Safe and Healthy Sleep

House dust mites: the enemy in the bed

20 Dec, 2021

Dust mite allergies develop early

When hearing the word “dust mites” many people automatically think of crawling animals that frolic in dirty apartments. In fact, they’re more like small arachnids, which are estimated to grow up to 0.3 mm and are barely visible to the naked eye. They even occur in very clean and tidy households and therefore have nothing to do with “poor hygiene”.

The microscopic mites love to stay in warm and humid places. That’s why a warm cot, but also toys and upholstered furniture, are among their “favourite places”. Mites feed on flakes of skin that can be found in abundance on warm and damp mattresses. They don’t bite or transmit diseases. It becomes dangerous if your child has an allergic reaction to the mite droppings. It’s estimated that every fifth child is already sensitised to these mites by the age of six, so they recognise them as "enemies in bed". Since your baby will then make antibodies, this can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

This is how you can recognise a mite allergy in your child

You can tell that your child could be allergic to mites, for example, by burning eyes, breathing problems or reddened skin. Other indicators can include a constantly runny nose, cough and puffy skin. Because the constituents of the mite droppings mix with the dust particles in the air, just inhaling the mixture can lead to physical discomfort for your sweetheart.

If these signs occur more often at night or early in the morning, there is a good chance your child has this type of allergy. A visit to the doctor will give you certainty about this. A simple prick test will give you a reliable diagnosis.

The infestation of these small animals has nothing to do with the fact that your household is unclean. Because no matter how clean you keep your child's bedroom and the rest of the house, the little arachnids will find a place in almost any environment where they feel at home. With various hand movements you can make things much more difficult for the little pests and thus alleviate the symptoms of your little darling.

Symptoms appear especially in the morning hours

Unfortunately, many children suffer from symptoms of an allergy to house dust mites all year round. So if you notice one or more of the following symptoms, a medical examination makes sense:

  • Your child has a constant runny nose or stuffy nose even though they don't have a cold.
  • They suffer from itchy, reddened, or watery eyes.
  • Children with neurodermatitis often suffer from pronounced rashes.
  • You may notice that your sweetheart is short of breath, and is coughing and puffing more often.


With a pronounced allergy, the symptoms often worsen at the beginning of the annual heating season and in winter. This is because a lot of mites die off at this time. This releases additional allergens to which children also have an allergic reaction.

See a paediatrician at the first sign

If you suspect that your child may have an allergy, you should contact your paediatrician. They will first talk to you about the symptoms and the complaints. The next step is to make the correct diagnosis as quickly as possible. To do this, your paediatrician will use either a blood test or a prick test.

During the blood test, a laboratory tests your child's blood for antibodies. This test is not one hundred percent accurate, but it’s useful for smaller children.

In the prick test, on the other hand, the doctor tests whether your darling reacts to certain allergens. They therefore “pokes” the arm lightly so that the allergens penetrate the skin. If your little one is allergic, a thick, itchy wheal is likely to form.

How to relieve symptoms

Even if your child is struggling with the allergy, you can help them. Effective drugs such as antihistamines are now available to relieve symptoms. In advance you should agree with your paediatrician how and in what quantity your child should take the medication. From the age of 12 months, small children can receive anti-allergic agents. In addition, nasal sprays with active ingredients similar to cortisone are now approved for children over three years of age.

Possibly you could also carry out a desensitisation if your child is already five years or older. The doctor gives your child a controlled amount of the allergen so that the body eventually develops a natural tolerance to it. This treatment, which combats the cause of the allergen, is particularly suitable if your child doesn’t feel healthy even with medication. Specific immunotherapy improves symptoms in an estimated 70 percent of small patients.

How to prevent the mites

To prevent your child from allergic reactions to the mite droppings, try to keep their surroundings as mite-free as possible. To do this, you should ventilate the children's room and the bed linen properly every day. If you ventilate the mattress regularly in the fresh air, or at least vacuum it, you make it difficult for the mites to permanently settle in the cot.

Make sure that you change the duvet covers at regular intervals. You can determine how big this distance is. In summer it can make sense to change the covers more often than in winter, since mites are particularly comfortable in warm temperatures. You should then wash your sweetheart's bed linen and pyjamas at at least 60 degrees Celsius in order to really remove all remains of mite excrement. You can simply put cuddly toys and pillows that should not be washed hot in the freezer for 24 hours.

Despite these measures, you should replace the mattress of the cot after about seven years. After this time, the mite infestation has reached its peak, as various studies show.

It can also help if you use blinds instead of curtains to darken the windows in the nursery. You should also make sure that the temperature in your child’s room is not over 20 degrees Celsius and the humidity is not over 50 percent.

When cleaning the room, you can be careful not to do this in the presence of your child so that they don’t inhale the dust that is raised. If your child has breathing problems due to the allergy, it is advisable to place as few textiles as possible in the children's room.

The impairments that your child can have from a house dust mite allergy can be significantly reduced with just a few regular movements. This gives it more energy to discover its environment.

Most important measure - avoid contact with mites

Wash the children's bed linen as often as possible at high temperatures of at least 60 degrees. Experts recommend that you wash your duvet covers thoroughly weekly, as well as blankets and pillows, at least once a month. Equip the bedding with mite-proof protective covers. These so-called "encasings" deprive the mites of their nourishment and reduce the allergic risk by over 90 percent. If your child has a diagnosed allergy, the health insurance will cover the costs.

Put cuddly toys that could be infested with mites in the freezer for about a day. They die from the cold. If the mite infestation is too drastic, you should think about keeping only a few cuddly toys in the bedroom. Maybe your little darling can choose one or two favourite cuddly toys.

Pay attention to overall hygiene in the bedroom. You should ventilate regularly and ensure good air circulation. You should also take carpets and upholstered furniture out of the bedroom and mop the floors regularly.

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