Dust mite allergy
Dust mite allergy
Dust mite allergy is an allergic reaction to tiny bugs that commonly live in house dust. Signs of dust mite allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Many people with dust mite allergy also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Dust mites, relatives of the spider, are too small to see without a microscope. Dust mites eat skin cells shed by people, and they thrive in warm, humid environments. In most homes, bedding, upholstered furniture and carpeting provide an ideal environment for dust mites.
Steps to reduce the number of dust mites in your home can often control dust mite allergy. Medications or other treatments may be necessary to relieve symptoms and manage asthma.
Dust mite allergy symptoms caused by inflammation of nasal passages include:
If your dust mite allergy contributes to asthma, you may also experience:
A dust mite allergy can range from mild to severe. A mild case of dust mite allergy may cause an occasional runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing. In severe cases, the condition may be ongoing, or chronic, resulting in persistent sneezing, cough, congestion, facial pressure or severe asthma attack.
When to see a doctor
If your signs and symptoms are severe — such as severe nasal congestion, difficulty sleeping or wheezing — call your doctor. Seek emergency care if wheezing or shortness of breath rapidly worsens or if you are short of breath with minimal activity.
Dust mites eat skin cells people shed, and rather than drinking water, they absorb water from humidity in the atmosphere. They thrive in temperatures around 70 F (21 C) and a relative humidity around 70 percent.
House dust is easily trapped in the fibers of bed linens, furniture cushions and carpeting. These materials also hold moisture well. Consequently, bedrooms are ideal habitats for dust mites.
Dust also contains the feces and decaying bodies of dust mites, and it's the proteins present in this dust mite "debris" that's the culprit in dust mite allergy.
What causes the allergic reaction
Your immune system produces proteins known as antibodies. Some of these antibodies protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify your particular allergen as something harmful, even though it isn't. When you inhale the allergen or come into contact with it, your immune system responds and produces an inflammatory response in your nasal passages or lungs. Prolonged or regular exposure to the allergen can cause the ongoing (chronic) inflammation associated with asthma.
The common dust mite is shown magnified approximately 2,000 times in this image. A protein present in the feces and decaying bodies of dust mites is the source of dust mite allergy. ...
The following factors increase your risk of developing a dust mite allergy:
Preparing for your appointment
If you're experiencing runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath or other symptoms that may be related to an allergy, you'll probably start by seeing your family doctor or general practitioner. Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. For symptoms that may be related to dust mite allergy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Issues for people with asthma
The impact of a pollen allergy may be noticeable because the allergy is seasonal. For example, you may have more difficulty managing your asthma for a short time during the summer. Dust mite allergy, on the other hand, is due to something to which you're constantly exposed to some degree. Therefore, you may not recognize it as a factor complicating your asthma when, in fact, it may be a primary cause.
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may suspect dust mite allergy based on symptoms, an examination of your nose and your answers to his or her questions.
He or she may use a lighted, instrument to look at the condition of the lining of your nose. If you have an allergy to something airborne, the lining of the nasal passage will be swollen and may appear pale or bluish.
Your doctor may suspect a dust mite allergy, based on your comments. For example, if your symptoms are worse when you go to bed or while cleaning — when dust mite allergens would be temporarily airborne — you may have dust mite allergy.
If you have a pet — another common source of allergies — it may be more difficult to determine the cause of the allergy, particularly if your pet sleeps in your bedroom. The source of your allergy may be clearer after you take steps to reduce levels of the possible allergens from your home.
Allergy skin test
In this test, tiny drops of purified allergen extracts — including an extract for dust mites — are pricked onto your skin's surface. This is usually carried out on the forearm, but it may be done on the upper back.
The drops are left on your skin for 15 minutes before your doctor or nurse observes your skin for signs of allergic reactions. If you're allergic to dust mites, you'll develop a red, itchy bump where the dust mite extract was pricked onto your skin. The most common side effects of these skin tests are itching and redness. These side effects usually go away within 30 minutes.
Treatments and drugs
The first treatment for controlling dust mite allergy is avoiding dust mites as much as possible. When you minimize your exposure to dust mites, you should expect to have allergic reactions that are less often or less severe. However, it's impossible to completely eliminate dust mites from your environment. You may also need medications to control symptoms.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Avoiding exposure to dust mites is the best strategy for controlling dust mite allergy. While you can't completely eliminate dust mites from your home, you can significantly reduce their number. Use these suggestions:
Last Updated: 2010-11-05
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