If dust is everywhere, how can you cope when you have a dust allergy? A dust allergy is sometimes called a dust mite allergy. You could be hypersensitive to dust particles, and you could also get an allergic reaction to the tiny bugs that live in house dust in your home. These mites are too small to be seen by the naked eye since they’re only 250 to 350 microns long with translucent bodies. You need 10x magnification to identify them. Where there is dust, there are often dust mites.
In the US alone, 20 million people are allergic to these dust mites. They thrive in homes since they feed off your shedded skin cells found in dust and places like carpet, linens, and even furniture. Sadly, living with a dust allergy may feel as if you have perpetual colds and a forever runny nose. For some, a dust allergy may trigger an asthma attack (narrowing of the airways) or result in exacerbation of eczema (skin redness and dryness). Prolonged exposure could potentially lead to a host of respiratory problems. Learn more about dust allergies below:
Symptoms of a Dust Allergy
If you’ve got a dust allergy, you may experience the same symptoms as a pollen allergy or even the common cold. Watch out for these common symptoms:
- Red eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy nose
It’s easy to confuse colds and allergies because you experience the same sniffles and stuffiness. However, a cold is an infection due to a virus and usually lasts for 7 days. Meanwhile, allergies are your immune system’s reaction to a trigger. In this instance, it’s the dust mites, so you cannot expect your symptoms to cease if you’re continuously exposed to the allergen.
Causes and Risk Factors
When your immune system is exposed to something harmful, it reacts to protect your body. Unfortunately, allergies happen when your immune system overreacts to something normal like pollen, animal hair, or in this case, dust and dust mites. Unfortunately, these can lead to a perpetually runny nose, referred to as allergic rhinitis. You may sneeze and feel congested because the dust mites make your nasal mucosa inflamed.
With severe symptoms that last, it can lead to inflammation of the lungs, leading to asthma. Notably, asthmatic people are more sensitive to dust. A dust allergy can also trigger an eczema flare-up. Risk factors for dust allergy include the following:
- Environmental exposure
A dust allergy can be hereditary, meaning if your older family members have it, are more likely to develop it too. Take note of your family history if it seems like you have endless bouts of colds. You can also develop it if you’re exposed to a lot of dust and dust mites. Children and young adults are also more likely to develop dust allergies because their immune system is still maturing.
Diagnosing a Dust Allergy
Your physician will ask about your symptoms, family history, and exposure to dust. Expect your doctor to use light and scope to check inside your nose cavities for signs of swelling. Pale and bluish mucous membranes indicate a strong association with dust allergies.
For confirmation, your allergologist or an allergy and immunology specialist will do a skin allergy test. This entails pricking your skin with dust mite extract to see your body’s immediate response to the stimuli. If it becomes red, inflamed, and itchy, you have a confirmed dust allergy. If you can’t have a skin test or take certain medications, you may be given a blood test to search for specific antibodies.
Treatment For Dust Allergy
Fortunately, medication can help. There are OTC and prescription allergy drugs to help you find relief. The most common ones are the following:
- Antihistamines like Claritin to relieve sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes
- Decongestants such as Sudafed to unclog your congested or stuffy nose
- Nasal steroid spray like Avymys or Nasonex to reduce mucus membrane inflammation for easier breathing
- Leukotriene modifiers like Montelucast which are tablets that block certain chemicals to prevent your immune system from overreacting to dust
- Saline sprays like Humer are saltwater solutions for cleaning out your nose and sinuses to ease breathing and make blowing mucus easier
If your symptoms are severe and you no longer respond to both OTC and prescription rescue medications, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy. This entails getting allergy shots to train your immune system not to react to dust. You’re given trace amounts of the allergen via injection once a week to desensitize your body to the allergen.
Alternatively, you can be given an allergen extract like Odactra. This is a sublingual medication or melted under the tongue to replace the immunotherapy shots. Speak with your allergologist to find out the best treatment plan based on your specific needs.
Mitigate Dust Exposure
Apart from taking relievers and rescue medications, your best strategy to mitigate symptoms is to prevent contact with dust and dust mites. Bear in mind that these almost invisible critters thrive in temperatures of 70 F or higher, with humidity levels of 70% to 80%. They die in colder and drier places.
In countries in the Northern Hemispheres like the US or Canada, dust allergies peak in July and August. Corollary to that, in countries in the Southern Hemisphere like Australia or New Zealand, dust allergies spike in December and January. These are warm summer months so the dust mite populations multiply because of the pleasant weather.
Dust mites feed on dead skin from humans and furry pets. The amount of skin you shed every single day could already feed millions of these bugs. To keep them out of your home, you have to address the source. Take note of the following tips:
Invest in airtight plastic covers that keep dust mites out of mattresses, pillows, and box springs.
- Avoid feather or kapok pillow and use synthetic, hypoallergenic polyester fibers
- Wash linens in hot water (over 130 F) once a week to kill the mites
- Don’t air dry but use a hot dryer to avoid dust particles
- Clean bare floors with a wet-Swiffer or mop at least once a day
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter on carpeted floors and upholstered furniture twice a week
- Reach underneath beds, furniture, and appliances
- Wash area rugs in hot water once a week
- Wash curtains in hot water every season or switch to rollup blinds
- Get rid of dust collectors like plushies, stuffed toys, etc.
- Use a dehumidifier or AC for lower humidity levels
- Change AC filters every 3 months
You can dust allergy-proof your home all year-round by following good cleaning and hygiene habits. If you want to take prevention to the next level, you should consider taking a CircleDNA test. This comprehensive DNA test will provide you with hundreds of health reports based on your DNA, including possible genetic sensitivity to pollutants such as dust. You will also get suggestions on nutrition and fitness so you can optimize your health. If you want to avoid exacerbating your allergies, it helps to be informed. Bear in mind, continual exposure to allergens can result in the accumulation of free radicals in your body which in turn damage your cellular structures. Take a more proactive approach by modifying your hygiene habits and lifestyle based on your unique DNA.