Dust mites are tiny organisms that consume airborne moisture and dust. Many people have sensitivities to dust mites, and these allergic reactions may cause health issues throughout the year.
A dust mite allergy may cause standard allergic rhinitis symptoms, or people may experience eczema or asthmatic symptoms as a result of dust mites in their own homes or in other people’s homes. Because cleaning disrupts dust particles, someone with a dust mite allergy will often experience worsened symptoms during or immediately after cleaning.
People can help protect themselves from dust allergies by keeping their homes as dust-free as possible (by cleaning often) and by protecting their bedding with encasement mattress protectors and pillow protectors. For more about dust allergies, including treatment and prevention options, check out our guide below.
Dust Allergy Symptoms
- Red, itchy, or watery eyes
- Congestion or runny nose
- Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or tightness in the chest
- Itching and rash
Dust Allergy Triggers
- Dust mites
- Pet hair, fur, feathers, and dander
Dust Mite Allergy Management And Treatment
Managing a dust mite allergy involves changing behavior and the home environment:
- Remove wall-to-wall carpeting and fabric window coverings, especially in bedrooms.
- Keep pets out of sleeping areas or remove them from the home altogether.
- Keep the household humidity level lower than 50 percent.
- Encase every mattress and bed pillow in a mite-proof case.
- Wash bed linens often in hot water.
- Wear a dust mask during cleaning.
Seek out an allergist for help with diagnosis of symptoms, to identify triggers, and for assistance with treatment options.
- Dust mites are the most common allergen connected to house dust. These mites live and flourish in environments that are warm and humid, especially when temperatures are 70 degrees Fahrenheit or more with humidity levels of 75 percent or more. If the humidity level is below 50 percent, dust mites will die. Thus, they do not live in dry climates. Particles from dust mites will collect in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpeting. During disturbances such as vacuuming or shaking out bedding, dust mites become airborne. Then they settle back onto surfaces. Even homes that appear clean can have dust mites that will trigger an allergic reaction. Typical cleaning procedures are often not effective for removing dust mites because they are so small.
- Cockroaches live in all types of environments. People who live among cockroaches could develop allergies to the tiny particles that cockroaches release. These particles tend to mix with household dust.
- Mold is found everywhere, especially in moist areas of the home such as bathrooms and kitchens. Mold is an airborne fungus that can cause an allergic reaction. Mold may also mix with household dust. A person with a mold allergy will experience symptoms upon inhalation of mold spores. Some mold is easily visible, while other types of mold are invisible.
- Trees, grasses, weeds, and flowers emit pollen into the atmosphere. Some people have allergies to specific types of pollen. Pollen may also mix with household dust.
- Pet hair, feathers, and fur may be the source of allergic reactions for some people. Pet dander, urine, and saliva are common allergens, and they may also mix with household dust, making allergic reactions worse.
Management Of Dust Allergies
An allergy to house dust may require treatment from an allergist. The allergist will ask questions about living and working environments, medical history, symptoms, and triggers to determine the cause of the symptoms. An allergist can also perform skin tests to diagnose triggers. These tests involve pricking the skin with a sterile probe containing extracts from allergens such as dust, pollen, or pet dander. Someone with an allergy will have a reaction with a raised welt and redness. After identifying a dust allergy, the allergist may recommend medication, allergy shots, and/or changes to the household environment and daily routine.
Managing a dust allergy involves avoiding triggers that will cause a reaction. Follow these steps to reduce exposure to dust:
- Choose hard flooring instead of carpeting, especially in sleeping areas.
- Clean regularly using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Wear a dust mask while cleaning and for about two hours after cleaning to allow particles to settle.
- Encase every mattress and pillow with a mite-proof case. Wash linens often in hot water.
- Use a HEPA air cleaner in the bedroom.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom.
- Keep the kitchen clean, covering all food and disposing of food waste in a sealed garbage can.
- Use roach traps or hire a professional pest service to control cockroaches.
- Install a high-efficiency filter on both the furnace and air conditioner. Use the fan on an HVAC system continually to filter the air and remove particulates. Change the filter every three months. Have HVAC units inspected and serviced twice a year.
- Measure humidity levels in the home with a hygrometer. Keep the humidity level below 55 percent, and use a dehumidifier if necessary. Remove moisture from bathrooms and kitchens with a vented fan. Repair water leaks promptly.
If environmental adjustments do not provide relief, an allergist may suggest a prescription or over-the-counter medication. Many people find relief with decongestants or antihistamines. Corticosteroid sprays can reduce nasal inflammation. Allergy shots help increase tolerance to allergens. Oral immunotherapy is a treatment option that involves dissolving tablets under the tongue. An allergist will determine the best medication to treat symptoms and the correct dosage.
- Dust Mites: Dust mites like to eat the human skin scales that people shed on carpets, bedding, and furniture.
- House Dust Mites: Dust mites are related to spiders, chiggers, and ticks.
- Room-by-Room Checklist for Allergy Cleanup (PDF): Dusting frequently with a damp cloth will help remove dust mites from the home.
- Ten Tips to Tackle Winter Allergies: Mold spores can cause allergic reactions, especially during the winter months when homes are enclosed and moisture levels are high.
- Managing Dust Mites (PDF): Two different species of dust mites live in North America.
- Instruction Sheet: Allergies (PDF): An allergic reaction to a substance is caused because the body overreacts with symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.
- Cleaning to Control Allergies and Asthma (PDF): Set a cleaning schedule to reduce environmental triggers, washing bedding, wiping window sills, mopping floors, and dusting regularly.
- All About Allergies: The immune system considers an allergen to be a toxic invader, releasing chemicals designed to defend the body against the perceived threat.
- Dust Mites Can Cause Asthma: Asthma can be an allergic reaction to dust mites that exist in bedding, furniture, or carpets of a home.
- Dust Control Guidelines: Vacuuming and Door Mats (PDF): Using door mats at every entrance can be an effective way to minimize the amount of dirt that enters a home.
- House Dust Mite: Each female dust mite can lay up to 50 eggs that will hatch and become mature dust mites within three weeks.
- Asthma and Allergies (PDF): Pollen is usually the worst during the spring and the fall, making it important to keep the windows closed during these seasons.
- Allergic Rhinitis (PDF): Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include itchy eyes and throat, puffy eyes, runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, and sneezing.
- Allergies: What Causes Them, and What You Can Do: Allergies can impact up to 20 percent of the total population to some degree.
- Dust Mite Allergy: Dust mites live on every continent except Antarctica. They thrive in warm and humid environments.
Featured Image: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock
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