A staggering 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise. 59% of indoor allergy sufferers say their symptoms feel worse in the bedroom.
The dreaded house dust mite is one of the most common triggers for an allergic reaction. And the hub of these dust mites is your bed – one of their favourite places to live.
Supporting Allergy UK’s Allergy Awareness Week running 26th to 30th April we thought we’d take this chance to remind you why it’s important to regularly replace your mattress – ideally around every 7-8 years.
A typically used mattress has anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million mites inside. No surprise when you think that the average person sheds a pound of skin (454 grams) a year – much of it into our beds – and that the average adult loses around half a pint (285 ml) of moisture each night while sleeping into the bed. All that moisture, warmth and food make mattresses, especially old ones, a great breeding ground.
For mattresses that are still reasonably new and performing well, airing the bed each morning and regularly cleaning mattresses, protectors, pillows and blankets will help to eliminate the conditions under which house dust mites thrive.
Regularly washing your bedding (ideally once a week) helps decrease the spread of bacteria. Not only do we sweat into our sheets but they absorb food, cosmetics, creams and general dirt build up! Wash on a high temperature to kill mites and removes mite faeces.
Pillows should be swapped every two to three years and washed every three months. If hot washing is not possible, 24 hours in the freezer will kill any mites in a pillow prior to cold washing. Did you know for instance that an old, unwashed pillow could contain as much as 10% of its weight in skin scale mould, dead and living dust mites and their allergen laden droppings.
It is also vitally important to ensure the bedroom is well ventilated: in an age of central heating and double glazing, they rarely are, but a good cool breeze through the room at night will help combat the problem as well as aid more restful sleep.
For those worried that open windows will allow in airborne pollen, it’s worth bearing in mind that the allergy created by the house dust mite is far worse than any allergy created by pollen. Asthma kills people, hayfever doesn’t, so ventilation is very important.
Here are some other top tips
- Keep temperatures down and flowers OUT of bedrooms (they increase humidity levels).
- Avoid drying clothes on radiators in the bedroom (again this stops humidity levels becoming too high).
- Give your mattress a good spring clean: take it outside for a good airing and then replace it upside-down and opposite-ways-round to its previous positioning. Clean the base with a soft brush to remove fluff and dust – if you have to use a vacuum cleaner do so very carefully and with the window wide open.
- While the bed is moved out from any walls, vacuum thoroughly under and around the bed – it can yield huge amounts of dust and fluff.
- If someone has a very severe reaction to pollen they should consider a mechanical ventilator – fans which bring in fresh air through pollen filters. They are not prohibitively expensive and can make a huge difference to sufferers.
- Fit roller blinds that can be easily wiped clean.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom and definitely off of your bed to reduce allergen levels.
- Clean cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture regularly.
- Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter.
- Wipe surfaces with a damp, clean cloth, as dry dusting can spread the allergens further.
- Use bedding that protects against dust mites.