This is pretty gross – but not knowing about it could give your baby asthma or hay fever, lifelong conditions that are massively disruptive and in the case of asthma, potentially fatal.
Dust mites. Probably not something you have spent a lot of time thinking about. I mean, why would you?
After all, they are pretty disgusting things. You can’t see them, but if you could, they look pretty, well, disgusting. And what they get up to doesn’t improve things.
You see, they love warm, damp places. And because babies sweat, drool, poo and wee this makes the baby mattress a very popular place for them.
They don’t actually do much. They don’t bite or sting. But they feed on dead skin cells (yuk!) and they poo (more yuk!). And, after about 80 days, they die. One gram of dust can contain 1,000 dust mites and 250,000 allergenic fecal pellets. (Sorry, there is no easy way to say this stuff! And yes, fecal pellets does mean what you think it does.)
And therein lies the problem. Because it is the dust mite’s fecal pellets that give rise to an allergen that can have a very significant impact on your baby. Because these allergens can be breathed in and sensitise your baby to asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
How Dust Mites can give baby asthma or allergies
Research shows that the early years, up to age 4, are particularly important in this area because of what is called ‘sensitisation’.
You don’t just ‘get asthma’ or ‘get hay fever’ and then that’s it, you have it. It’s actually a two-step process.
First, you get ‘sensitised’ to asthma or hay fever (allergic rhinitis). This happens when you inhale a substance which, when breathed in, can trigger an allergic reaction in the respiratory system. This sensitization process does not usually take place immediately, there can be a ‘latency period’ of weeks or more after inhaling the sensitising substance.
However, once the sensitization reaction has taken place, further exposure to the substance, even to the smallest amounts, will produce symptoms. It is at this point that you ‘get’ asthma or hay fever.
One of the primary sensitizers to asthma and hay fever is our friend, the house dust mite. A study of asthma and allergy patients across 15 European countries indicated that the mean level of sensitization to the house dust mite was 22%, suggesting that the house dust mite was responsible for almost a quarter of asthma and hay fever cases.
Okay, that is all gross, but here’s the good news:
Irish company, Pure Zees, has created the world’s first baby mattress that has been scientifically tested and proven to be more beneficial for the reduction of allergens.
The testing for this was done by an independent testing facility on behalf of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the world’s foremost advocacy body in this area. So, it is particularly stringent and trustworthy.
Pure Zees achieve this through the use of a special barrier layer. This is comfortable for baby to sleep on but prevents dust mites and ‘mess’ (drool, vomit, urine etc) getting into the core of the mattress. As a result, there can be no fecal pellets and other bacteria that give rise to allergens and the baby is better protected.
Even better, it’s chemical free!
Also, great news is that Pure Zees don’t use chemicals in the manufacture of their mattress, either. Many mattress manufacturers use chemicals to kill dust mites and claim their product is hypoallergenic. Two problems with that – you don’t want unnecessary chemicals in or around your sleeping baby; and because the chemicals wear off over time, so does the protection against dust mites.
A survey of US baby mattresses found that 92% of them contained either chemicals of concern or allergens. A pretty horrific figure, we think.
So, don’t sweat it over the cot. Sweat it over the mattress.
One piece of advice:
Don’t worry too much about picking out the cot itself – it’s what goes inside the cot that is much more important. In fact, you will probably spend a lot of time thinking about your car seat or buggy purchase, but your baby will spend a lot more time on their mattress.
If you are one of the 1 in 10 that has asthma or one of the 1 in 4 that has hay fever, you will know what a lifelong curse it is. And you may be aware that if you have either of these then there is an enhanced chance that your baby will develop it too.
But even if you don’t suffer from either, there is still a good chance that your baby can be vulnerable to allergens, so give your baby the best chance possible to avoid them.