In dust-mite fairy tale, moms ride the broom

October 26, 1997|By Susan Reimer

I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT another one of my children can't breathe because of my housekeeping shortcomings, but I've heard this fairy story before and I don't believe it anymore.

My daughter blows her nose as if she were emptying a pumper truck, and doctors have concluded, after a battery of tests so expensive that you have to wonder what her care would be like if it weren't managed, that she is allergic to dust mites.

Dust mites would look like really ugly insects if you could see them, which you can't. But these things reportedly multiply until the end of all numbers, and they are hiding everywhere in your house, but especially in your mattresses and pillows. The bedroom, in fact, is a sort of a dust-mite Ocean City.

Specifically, the doctors say, my daughter is allergic to dust-mite poop, the invisible waste of invisible creatures that live by eating the invisible scales of skin we humans slough off by the billions every day.

Sure. Right. Whatever.

Just how stupid do I look?

I don't believe in dust mites or their poop. I think dust mites are the next big lie. I think allergists created dust mites to explain things they can't explain -- like why my son wakes up feeling as if there is an elephant sitting on his chest and why it takes my daughter 30 minutes to empty her sinuses -- and to generate huge fees.

Dust mites are the gremlins of the allergy business, according to the doctors. You can't see them, but they create all sorts of havoc in your children's respiratory systems.

You can get rid of the cat. Frost kills the ragweed. But dust mites are with you always. How do you know? Trust us, doctors say, and then they show you a drawing of a horrid, eyeless creature. It is labeled "house dust mite." Any child could have drawn it.

Suddenly, companies spring into being to sell really expensive furnace filters and zippered bags for mattresses and pillows. And then they bottle some "miticide" for you to buy and spray on your carpets and upholstered furniture.

Miticide?

You don't have to be Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts to see the conspiracy here.

But mothers are not fools. Mothers would not spend that kind of money to do battle with just any invisible army of bugs. So doctors layered over this fantasy with a heaping helping of guilt.

The subtext of the dust-mite conspiracy is that my daughter would breathe a lot easier if her mother took 10 minutes to run a dust rag around the house once in a while, for God's sake, instead of running out the door to pursue her so-called career.

The unspoken accusation is that dust mites wouldn't be a problem for my children if their mother had even a nodding acquaintance with a bucket of hot, soapy water.

I don't care if we are talking about Martha Stewart or Hillary Rodham Clinton. Enter any woman's home wearing white gloves, and there will be defensiveness the likes of which you have never seen. Suggest that her poor housekeeping might also make her a bad mother, and she will buy anything on the shelves.

Next, doctors will be saying that dust mites not only inhibit the breathing of children, but also cause their mothers to go up two dress sizes.

Dust mites? Ha!

My husband grew up in Clairton, Pa., breathing in the black spew from the largest coke oven on the face of the earth. He didn't know there was a yellow sun in a blue sky until he saw a picture in a book.

Am I supposed to believe that children from his gene pool start wheezing as soon as they get a snoot-full from the dust-mite litter box?

I don't think so.

I don't know why my son can't breathe in the morning. And I don't know why my daughter needs a storm drain to clear her sinuses.

But doctors had better come up with something more credible than invisible dust bugs.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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