For creatures you can't even see, dust mites can stir up a lot of trouble. About 20 million Americans are allergic to these little bugs. When you're one of these people, you may feel as if you have an endless cold or even asthma. Medication can help, and you can also take simple steps to keep the dust mites away.
Dust allergy symptoms
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Red, itchy or teary eyes
- Wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath
Dust allergy triggers
- Dust mites. Dust mites—sometimes called bed mites—are the most common cause of allergy from house dust. Dust mites live and multiply easily in warm, humid places. They prefer temperatures at or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 75 to 80 percent. They die when the humidity falls below 50 percent. They are not usually found in dry climates.Dust mite particles are often found in pillows, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They float into the air when anyone vacuums, walks on a carpet or disturbs bedding and they settle once the disturbance is over.Dust mites are a common cause of asthma in children.A house does not need to be visibly dirty to trigger a dust mite allergy reaction. The particles are too tiny to be seen and often cannot be removed using normal cleaning procedures. In fact, a vigorous cleaning can make an allergic person’s symptoms worse.
- Cockroaches. Cockroaches live in all types of buildings and neighborhoods. Some people develop allergy symptoms when they are around cockroaches. Tiny particles from the cockroach are a common component of household dust and may be the true cause of a dust allergy.
- Mold. Mold is a fungus that makes spores that float in the air. When people with a mold allergy inhale the spores, they get allergy symptoms. There are many different kinds of mold—some kinds you can see, others you can’t.Molds live everywhere—on logs and on fallen leaves, and in moist places like bathrooms and kitchens. Tiny mold particles and spores are a common component of household dust and may be the true cause of a dust allergy.
- Pollen. Pollen comes from trees, grasses, flowers and weeds. People can be allergic to different types of pollen. For instance, some people are allergic to pollen from only beech trees; others are allergic to pollen from only certain kinds of grasses. Pollen is a common component of household dust and may be the true cause of a dust allergy.
- Animal hair, fur and feathers. Pets can cause problems for allergic patients in several ways. Their dander (skin flakes), saliva and urine can cause an allergic reaction, especially when combined with household dust. In households with birds, feathers and bird droppings can also become embedded in household dust and cause problems for people who are allergic to them.
Dust Allergy Management and Treatment
- Make changes to your home and to your behavior.
- Remove wall-to-wall carpets, particularly in the bedroom.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom, and preferably out of the house.
- Minimize household humidity.
- Use “mite-proof” cases on mattresses and pillows; wash bed linens frequently in hot water.
- Install a high-efficiency media filter in your furnace and air conditioning unit.
If you think you may have an allergy to any of the components of house dust, see an allergist. To pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, the allergist will ask detailed questions about your work and home environments, family medical history, frequency and severity of symptoms and exposure to pets and other possible triggers.