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Good Question: What Are Dust Mites?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The spring allergy season is right around the corner. But if you've been waking up with red, itchy eyes already, chances are you may have a dust mite allergy.

But what are dust mites, anyway? Good Question.

"They are a perennial allergen and they are very small. You can't see them with your eye you have to look under a microscope," Dr. Nancy Ott of Asthma & Allergy Specialists said.

And what you see under a microscope isn't pretty. Dr. Ott has been an allergist for over 25 years. She said despite their appearance, dust mites won't bite us, but they are after our dead skin.

"They love humidity, so being in your bed. They love it when you are snuggling up in your bed and they are having a dust mite party. They are growing and thriving," Dr. Ott said.

They also love carpet, upholstered furniture, and stuffed animals. But when it comes to dust mite allergies, it's not the mite itself -- it's what comes out of it after it eats your skin.

"Unfortunately, it is mainly the fecal particles," Dr. Ott said.

Because the allergen is found on your pillows, red, itchy eyes are a symptom. So is sneezing and stuffiness.

But there are ways to keep the dust mite allergy at bay, like not using feathered pillows and comforters.

"And you can put encasements around the bedding to entomb the dust mite away from you," Dr. Ott said.

Washing your sheets once a week will also fight the allergy, but even then you can't completely get rid of them.

Dr. Ott recommends washing your sheets in 130 degree temperature. That temperature kills dust mites. You can buy pillow and comforter encasements at places like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond.

Another tip, if you keep the humidity in your home at about 40 percent, that also takes their numbers down.

Just keep in mind that if you are not allergic to the dust mite allergy, they do serve a purpose! They help cut down on dust we would otherwise have to deal with.

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