Have Asthma? Give Up the Dust Mite Fight

Well, maybe.

A startling new piece of research turns dust mite trigger prevention on its head.

All the things we do to avoid dust mites in our homes may be a big, fat waste of time and money. And I mean every measure we’ve tried may not work. I’m talking the mattress and pillow covers, the stuffed animal method, the HEPA-filtered vaccuum. The whole deal.

Because this study from Denmark shows dust mite levels are so high in homes that even if we succeed in reducing their numbers, they’re still going to cause flares. Plus, the research shows no reduction in flares for lots of people even when dust mites were cut by 90%.

Usually when I read about asthma research, I approach changes in AG’s treatment or environment with a skeptical eye, not because I don’t believe the studies, but because lots of times the evidence simply points to the need for further research. This one’s worth highlighting for a couple of reasons:

1. It comes from the Nordic branch of the Cochrane Collaboration, a widely respected, volunteer independent research group.

2. If my non-scientific brain thinks about the dust mite problem long enough, I can see the logic behind these results. The damn things are tiny, and they’re everywhere.

3. Most research write-ups use conditional words like suggest, seem, indicate, might, possibly, etc. But just check out some of this study’s statements in today’s Washington Post:

–We can conclude with confidence that there is no need to buy expensive vacuum cleaners or mattress covers or to use chemical methods against house dust mites, because these treatments do not work.

–Reviews and guidelines should reflect the facts. . . . It is difficult, perhaps, to realize that we cannot really do anything, but there is no evidence to support these guidelines, and they are misleading. It is about time specialists start becoming honest with patients. — study author Peter Gotzsche

That’s pretty confident language.

I’m afraid my own can’t match it yet because A) I didn’t do the research and B) I’m not the asthma expert, just the blogger who happens to be an expert on parenting a 9 year-old kid with asthma. I’m dying to see what groups like the AAFA and the ALA have to say, though, and I’m betting they’ll address the topic soon.

As for my own feelings? They’re mixed. I’d hate to give up a weapon in my asthma arsenal, but I’d love to lose the cost of hypoallergenic bedding covers, considering the price of inhalers.

I’m also wondering how much of the Asthma Mom archives I’ll have to comb through to find and modify posts like this one.

On the other hand, I hate to dust. I rarely do it, and it would be nice not to feel guilty about it anymore.

There’s the potential for a much larger development based on this research, too. If asthma and allergy groups start changing their recommendations , all those companies that sell home products like HEPA vacuums and pillow and mattress covers would feel the pinch.

This could get interesting.

(Added 4/18/08: The next day’s post deals with doctor/expert reactions to this review.

4 responses to “Have Asthma? Give Up the Dust Mite Fight”

  1. Amy says:

    Well, you do have a health reason to avoid dusting–I really have no excuse. 🙂

    I know just what you mean about conflicting feelings, though. I mean, I’ve been hearing/reading/telling about avoiding dust mite triggers for YEARS—since my kid’s diagnosis 7 years ago, basically. Now? I don’t know what to think.

    I’m really wanting to see if the American Lung Association or any other group addresses the research.

    It does seem like avoiding other allergen triggers like pollen and mold is still worthwhile—-a measure that helps me not it all, what with dust mites being AG’s ONLY allergy trigger, lol.

  2. AndieBeck says:

    thanks for posting this – who would have thought?! And here I just bought mattress covers etc. It will be interesting to see the reactions others have to this research …

  3. Amy says:

    Hi Andie–I wrote about some of the reactions today, but if anything, I just have more questions! I’m interested to see what you guys think.

  4. Asthmagirl says:

    That is amazing research. I’m deeply conflicted in that moments ago, I was just reading this…. http://www.alaw.org/about-us/news-center/top-stories/five-steps-to-improve-indoor-air-quality

    However, I’m inclined to believe your research in that a)it was done by volunteers who have no vested interest in the outcome and b) I too could dump the guilt for dusting less than regularly!

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!