Dust Allergy

1 What Is Dust Allergy?

A dust allergy is a common problem among many individuals. It mostly impacts small children and those in early adulthood.

Dust particles contain pet dander, dead cockroach pieces, dead skin, mold spores, and/or dust mites.

Symptoms pertaining to a dust allergy are a runny nose, coughing, wheezing, itching, and swelling in the face, mouth, or throat.

There are various medications, therapies, and home remedies available to provide relief from the symptoms caused by dust allergens. Prevention is the first criteria; keep the surrounding area as clean as possible and ensure to regularly maintain proper hygiene.

Introduction

Dust mites are so minute or, one can say, invisible to the naked eye, but can create a lot of trouble. More than twenty million people in America are allergic to dust mites. There are certain steps and home remedies which can help keep the allergy at bay, however, you can also try over-the-counter or prescription medications to take care of the symptoms.

2 Symptoms

The symptoms pertaining to a dust allergy are very similar to pollen allergies. Watch out for these signs:

  • Sneezing, which at some point becomes continuous
  • Eyes tend to water and become itchy and red
  • A runny, stuffy nose
  • Roof of the mouth or throat becomes itchy
  • Coughing
  • Pain and facial pressure
  • Nasal congestion
  • Issues pertaining to post-nasal drip
  • Swelling under the eyes and the color of the skin turning blue
  • In a child, constant rubbing of the nose

If the dust allergy worsens, it can induce an asthma attack. In such cases, the individual would experience the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble sleeping due to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • Coughing or wheezing that worsens due to a virus, such as the flu or a cold
  • An audible wheezing or whistling sound when exhaling

A dust allergy can range from mild to severe. If it is only a mild case, the individual would encounter signs such as a runny nose, cough, sneezing, and watery eyes. In severe cases, or if the condition is chronic, it would result in continuous sneezing, congestion, or a severe asthma attack.

3 Causes

A piece of dust can contain so many harmful things, such as pet dander, dead cockroach pieces, dead skin, mold spores, and dust mites. The main culprit in dust mites are proteins which cause the allergy.

The allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance that comes into contact with the body, such as pet dander, pollen grains, or dust mites. The immune system readily produces proteins known as antibodies to protect the body from these foreign invaders, which can lead to sickness or any other kind of infection. When an individual has an allergy, the immune system makes antibodies that identify these allergens as something very harmful to the body, even though, in certain cases, they may not be. When the individual comes into contact with any of these allergens, the immune system produces an inflammatory response in the lungs or nasal passage. Prolonged exposure to these allergens can lead to chronic or ongoing cases of inflammation, which is also associated with asthma.

Who Is at Risk for the Allergy?

The following would lead to an increase in the risk of developing a dust allergy:

  • Family history of allergies: An individual is more likely to develop a certain sensitivity towards dust if there have been allergies in other family members.
  • Exposure to dust: One is at an increased risk if they have been exposed to high levels of dust from an early age.
  • Generally, children or adolescents: An individual in childhood or early adulthood is at an increased risk of developing allergies.

6 Causes of Dust Allergies

4 Making a Diagnosis

The doctor will be able to confirm if there is a dust allergy based on the symptoms experienced and the answers to questions asked about the home. The doctor can use a lit instrument to confirm if the allergy is due to an airborne substance. The instrument is used to look at the lining of the nose; the lining of the nasal passage would be swollen if you have an allergy to something airborne. It would also appear pale or bluish in color. The doctor will question if the symptoms worsen when going to bed or while cleaning, since the dust allergens would be temporarily airborne during that time. There are certain tests the doctor will conduct to determine the cause of the allergy:

  • Blood test: In some cases, individuals cannot undergo a skin test because of certain skin conditions or because they are using medication that could alter the results of the test. As an alternative in such cases, the doctor would suggest a blood test. This test screens for specific allergy-causing antibodies to various allergens, which would include dust. The blood test would also determine how sensitive one is to an allergen.
  • Skin test: The doctor can suggest a skin test to determine the exact culprit causing the allergy. In certain cases, the individual would be referred to an allergy specialist, known as an allergist, to carry out the test. The process of performing this test includes tiny amounts of purified extracts of the allergens, which can also include dust extracts, being pricked onto the surface of the skin. This test can be carried out on the forearm or, in certain cases, the upper back. After fifteen minutes, the doctor will keep an observation or watch for any signs of a skin allergy reaction. If the individual is allergic to dust, they would develop itchy, red bumps where the dust allergen was pricked on the skin’s surface. The common side effects of this test are redness and itching. These are mild side effects that usually go away within thirty minutes of conducting the test.

5 Treatment

A common recommendation for the individual is to stay away from dust as much as possible. When an individual minimizes his or her exposure to dust, fewer instances of dust allergies occur. However, completely eliminating dust from the surroundings is not possible. For certain cases, medications may be required to control symptoms and avoid any complications.

To improve nasal congestion caused by the allergy, the doctor can suggest any of the below medications:

  • Corticosteroids or steroids: These are given in the form of a nasal spray and are known to help in the reduction of inflammation, as well as control other symptoms of hay fever. Some examples of corticosteroids include triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24HR), propionate (Flonase), and mometasone furoate (Nasonex). The nasal form of corticosteroids are often drugs with lower dosages, hence, there are smaller chances of having side effects compared to the oral form.
  • Antihistamines: Use of antihistamines leads to a reduction in chemical production by the immune system, which tends to become active during an allergic reaction. The use of antihistamines is known to provide relief from allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, cough, and sneezing. There are certain over-the-counter antihistamines available in tablet form, such as Ioratadine (Alavert and Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy), and others. Antihistamines are also available as a syrup, especially for small children. There are certain prescription antihistamines that come in the form of a nasal spray, including olopatadine (Patanase) and azelastine (Astelin and Astepro).
  • Decongestants: The use of decongestants helps shrink the tissues that have become swollen in the nasal passage. This shrinkage then leads to easier breathing though the nose. There are certain over-the-counter allergy tablets available, which are a combination of antihistamines and decongestants. However, the oral form of decongestants is linked with serious side effects, such as increased blood pressure, hence, those individuals who already suffer from high blood pressure, heart-related problems, and glaucoma should avoid the intake of these tablets. Let the doctor know if there are any medical conditions before they prescribe any decongestants. Certain over-the-counter decongestants are available in nasal spray form and can help reduce allergy symptoms for a short while. Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for longer durations or for more than three days at a stretch, since it can worsen the existing nasal congestion.
  • Other therapies:
    • Nasal irrigation: Nasal irrigation is the use of a neti pot to flush out the thickened mucus and the other irritants from the sinuses. This is done with the help of a prepared saltwater rinse. You can use saline water, which is free of any contamination. Rinse the irrigation device after every use with sterile water and then leave it open to air dry.
    • Immunotherapy: One can train the immune system not to become sensitive towards an allergen. This training is known as immunotherapy and can be done with the help of allergy shots. One to two shots on a weekly basis exposes the body to small doses of the allergen, which can be a dust allergen that leads to allergic reaction. During the three-to-six-month period, the dose is gradually increased. Later, the individual would need maintenance shots for a period of three to five years. One usually tries immunotherapy when the other forms of treatment have not shown satisfactory results.

6 Prevention

It is best to prevent dust in all possible ways to avoid an allergic reaction. Below are a few suggestions to follow:

  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain a relative humidity at about fifty percent and below.
  • Wear a mask while performing any cleaning tasks, such as vacuuming, to avoid inhaling any allergens. Also, stay away from the vacuumed area for at least twenty minutes so the dust and any other allergens settle down.
  • Always use a damp mop or rag to remove dust from surfaces; use of a dry cloth can stir them up.
  • Replace any woolen or feathered bedding with synthetic materials. Also, if you have stuffed animals, keep washable ones.
  • All beddings and blankets should be washed in hot water at least once a week so that the dust allergens are killed.
  • Wash your face, hands, and arms as soon as you are indoors to get rid of any dust or pollen. If you have been out for an entire day, it is best to have a bath and wash your hair as well.
  • If an allergic attack occurs, it is best to inhale steam. Breathing steam helps clear out the nasal passage and soothes the lining of the nose.
  • Drink peppermint tea, apple cider vinegar, green tea, ghee, or local honey (if you are not allergic to bee or pollen).

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Apis mellifica, arsenic album, natrum mur, and Sulphur are the top homeopathic remedies recommended for a dust allergy.

An anti-allergic diet is also used to control symptoms. A diet containing healthy fats and oils, onions, raw honey, and spices are suggested for controlling this allergy.

Herbal remedies and acupuncture also used reduce the impact of symptoms.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with a dust allergy.

  • Washing or cleaning bedding and linens weekly removes dust mites and reduces allergic reactions.
  • Using a dehumidifier at home helps reduce the humidity below 50%, thus preventing the growth of dust mites.
  • Vacuuming regularly removes dust and debris from the furnishings and carpet.
  • Avoiding collection of dust inside the house keeps dust  off.

9 Risks and Complications

If an individual has a dust allergy, further exposure to dust and debris can worsen the allergy and lead to certain complications, including:

  • Asthma: This is a very common problem encountered by individuals with allergies. Individuals who are allergic to dust and also have asthma have a difficult time managing the symptoms of asthma. In certain cases, when the symptoms worsen, it can lead to severe asthma, which would need immediate medical attention.
  • Sinusitis: Ongoing or chronic inflammation of the nasal passage tissues due to a dust allergy can lead to obstruction of the sinuses (the hollow cavities connected to the nasal passages). These obstructions tend to worsen or make one prone to developing a sinus infection, called sinusitis.
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