Dust mites are eight-legged microscopic organisms resembling spiders and ticks. They flourish in warm, moist habitats. In most homes, various items like bedding, carpeting, and upholstered furniture provide an ideal environment for dust mites.
These feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily. They are considered to be the most common trigger of allergies and asthma. Dust mites also have cross-reactivity with other allergens, leading to various food allergies as well.
Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms
A dust mite allergy ranges from mild to severe forms. In the case of milder forms of allergy, the patient experiences a rare running nose, watery secretion from the eyes, and sneezing. In severe cases, the condition may be long-standing and chronic, which results in constant sneezing, cough, nasal congestion, facial pressure, an eczema flare-up, or severe asthma attack.
Apart from that, dust mite allergy symptoms caused due to inflammation of nasal passages include:
Cold followed by sneezing
Itching, redness, or fluid secretion from eyes
Congestion in the nose
Itching at the top of mouth or throat area
Pressure on the entire area of the face and pain
Swelling of the skin surface under the eyes
In children, constant rubbing and scratching of the nasal passages.
If the dust mite allergy adds to asthma, the patient may also experience the following:
Dyspnoea with tightness or pain around the chest region
A loud and audible whistling or wheezing sound while exhaling
Disturbed sleep is mainly caused by dyspnoea, regular coughing or wheezing
Intermittent episodes of coughing or wheezing that worsens by a respiratory virus such as a flu or a cold.
Causes of Dust Allergies
Allergies occur when the immune system comes in contact with foreign substances like pollen or dust mites and reacts accordingly. The immune system identifies the particular allergen as something harmful. It gives rise to antibodies that help to protect individuals from undesired and outer intruders that can cause an infection and make people sick.
The immune system fabricates an inflammatory response in the nasal passages or lungs after contact with allergens. Prolonged or frequent exposure to the allergen can cause the ongoing chronic inflammation associated with asthma. Dust also contains the faeces and decomposed bodies of dust mites called "debris", and it's the proteins present in this dust mite that are the culprit in allergy due to dust mites.
Dust Mite Allergy Diagnosis
The doctor may suspect dust mite allergy based on symptoms and the answers to questions about the home. The doctor can suspect a dust mite allergy if the symptoms worsen while going to bed or cleaning the bedsheets or carpets/mats in the house.
Dust mite allergens are temporarily airborne. If people have a pet at home, it may be even more challenging to establish the reason behind the allergy, particularly if the pet sleeps in the bedroom with the person.
Allergy skin test - The doctor recommends an allergy skin test to decide what type of allergen is involved. The patient is referred to an allergy specialist (allergist). Small amounts of purified allergen extracts (including an extract of dust mites) are inserted into the surface of the skin. This is usually performed on the forearm, considered the most common site, but it may also be carried out on the upper back area.
The doctor or nurse observes the skin for any possible signs of allergic reactions after 15 to 20 minutes. If the patient is allergic to dust mites, they will develop a red, itchy patch where the dust mite extract was injected. These skin tests' most usual side effects include itching and redness. These side effects usually subside within half an hour.
Allergy blood test- Some people can't undergo an allergy skin test because they have a skin condition or consume certain medications that can alter the results. To overcome this hurdle, the doctor may recommend a blood test that provides screening for specific allergy-causing antibodies to several familiar allergens, including dust mites. This test may also reveal how sensitive individuals are to an allergen.
Dust Mite Allergy Treatment
The most potent way to treat dust mite allergies is to eradicate as many dust mites as possible from the home and nearby surroundings.
Doctors may also advise certain medications to reduce the symptoms of dust mite allergies. Doctors prescribe the following:
Antihistamines to resolve sneezing, running and congested nose, and itching
Nasal corticosteroids to lessen the swelling in the nose and prevent allergic reactions from taking place
Leukotriene antagonists, pills to improve the symptoms of both allergy and asthma
Decongestant pills and fluids
Nasal spray with a saline solution can clear out the nose and sinuses
Dust Mite Allergy Risk factors
The following factors increase the chances of establishing this condition:
Family history of allergies - Individuals are more prone to develop a sensitivity to dust mites if other family members have allergies.
Exposure to dust mites - Frequent contact with dust mites, especially in the early stages of life, increases the risk.
Being a child or a young adult - Individuals are more prone to develop a dust mite allergy during childhood or early adulthood.
Complications of Dust Mite Allergy
If an individual has a dust mite allergy, frequent exposure to the mites and their debris can cause certain complications.
Sinus infections - Chronic inflammation of tissues in the nasal cavity caused due to dust mite allergy can cause hindrance in the sinuses. These obstructions, if they persist for long periods, result in sinusitis (infections of the sinuses).
Asthma - People with asthma and dust mite allergy often have difficulty managing asthma symptoms. The individuals may be at risk of asthma attacks that require immediate medical treatment or emergency care.
Dust mites cannot be fully eradicated from the home and nearby surroundings. However, they can be reduced to a great extent. Reducing dust mites in the house can eliminate or lessen dust mite allergies.
The following activities can help reduce dust mites in the home:
Get rid of fabric curtains, carpeting, and upholstered furniture in bedrooms that give rise to dust mites.
Only use a damp towel or rag to remove dust. Dry clothes often instigate dust mite allergens.
While vacuuming, the use of a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter to trap allergens is recommended. Wearing a mask while vacuuming is necessary, as allergies often worsen after vacuuming when the dust is stirred up.
Use a HEPA filter on the furnace.
Maintain humidity of 50% or below through the use of a dehumidifier or air conditioner
Use dust-proof mattresses and pillow covers.
Wash bedding and blankets in water over 130 degrees at least once a week.
Freeze fabrics overnight that cannot be washed.
Use synthetic bedding instead or organic wool and feathered materials.
Wash stuffed animals, other fabric toys, and decorations that hold dust regularly.