Dust mites are one of the most common triggers for people who deal with year-round asthma and allergies. They measure in at only a quarter to a third of a millimeter in size, so they cannot be seen without a microscope.
Although they favor warm and humid climates, they can be found everywhere in the world except Antarctica. Dust mites exist in many homes and feed on the flakes of skin that are shed every day by humans and their pets. Both the bodies and the waste from dust mites can create a reaction, even after the critters are dead. Millions of Americans are allergic to dust mites, with symptoms peaking in the summertime months.
The most common symptoms of allergies to dust mites include:
Patients with asthma that is triggered by exposure to dust mites might also experience:
Dust Mite Allergies are the immune system’s way of responding to the presence of the mites, creating antibodies to fight what it perceives to be an infection. Part of the immune system’s way of defending the body is to cause an inflammatory response in the respiratory system. Prolonged exposure to dust mites will continue to provoke this response, creating the chronic inflammation linked to asthma.
Dust mites feed on dead skin cells and draw moisture from humid air, instead of drinking from ordinary water sources. While the name of the allergy indicates that it’s these creatures that are responsible for one’s allergic reaction, that’s not really the direct cause. The allergy is caused by the feces and decaying bodies of dead dust mites that is also prevalent in dust. Most dust mite allergies begin in childhood and last through early adulthood.
The ideal way to treat a dust mite allergy would be to avoid the dust mites altogether. However, it is nearly impossible to remove them completely from the home environment. So other measures must be taken to relieve the symptoms and minimize the mite population.
Since they are most often found in carpets, furniture, and bedding, regular cleaning, washing, and vacuuming can cut down a person’s exposure immensely. When symptoms do strike, there are many over-the-counter medications available for relief from allergic reactions. Antihistamines alleviate watery eyes, itching, and sneezing. Nasal steroid sprays reduce nasal symptoms to make breathing easier, and decongestants will clear up a stuffy nose. Some patients may benefit from allergy shots, which will last longer than pills and sprays.
The only way to prevent allergic reactions is to eliminate exposure to the allergen. In the case of dust mite allergies, this includes limiting or eliminating exposure to dust. The first place to examine is the bedroom since dust mites thrive on mattresses, bedding, and upholstered furniture. Frequent cleaning of the material is essential and masks should be worn during the process to prevent inhaling the dust mites and debris.
Many bedding stores sell plastic dust mite covers that can fit pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Also important is to wash bedding once a week. In order to kill dust mites, the temperature of the water should be over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The bedding should be dried in a very hot dryer as well.
Bare floors should be mopped once a week and carpets should be vacuumed once a week to keep dust mites from flourishing around the house. Dusting around the house will also help. Throw rugs, stuffed animals, and other such items should also be washed regularly. Finally, an air conditioner or dehumidifier can reduce the humidity in the air, making the environment less palatable for dust mites.