Background: Indoor relative humidity (RH) is the key factor that determines the survival and population development of the house dust mite Dermatophagoides farinae. Maintaining RH below 50% is one recommendation in a comprehensive plan to reduce house dust mites and mite allergen levels in homes. Even when mean daily RH is reduced below 50%, RH may rise above 50% intermittently for brief periods because of activities in the home (eg, cooking, bathing, and ventilation).
Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine how brief daily periods of moist air alternating with long spells of low ambient RH (0% or 35%) influence population survival and growth of D farinae.
Methods: Population growth was determined for D farinae at daily RH regimens of 2, 4, 6, and 8 hours at 75% or 85% RH alternating with 22, 20, 18, and 16 hours at 0% or 35% RH.
Results: D farinae populations declined at daily regimens of 2 hours at 75% or 85% RH alternating with 22 hours at 0% or 35% RH. Daily regimens of 4, 6, and 8 hours at 75% RH alternating with 20, 18, and 16 hours, respectively, at 35% RH provided sufficient moisture for small growths in population size. These growths after 10 weeks were reduced by 98.2%, 98.0%, and 97.3% for daily regimens of 4, 6, and 8 hours, respectively, at 75% RH (with the remainder of the day at 35% RH) compared with the growth of populations continuously exposed to 75% RH. Continuous exposure to 85% RH inhibited population growth, but alternating daily regimens of 16, 18, and 20 hours at 35% RH allowed small populations to develop, although they were reduced by 99.4%, 98.8%, and 99.1% compared with population growth at a continuous 75% RH.
Conclusion: This study indicates that maintaining mean daily RH below 50%, even when RH rises above 50% for 2 to 8 hours daily, effectively restricts population growth of these mites and thus the production of allergen. To completely prevent population growth of D farinae, RH must be maintained below 35% for at least 22 hours per day when the daily RH is 75% or 85% for the remainder of the day.