Dust allergy (also called dust mite allergy) is an allergic reaction to tiny dust mites that are present in the house. These mites eat flakes of dead skin that people regularly shed and are typically present on beddings, mattresses, carpets, and furniture. The tiny bugs are known to thrive in all climates and most altitudes. They are the most common triggers for allergy and asthma.
This blog is a comprehensive guide to understanding dust allergies, their causes, symptoms, risk factors, complications, and treatment.
What are dust allergies?
As mentioned earlier, dust allergies are caused due to dust mites. They are the most common triggers of allergies and asthma. When a person inhales the waste particles of dust mites, the immune system is put on high alert to produce antibodies to fight against dust mites. This leads to symptoms associated with dust mite allergy such as stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.
What are the symptoms of dust mite allergies?
The symptoms of dust mite allergies include the following:
- Red, itchy, or watery eyes
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchiness in skin, nose, mouth, or throat
- Postnasal mucus drip
- Sinus pressure that may cause facial pain
- Trouble in sleeping
- Swollen and discolored skin below the eyes
People with asthma along with dust mite allergies may experience aggravated symptoms, including:
- Increased chest pain or tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath
- Severe asthma attack
- Difficulty talking
When should you call the doctor?
The symptoms of dust mite allergies can also indicate other underlying allergies and conditions. You should consult the doctor if you experience the above-mentioned symptoms for an extended period.
What are the causes of dust allergies?
An allergy is the immune system’s response to an unknown substance that is usually not harmful to the body. These substances are known as allergens and may include certain foods, pollens, and dust mites. People who are allergic to dust mites experience allergic reactions to the remnants of the bugs, including tiny mounds of faeces and decaying mite bodies.
This is the reason why allergies give people symptoms similar to cold, such as sneezing and a runny nose. When the symptoms become severe or last for a long duration, they can trigger asthma.
What are the risk factors for dust allergies?
The risk factors for dust allergy include:
- A family history of dust or other allergies
- Prolonged exposure to high levels of dust and dust mites
- A child or a young adult is more susceptible to dust allergy.
What are the complications of dust allergies?
When people experience dust allergies, exposure to the mites and their debris may cause complications such as:
- Sinus infections – Dust allergies can cause congestion in the sinuses – the hollow cavities connected to the nasal passages. This blockage may result in people developing sinusitis.
- Asthma – Patients who suffer from both asthma and dust allergy often find it difficult to manage the asthma symptoms. Therefore, such patients are at higher risk of asthma attacks that may require immediate medical attention or care.
How are dust mite allergies treated?
One of the most effective ways to treat dust mite allergies is to minimize the development of dust mites in homes. However, the doctors may also recommend medications to limit the symptoms of dust mite allergies. The following medications and therapies can be prescribed:
This is prescribed to reduce histamine production in the body and alleviate the symptoms of an allergic reaction such as itching, sneezing, and runny nose. The doctor may either recommend an over-the-counter tablet such as fexofenadine, loratadine, and cetirizine or prescribe a nasal spray such as azelastine and olopatadine. Antihistamine syrups are available for children as well.
Doctors usually recommend nasal corticosteroids over oral corticosteroids as there is lesser risk and minimal side effects. The nasal corticosteroids minimize inflammation and control the symptoms. Some of the drugs include fluticasone propionate, mometasone furoate, triamcinolone, and ciclesonide.
These help in reducing the swelling of tissues in the nasal passages thus helping a patient breathe easier through the nose. Certain over-the-counter decongestant tablets also include antihistamine. Caution must be used for patients suffering from high blood pressure as these medications can increase blood pressure and the risk of developing glaucoma and cardiovascular diseases. In cases of men with enlarged prostate, this medication may worsen the condition. Nasal spray may provide temporary relief but using it for more than three days may further worsen the nasal congestion.
These medications block the immune system from certain actions such as creating histamine and leukotriene. The doctor may prescribe these medicines in a tablet form.
In this procedure, the doctor trains the immune system to not attack the allergen. The doctor either delivers this through a series of injections or tablets that are kept under the tongue. Each week, one or two shots or tablets are given to the patients to expose them to a very small dose of allergen which would, in this case be the dust mite proteins. Over three to six weeks, the doctors increase the dose and maintenance shots or tablets are needed every four weeks for five years. This is recommended when other treatment options fail or show unsatisfactory results.
Here, a specially designed squeezable bottle is used to help patients flush out thickened mucus and irritants from the sinuses with a help of a saltwater rinse. The saline solution should be contamination-free water, meaning it should be distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered with a strainer with a pore size of 1 micron or smaller.
Doctors may also recommend cromolyn sodium nose spray to block the release of chemicals that lead to allergy symptoms such as histamine and leukotrienes.
What are the lifestyle and home remedies that are recommended for afflicted individuals?
The best strategy for controlling dust allergy is avoiding exposure to dust mites. While the patients cannot eliminate dust mites from their homes, they can significantly reduce their number by:
- Using allergen-proof bed covers
- Washing all sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and bedcovers in hot water every week
- Keeping humidity low in their homes
- Avoiding bedcovers that trap dust easily and are difficult to clean daily
- Buying washable stuffed toys
- Removing dust
- Vacuuming regularly
- Removing carpeting and other dust mite habitats
- Installing a high-efficiency filter in the furnace and air conditioning unit
If people are allergic to dust mites, prolonged exposure can certainly be uncomfortable. Apart from allergic reactions, frequent exposure to indoor allergens may also increase the risk of triggering asthma. People must work with their allergist to determine the best practices and treatment measures to manage their symptoms better.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can dust allergies be prevented?
People cannot eliminate dust mites from their homes. However, they can be reduced in homes. Doing so can lessen the risk of dust allergies.
2. What are dust mites?
Dust mites are eight-legged microscopic relatives of the spider and are invisible to the naked eye. These tiny mites are present on bedding, carpets, curtains, mattresses, and upholstered furniture. They are the most common trigger of allergies and asthma and feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily.
3. How are dust allergies diagnosed?
If the doctor feels that people may have a dust allergy, they may conduct a skin prick test, and a specific IgE blood test to diagnose the condition.