The house dust mites get its name from its habitat – household dust. Estimates are that as high as fifteen to twenty percent of the earth’s total population is allergic to the allergens produced by dust mites. Dust mites allergy is the second leading cause of allergy, behind pollen.


Dust mites have been associated with dermatological allergies in humans, it is a leading cause of Eczema. House dust mites are tiny but play havoc with noses, throat, eyes, and skin of the allergy sufferers. Dust mites live and breed where their food source is readily available. The main component of dust is shed skin flakes, which is the mite’s preferred food source. Dust mites thrive in dark, warm and humid environments, living and breeding in mattresses, blankets, quilts, pillows, under blankets, carpets and fabric-covered furniture.

Dust mites are most closely related to spiders and ticks. Unlike other common household bugs (fleas, for example), dust mites don’t bite and you cannot feel them crawling on you. Their bodies, secretions and faeces contain particular proteins that can trigger allergic symptoms in susceptible people. The allergic symptoms are caused by inhaling the microscopic faecal matter and shed skins. Dust mites have eight hairy legs, no eyes, no antennae, and a tough, translucent shell. These mites are about 0.5 micron in size and cannot be seen without magnification. Adult dust mites live for about a month and female dust mites live for about 8 to 10 weeks. A female can lay 2-3 eggs per day. From egg to adult stages takes about 3 to 4 weeks.

Fern Fabric® fully encased mattress protectors are designed using FernProtex™ technology that creates an impermeable barrier between you and the dust mites. Fern Fabric® protectors aim to greatly reduce your exposure to the house dust mites’ allergens.

House dust mites can trigger dermatological conditions such as Eczema. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms (particularly at night or first thing in the morning) it is highly likely you have a dust mites allergy. Symptoms can include:

  • Scratching in bed
  • Itchy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Year round hay fever

Source: MitesBedBugs. (2009, November 09). Medical Signs & Symptoms of Allergy of Dust Mites Allergy by Dr Ana Lamas. [Video File]. Retrieved from

  • Encase pillow, mattress and quilt in Fern Fabric® barrier bedding. Majority of dust mites’ allergen originate from inside the mattress, pillow and quilt.
  • Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets regularly, at least once every week at 60°C. You can also line dry the products outside in the sun however you might want to avoid this when the pollen season is high. If you line dry the products outside do not leave them exposed for longer periods than required.
  • Vacuum regularly, including the seams of mattresses and upholstered furniture. Use a high quality vacuum cleaner fitted with a High Efficiency Air Filter (such as a HEPA filter). Vacuuming causes house dust mites allergens to become airborne for up to 20 minutes. If you are allergic to dust mites, you should wear a mask or ask someone else to vacuum. You may air the house for an hour or so after vacuum cleaning to help clear the air.
  • Use synthetic rather than feather pillows and quilts as these tolerate regular washing.
  • Remove all soft toys from the bedroom and replace with wooden or plastic toys which can be washed. Or, if a soft toy is allowed, it should be washed weekly using the same method used for sheets. (Freezing soft toys overnight does not work because it will not remove the allergen.)
  • Damp dust or use electrostatic cloths to clean hard surfaces weekly rather than a feather duster.
  • Reduce humidity – have a dry and well-ventilated house. Have adequate floor and wall insulation and avoid evaporative coolers.
  • Avoid upholstered furniture – leather, vinyl, plastic and wood are best.
  • Avoid heavy curtains – Venetian blinds or flat blinds are better. Washable curtains or external shutters are other options.
  • If possible have the allergy sufferer stay in a sun filled room. House dust mites are transparent and have no natural protection against the UV light in sunlight. A light, bright, uncluttered and airy room will be less dust mites friendly.
  • Wash clothing before use if it has been stored for a long time.
  • Remove carpets, rugs and mats (where practical and affordable) – boards and tiled floors are preferable as they can be damp mopped or cleaned with electrostatic clothes
  • Do not allow pets in the bedroom or even better prevent them from entering the house altogether. Pet dander increases the amount of food for the house dust mites and may increase their numbers.

Atopic Dermatitis (also known as AD) is the most common type of eczema, which often appears as a red, itchy rash normally on the cheeks, arms and legs. Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) exists with two other allergic conditions: asthma and hay fever (Allergic Rhinitis). Atopic dermatitis typically begins in childhood, usually in the first six months of a baby’s life. Even though it’s the most common form of Eczema, it is also the most severe and long lasting. When you or your child have Atopic Dermatitis, it may improve at times, but at others it may get worse or flare up.

We do not know the exact cause of Eczema. Researchers do know that a combination of genetics and environmental factors are involved. When something from outside the body triggers the immune system, the skin cells do not behave like they should, causing the skin to flare up. We also know that Atopic Dermatitis runs in families but we do not know the exact way it is passed from parents to children. If one parent has AD, asthma, or hay fever, there is about a 50% chance that their child will have at least one of these diseases. If both parents have one or more of these conditions, the chances are much greater that their child will too. An estimated 10% of all people worldwide are affected by Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) at some point in their life. Either way, Eczema is not contagious. You or your child cannot “catch” it from another person, or give it to someone else.

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Itching
  • Cracks behind the ears
  • A rash on the cheeks, arms and/or legs

Most people with eczema find that their symptoms are made worse by common aspects of daily living, such as hot weather, frequent showering, soap, ducted central heating and overheating in bed at night. There are things you can do that may help you to better manage your eczema and reduce the frequency of flare-ups. Always see your doctor or dermatologist for further information and advice.

Good Hygiene

Skin affected by eczema is more vulnerable to a range of infections, including impetigo, cold sores and warts. The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus may cause a secondary infection of impetigo, and possibly contribute to the symptoms of eczema.

  • Take lukewarm baths or showers, and avoid really hot showers.
  • Do not use ordinary soap, as the ingredients may aggravate your eczema. Wash your body with warm water alone. For armpits and groin, use soap-free products, such as sorbolene cream.
  • Bath oils can help to moisturise your skin while bathing.

Reducing skin irritation

People with eczema have sensitive skin. Irritants such as heat or detergents can easily trigger a bout of eczema.

  • Avoid overheating your skin. Wear several layers of clothing that you can remove, as required, instead of one heavy layer. Don’t put too many blankets on your bed and avoid doonas.
  • Do not use perfumed bubble bath or bath products labelled ‘medicated’.
  • Wear soft, smooth materials next to your skin, preferably 100 per cent cotton. Avoid scratchy materials, such as pure wool, polyester or acrylic. You could try a cotton and synthetic mix material – this is fine for some people with eczema. Remove labels from clothing.
  • Always wear protective gloves when using any type of chemical or detergent. You may want to wear cotton gloves inside rubber or PVC gloves.
  • Avoid chlorinated pools. If you have to swim in a chlorinated pool, moisturise your skin well when you get out.
  • Remember that even hypoallergenic cosmetics can irritate your skin. Whenever possible, keep your face free of make-up.
  • Avoid perfumes, fragranced skin lotions and strongly scented shampoos.

In some cases, eczema may be an allergic reaction to environmental triggers. Some people with resistant eczema may find it helpful to have allergy testing (for example, prick testing for common environmental allergens such as house-dust mites, mould and grass pollens).

Avoid changes in temperature

Abrupt temperature and humidity changes can sometimes irritate the skin – for example, going in and out of air-conditioned buildings on hot days or heated buildings on cold days. Hard physical activity or exercise that makes you sweat heavily can also trigger the itch of eczema.
Suggestions include:

  • In winter, do not overheat your house. Dress warmly when going outdoors and remove the extra layers as soon as you return
  • In summer, avoid over cooling your house. Air conditioners can dry out the air and irritate your skin.


In most cases, eczema isn’t caused or made worse by diet. If you notice that your eczema seems to get worse after eating a particular food, you may be an exception to this. See your doctor or dietitian for proper allergy testing and dietary advice.

Never self-diagnose or you risk depriving yourself of enjoyable and nutritious foods for no good reason. Unnecessarily avoiding certain foods (such as dairy products) can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

General Tips for Coping with Eczema

  • Keep your fingernails short – longer nails are more likely to injure your skin when you scratch.
  • If the water in your area is ‘hard’ (full of minerals) or alkaline, consider installing a water-softening device.
  • Swim in the sea in warm weather whenever you can – seawater is known to reduce the symptoms of eczema.

“A clear association between moderate to severe atopic dermatitis and increased exposure to house dust mites in the patients’ homes, and support the hypothesis that mite antigens could be an aetiological factor in atopic dermatitis.”

Beck HI1,Korsgaard J. (1989). Atopic Dermatitis and House Dust Mites. Br J Dermatol.1989 Feb;120(2):245-51 (online). Available at:

“Mite population and allergen levels decreased by 90% or more within a month of placing mattress and pillow covers and treating bedding.”

Eggleston MD, P. (2001)”Clinical Trials of Allergen Avoidance in Established Asthma.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. (online). Available at:

“The high frequency of sleep disorders and their significant impact on patients with Allergic Rhinitis induced by house dust mites, in particular when Allergic Rhinities is persistent and severe.”

Leger D1,Bonnefoy B2,Pigearias B3,de La Giclais B4,Chartier A5. (2017). Poor sleep is highly associated with housedustmite allergic rhinitis in adults and children. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol, (online) Aug 16;13:36. doi: 10.1186/s13223-017-0208-7. eCollection 2017. Available at:

“The beddingencasement with the mite-blocking fibers was effective for preventing atopic infants from being sensitized to HDMs, and it seems to be beneficial to modern busy housekeepers.”

Nishioka K1,Yasueda H,Saito H. (1998). Preventive effect ofbeddingencasementwith microfine fibers on mite sensitization. J Allergy Clin Immunol. (online) 1998 Jan;101(1 Pt 1):28-32. Available at:

“In addition to genetic factors, exposure in early childhood to house-dust mite allergens is an important determinant of the subsequent development of asthma.” “Exposure to house-dust mite allergen (Der p I) and the development of asthma in childhood. A prospective study” The New England Journal Of Medicine. 1990 Aug, Volume 323:502-507, Number 8. R Sporik, ST Holgate, TA Platts-Mills, and JJ Cogswel