Dust mite allergy is an allergic reaction to tiny bugs that commonly live in house dust. Signs of dust mite allergy include sneezing and runny nose. Many people with dust mite allergy also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Dust mites, closely related to ticks and spiders, are too small to be detected without a microscope. Dust mites feed on skin cells shed by people, and they thrive in warm, humid environments. In most homes, bedding, furniture and carpeting provide a breeding ground for dust mites.
Causes of dust mite allergy
Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance such as dust mites. Dust mites eat skin cells people shed, and rather than drinking water, they absorb water from humidity in the atmosphere. They thrive in humid conditions.
House dust is easily found in the fibres of bed linens, furniture cushions and carpeting. These materials are also laden with moisture. Subsequently, bedrooms are ideal habitats for dust mites.
Dust also contains the faeces and decaying bodies of dust mites, and it’s the proteins present in this dust mite ‘debris’ that are the culprit in dust mite allergy.
Inflammation of nasal passages is the first sign of dust mite allergy which further leads to:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pressure and pain
- Swollen, blue-coloured skin under your eyes
- Repeated upward rubbing of the nose in a child
If your dust mite allergy leads to asthma
, you may experience:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness or pain
- An audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Sessions of coughing or wheezing that are worsened by a respiratory virus such as a cold or the flu
The first treatment for controlling dust mite allergy is avoiding dust mites as much as possible. When you reduce your exposure to dust mites, you should expect fewer allergic reactions. However, you may need certain medications to control symptoms, such as:
- Antihistamines reduce the production of an immune system chemical that is active in an allergic reaction. These drugs relieve itching, sneezing and runny nose.
- Corticosteroids delivered as a nasal spray can reduce inflammation and control symptoms of hay fever.
- Decongestants can help shrink swollen tissues in your nasal passages and make it easier to breathe through your nose. Some over-the-counter allergy tablets combine an antihistamine with a decongestant.
- Cromolyn sodium prevents the release of an immune system chemical and may reduce symptoms. You need to use this over-the-counter nasal spray several times a day, and it's most effective when used before signs and symptoms of dust mite allergy develop.
Prevention of dust mite allergy
Less to no exposure to dust mites is the best strategy for controlling dust mite allergy. While you can’t completely eliminate dust mites from your home, you can significantly reduce their number by following the below suggestions:
- Use allergen-proof bed covers: Cover your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen-blocking covers. These covers, made of tightly woven fabric, prevent dust mites from escaping from the mattress or pillows.
- Wash bedding weekly: Wash all sheets, blankets, pillowcases and bed-covers weekly to kill dust mites and remove allergens. Freezing non-washable items for 24 hours also can kill dust mites, but this won’t remove the allergens.
- Keep humidity low: Maintain a relative humidity below 50 percent in your home. A dehumidifier or air conditioner can help keep humidity low, and a hygrometer can measure humidity levels.
- Remove dust: Use a damp mop or rag rather than dry materials to clean up dust. This prevents dust from becoming airborne and resettling.
- Vacuum regularly: Vacuuming carpeting and furniture removes surface dust, but vacuuming isn’t effective at removing most dust mites and dust mite allergens. Use a vacuum cleaner with a double-layered micro-filter bag to help decrease house-dust emissions from the cleaner.