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Heat to combat house dust mites

As many as four to five million people in Germany suffer from house dust mite allergy. Researchers from the Hohenstein Institutes have now developed an innovative mattress that promises relief for these people.

While bedcovers, cushions and blankets can be washed at high temperatures in a washing machine, mite populations in the mattress and their allergenic excretions could only be effectively kept in check by enclosing the mattress, which means the mattress cannot ‘breathe’, or with chemical substances. A team led by Dr. Dirk Höfer at the Institute for Hygiene and Biotechnology at the Hohenstein Institutes in the city of Bönnigheim has been working together with the Wolfsburg-based mattress manufacturer diamona. Together, they have developed and brought to market an innovative mattress that promises relief to people suffering from house dust mite allergy.
A 230-fold amplification of a house dust mite under the scanning electron microscope.
230-fold amplification of a house dust mite under the scanning electron microscope. (Photo: Hohenstein Institutes)
The key to this innovative approach is to create an environment within the mattress that is hostile to mites by changing the hygrothermal environment. Since the small, spider-like creatures require a certain level of humidity, they are very sensitive to dry and warm environments.

Mite-free zone – the new anti-allergy mattress

Examinations by the Hohenstein scientists have shown that it is sufficient to heat the mattress to 50ºC for one hour once or twice a week in order to effectively keep mites away from the mattresses. The entire mattress is heated to the desired temperature by way of flexible textile heating elements inside the foam filling. Within a very short time, these heating elements generate very high temperatures in the low-voltage range (24 V) without leading to electromagnetic fields (electro smog) or causing electric shocks. Since the heating temperature can be controlled, the mattress is an interesting alternative to electric blankets that are used during the winter, for all people, not just those who are allergic to house dust mites.
Dr. Dirk Höfer, Director of the Institute for Hygiene and Biotechnology at the Hohenstein Institutes in Bönnigheim is convinced that the anti-mite mattress will be a commercial success. (Photo: Hohenstein Institutes)
For Dr. Höfer, Director of the Institute for Hygiene and Biotechnology at the Hohenstein Institutes, the work was well worth the effort: “With this ground-breaking innovation, we are now able to provide people who are allergic to house dust mites with the possibility of enjoying a good night’s sleep. This has been achieved without having to make compromises on sleeping comfort or the use of chemical substances to which many people who suffer from allergies may also react. This would not have been possible without the excellent cooperation with our project partners, the companies diamona and roma.”

Hermann Koch, diamona’s head of Research, Development and Quality Assurance, confirms: “diamona has always stood for quality and innovation. We are developing mattresses that are specifically fitted to the human body. When turning our visions into reality, we like to work with applied research institutes such as the Hohenstein Institutes.” Jürgen Reichart, area manager Technical Textiles at roma, also sees a huge potential in such cooperation: “For innovative small- and medium-sized companies, such projects contribute to future continuity. Working closely together, we have been able to realise an outstanding product with excellent market opportunities within a relatively short space of time.”

The joint project dealing with the development of a mite-free mattress for allergic people was funded through the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and its AiF project management organisation (German Federation of Industrial Cooperative Research Associations “Otto von Guericke”) within the Pro Inno II programme which enables small- and medium-sized companies to benefit from the know-how of applied research institutions. Companies such as the mattress manufacturer diamona are thus provided with the possibility of developing products that would otherwise not have been possible due to the lack of research and development departments or of the necessary financial resources.

Source: Hohenstein Institutes - 22nd April 2008
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/heat-to-combat-house-dust-mites