Constant watery eyes, itchy skin, issues with respiratory functions along with frequent sneezing are all indicators that a person is allergic to something found within their atmosphere. One of the most common allergies that affect people of all ages is one to dust mites. These little mites live in the atmosphere and can wreak havoc on the respiratory system. Not visible to the naked eye, dust mites are microscopic mites that feed on dead skin cells to reproduce and can be found in all homes around the globe.
People who suffer from other allergies caused by the atmosphere, such as pollen, will find that most times, they are also allergic to dust. Those who contend with existing respiratory issues, such as asthma, will find that dust mites can trigger attacks and make it hard to breathe.
Household maintenance can help manage a dust mite allergy but other methods might have to be used when it comes to a workplace setting or in places outside the residence. Using antihistamines that don’t cause drowsiness, nasal sprays, and eye drops can alleviate the symptoms of an allergy attack brought on by an influx of dust.
Causes of allergy to dust and dust mites
An allergen is anything that is found in the atmosphere that causes a reaction of some sort. Allergens could be food-related, medication-related, element-related, or animal-related. An allergic reaction happens when a foreign or new agent is introduced to the body and the immune system recognizes it as a threat. The body then produces an influx of antibodies against the threat which leads to allergic reactions to expel the agent.
Dust mites can survive year-round in humid places but even after they die, they can leave their waste and bodies behind causing more allergic reactions.
They are typically found in the home and its furnishings but as they aren’t visible to the naked eye, a home can look clean but deep down, it isn’t.
The most general places where dust mites can survive for long periods of time in humid and fluctuating temperatures are:
- Upholstery – carpet, rugs, runners
- Bedding – mattresses, pillows, duvet covers
- Upholstered furniture – couches, chairs, cushions, throw pillows
- Damp areas of the home – bathrooms (behind the toilet), kitchens (behind a refrigerator due to condensation, wet porch mats, concrete basements with a lack of ventilator
Symptoms of allergy to dust/dust mites
Those who have to contend with an allergy to dust mites on a regular basis will find that symptoms are intensified when present in a location that hasn’t been cleaned in a while or directly after cleaning their own residence. While ensuring that a residence is cleaned is one of the first steps to controlling a dust mite allergy, directly after the cleaning process dust mites are stirred up and in the atmosphere at a greater rate.
Some of the common symptoms include but not entirely limited to:
- Sneezing on a frequent basis or multiple sneezes in a row
- Itchy skin
- Itchy and dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Dry skin
- Runny or stuffy nose on a constant basis
- Coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing
- Flare-ups of skin conditions such as eczema
- Facial pain and swelling
- Dry throat or sore throat
- A general feeling of unwell
- Longer recovery times for common viruses – head colds, sinus infections.
To confirm dust or dust mite allergy, a visit to a licensed medical professional is required. A family doctor will then perform one of two simple tests to determine if dust mites is the cause of the symptoms experienced. The test will either be a Skin Prick Test, which simply means the doctor will expose the skin to dust and dust mites to observe the reaction or a blood test, which is performed by a laboratory technician that removes vials of blood from the body as per a requisition. Allergens are then introduced to the blood and the reaction is observed to determine what causes the flare-up of allergy symptoms.
Triggers of an allergic reaction to dust/dust mites
A dust mite allergy is the type of allergy that is considered rare in what can trigger an allergic reaction. Not only can an excess of dust leave someone gasping for air, other elements in the atmosphere can also send someone into an allergy attack.
The following are considered triggers for an allergic reaction to dust and dust mites:
- Pollen – found in the natural outdoors and can enter a home through an air intake vent or open windows
- Smoke – all forms of smoke can trigger an allergic reaction; wood smoke, cooking fumes, cigarette smoke
- Dust from renovations – the process of renovations in the home can stir up dust mites that are surviving in the existing structural components of the home; drywall dust, plaster dust, sawdust
- Pet hair and dander – dust mites will feed off the dead skin cells of animals just as quickly as they do humans; the combination of pet hair and dander mixed with dust mites can be potent.
- Mold – mold spores in the home can trigger allergic reactions as the damp conditions are prime breeding grounds for dust mites.
There is no surefire way to rid a home, office or building of dust mites but with careful planning, a dust mite allergy is manageable. Ensure that the home is cleaned on a regular basis, from basic household duties to major cleanings. Change the filters on the heating system and home heating system on a regular basis to reduce the number of dust mites traveling through the air of the home. Vacuum ductwork during major cleanings while shampooing and vacuuming carpets, rugs, etc. can reduce the intensity of symptoms felt.
Invest in a household dehumidifier or air purifier to cleanse the air of the home and remove damp breeding grounds for new dust mites to form. When spring and/or summer arrives, open windows where possible to send new air throughout the home but use an air purifier to remove any allergens from the outside.