Despite the name, these microscopic creatures thrive on dead skin cells, not dust. They're an asthma trigger—and because people shed millions of skin cells every day, dust mites cannot be totally eliminated. They can be reduced, however.
Vacuuming the house—not just the floors but also upholstery—goes a long way toward reducing mite populations. It's also important to wash sheets, pillowcases, and bathroom towels at least once a week. Use water that's at least 130°F to kill adult mites as well as the eggs, says Dr. Plaut.
"It's also important to encase pillows, mattresses, and box springs with covers made specifically to act as a barrier against dust mites. These covers are available at allergy supply stores," he adds.