Palm Harbor, Florida - From the green tea brewing in her kitchen to the air flowing through her home where her two cats play, Catherine Williams admits she's a health nut. That's why she couldn't understand why she seemed to develop allergy-like symptoms out of the blue.
Williams says, "When I would get up, my nose would be stuffy and then, after 10 minutes of moving around, it was fine."
She doesn't have allergies so she did some research and found she and her husband were sleeping with thousands and thousands of microscopic dust mites. The dust mites were lurking in their mattress and carpet.
You can't see dust mites. They eat the skin we shed when we're in bed. We shed about five grams of skin each week.
Dr. J. Wayne Phillips is an allergy specialist who says, "After 30 years of practice, I can tell you it's one of the biggest problems. Everybody has dust mites in their mattress, so it's a common thing."
Dr. Phillips says research shows there's a higher concentration of dust mites in the Tampa Bay area than in any other part of the country. "It's a 12 month a year problem in Florida and it's especially bad because it's so humid in the Tampa Bay area."
Phillips says 85 percent of his patients are suffering from allergic reactions to dust mites and some of their symptoms are worse than others. "They have to take medication first, antihistamines, first step. If that's not helpful, we go to nasal sprays, cortisone sprays, sometimes systemic steroids, to bring them under control."
Catherine Williams was dead set against taking medication. Instead, she wanted to get to the root of the problem. She says she couldn't help but wonder why her six hundred dollar organic latex, hypo-allergenic mattress, that's supposed to protect her from dust mites, wasn't.
She hired Joe Giacopelli, who runs his own local Hygienitech business. He ran a test on a small area of her mattress pad for dust mites. Williams says, "I didn't want it to be another gimmick. We're going to come in and vacuum up your bed and so I was skeptical."
Giacopelli explains what he found in her pad. "This is a mix of dead skin, live dust mites, dead mites."
During the test, he drops the dirty, dusty matter he extracts from the mattress pad into a glass and tests it. He says, "You've got about 750 to a million dust mites in there."
He then ran the same test on a portion of her mattress with similar results. He says the Williams are breathing in the live and dead dust mites each night until he sanitizes the mattress pad and mattress.
Giacopelli says they can kill the dust mites without using chemicals. "It's a high suction, pulsating machine with a UV-C light and what it actually does is it extracts and kills everything--virus, spores, dust and everything--out at the same time and when it goes into the bag it's already dead."
Williams swears by it. "I woke up and there was no stuffy nose."
The cost to have a Queen or King size bed sanitized by Hygienitech is $84.95. It cost 25 cents a square foot for carpeting and there's a small fee to clean pillows depending on the size.
Giacopelli recommends cleanings every six months or every three months if you or your family members have allergies.
So, what do the experts recommend? The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says:
- Encase your mattress, box springs and pillows in special allergen-proof fabric covers or airtight, zippered plastic covers.
- Wash all bedding in hot water at 130 degrees each week.
- Dry in a hot dryer.
- Keep humidity low by using a dehumidifier or air conditioning.
- Remove wall to wall carpet if you can and opt for throw rugs that you can wash or dry clean on a regular basis.
Dr. Phillips says it's not a one-time fix either. "It's a constant upkeep."
Tammie Fields, 10 Connects