Direct measurements of temperature and humidity in dust mite microhabitats


Cunningham Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ), Private Bag, Porirua, New Zealand.



Up to 70% of atopic asthmatics have a positive skin test to the dust mite allergen Der p 1. Reduction of dust mite numbers by lowering room humidity control is one suggested technique for reducing dust mite allergen levels to clinically acceptable levels. Trials of this technique in temperate climates have reported mixed results. It has been speculated that one reason for this is that humidity changes in room ambient air are not tightly linked to humidity changes in the dust mite microenvironment (in the base of carpets, bedding, furniture etc.).


To directly measure humidities and temperatures in dust mite microenvironments and compare these to ambient conditions, and so gather data on how the microclimates are influenced by room conditions and moisture and heat sources, such as an occupant in a bed.


A special small humidity device has been developed which can discriminate humidity changes over distances of millimetres. With these devices microclimates have been measured in the base of carpets, in layers through bedding, and in furniture.


Measured base-of-carpet humidities were significantly higher than room humidities. Bedding relative humidities show complex behaviour according to the distance separation between the measuring point and the occupant. Immediately below the occupant, bed relative humidities fall when the person enters the bed. Similar behaviour is observed in a sofa.


Some dust mite microclimates have been shown to be very different from room conditions. Consequently, reduction of dust mite numbers and allergen levels cannot be guaranteed by the controlling of room humidities.