats, rodents (including hamsters and guinea pigs) and other mammals all can trigger asthma in individuals with an allergic reaction to animal dander.

    Proteins in the dander, urine, or saliva of warm-blooded animals (e.g., cats, dogs, mice, rats, gerbils, birds, etc.) have been reported to sensitize individuals and can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma episodes in individuals sensitive to animal allergens. The most effective method to control animal allergens in the home is to not allow an animal in the home.

    If you remove an animal from the home, it is important to clean the home (including floors and walls, but especially carpets and upholstered furniture) thoroughly. Pet allergen levels are reported to stay in the home for several months after the pet is removed even with cleaning.

    Isolation methods to reduce animal allergen in the home have also been suggested by reputable health authorities (e.g., keeping the animal in only one area of the home, keeping the animal outside, or ensuring the allergic or asthmatic individual stay away from the animal) but the effectiveness of these methods have not been determined. To the contrary, several reports in the literature indicate that animal allergen is carried in the air and by residents of the home on their clothing to all parts of the home, even when the animal is isolated. In fact, animal allergen is often detected in locations where no animals were housed. In these situations, it is assumed that the allergen was carried in on people that have animals or on people that have been around animals or people with animals.

    Often people sensitive to animal allergens are advised to wash their pets regularly. Recent research indicates that washing pets may only provide temporary reductions in allergen levels. There is no evidence that this short term reduction is effective in reducing symptoms and it has been suggested that during the washing of the animal the sensitive individual may be initially exposed to higher levels of allergen.

    Thus the most effective method to control exposure to animal allergens is to keep your home pet free. However, some individuals may find isolation measures to be sufficiently effective. Isolation measures that have been suggested include keeping pets out of sleeping areas, keeping pets away from upholstered furniture, carpets, and stuffed toys, keeping the pet outdoors as much as possible, and isolating sensitive individuals from the pet as much as possible.
    Children who are exposed to animals from birth are less likely to develop allergic reactions to animals later in life. Be cautious when introducing new pets into a household suffering from allergies.

    An important note on birds and reptiles
    Be very cautious if you have young children and babies and you keep birds or reptiles. Birds carry diseases that can be transferred to humans and baby's are particularly susceptible.

    There is now conclusive evidence that reptiles (snakes, lizards, tortoises, frogs etc) infect children with salmonella. This extract below from the NARMS Scientific Meeting held March 15-16, 2001, in Rockville, MD

    "Salmonellosis is one of the most common causes of bacterial diarrhoea in the United States [8]. The total number of Salmonella infections over a 10-year period was reported at 441,863 people, mostly in infants [9]. The major source of Salmonella infection is food. However, an estimated 3 to 5% of all cases of Salmonellosis are associated with exposure to exotic pets.

    Since the early 1970s small turtles (shell measured less than 4 inches) were banned, from sale in pet stores because one-quarter million infants and small children younger than 5 years of age were diagnosed with turtle-associated Salmonellosis [5]. This FDA regulatory action, which is still in effect, reduced the number of Salmonella cases by 100,000 in children 1 to 9 years of age [2,8]. However, in recent years the incidence has been increasing. Currently, approximately 1.4 million Salmonella illnesses occur each year, resulting in 600 deaths annually in the United States [9]. Salmonella serotype marina is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially among infants and children in households where pet iguanas and other reptiles are present. One recent study reported in the United States, showed Salmonella serotype marina infecting 81% of infants. Thirty-four percent of these children were hospitalized, but only 14% had touched the household reptile directly [8]. In 1993, a rise in reptile-associated Salmonellosis was associated with an estimated 3% increase in pet reptiles in U.S. households, corresponding to an increase in the importation of reptiles. Reptile importation increased from 27,806 in 1986 to 798,405 in 1993 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), the majority of which were iguanas [5]. It is estimated that 2 million pet reptiles are owned by 2% of U.S. households, representing a substantial increase that peaked in 1993 to 713,234 [8]. In Canada, Salmonellosis is estimated to affect 2.4% of the total population each year (approximately 627,200 cases)[1]. Salmonella marinas, S. java, S. poona, S. stanley are the serotypes most often associated with reptiles.


    Salmonellosis can also be fatal. It has been recommended that high-risk people such as those with immature or weakened immune systems (including babies, children younger than 5 years of age, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with AIDS) [1] should avoid contact with reptiles. Its estimated that 60% to 90% of all reptiles carry and shed Salmonella intermittently or continuously [7,10] because it is part of their normal microbial flora (skin and gastrointestinal systems). It is speculated that there is no such thing as a Salmonella-free reptile [4]."

     


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