Here in Cape Town at this time of the year, many of us are still battling with allergies. It is dry, dusty and windy. But not all allergy triggers are airborne: many of them are in your home and you may not even know it. Ideally, you should be tested to establish what you are allergic to, so that you can take the correct steps to either eliminate the trigger, or control it medically.

One of the commonest allergies is to the house dust mite – these tiny members of the spider family are so small you can’t see them with the naked eye. Mites are to be found in most of our homes, but more in some than in others. Houses with humidity greater than 50% encourage these mites to stay and cause trouble. The dust mites live mainly in mattresses, bedding, pillows, and — for children — stuffed toys.

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to limit your exposure to them.Here are a few suggestions to help you cut dust mites by up to 50%. If your allergy or asthma symptoms don’t improve after doing this, other allergens in the environment may also be to blame for your symptoms..

1. Cover bedding (mattress, box spring, pillows) in air-tight plastic or tightly woven, dust-mite repelling fabric covers.
2. Wash bedding once a week in hot water (130° F) and dry in a hot-air dryer or in the sunshine..
3. Avoid using down pillows or comforters.
4. Install hardwood, linoleum, or tiles rather than wall-to-wall carpeting. If you use washable throw rugs, follow the same washing routine as for bedding.
5. Avoid laying carpet directly on concrete.
6. Maintain humidity levels below 50%.
7. Vacuum weekly, ideally using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Vacuums with HEPA filters help keep dust particles where they should be — trapped inside the vacuum.
8. Buy washable stuffed animals and wash them often in hot water.
9. Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. A dry cloth just stirs up mite allergens.

If your symptoms still do not improve, please consult your doctor for help: uncomfortable allergy symptoms are unnecessary and are easily manageable.