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- What are Dust Mites?
- What is a Dust Mite Allergy?
- Symptoms of Dust Mite Allergy
- Dust Mite Allergy Diagnosis
- Help for Dust Mite Allergies
What are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are microscopic insects that live and thrive in bedding, carpets and on furniture. They feed on the dead skin and hair cells of humans and pets. They don't carry disease directly, but their digestive enzymes carry a protein which is excreted with their feces that many people are allergic to. A single dust mite produces up to 20 droppings per day and there are, on average, 100,000 dust mites on a typical mattress.
What is a Dust Mite Allergy?
Allergies are triggered when people inhale the droppings and exoskeletons of dust mites, or when they inhale the dust mites themselves as they float through the air with house dust. In the US, it is estimated that at least 10% of the population has dust mite allergies. Infants that are exposed to dust mites will often develop a lifelong allergy.
Symptoms of Dust Mite Allergy
Symptoms of dust mite allergies include sneezing, itchy, red or watery eyes, congestion, itchy nose or throat, facial pressure and pain, postnasal drip and asthma symptoms like wheezing and coughing. Asthma symptoms may be worse at night due to dust mites in bedding. Dust mite allergies range from mild to severe. Severe allergies can result in chronic sinus inflammation and asthma.
Dust Mite Allergy Diagnosis
A dust mite allergy is often diagnosed based on symptoms and an examination of the nose. Airborne allergies cause the lining of the nasal passage to become swollen and change color. If symptoms are worse when cleaning or at night, it is highly likely that dust mites are the culprit.
For those who have pets, it can be difficult to distinguish a pet dander allergy from a dust mite allergy. Both can cause similar symptoms. In that case, the doctor may choose to perform a skin or blood allergy test to make a final diagnosis.
In skin tests, tiny amounts of allergen extracts are applied just under the skin. If an allergy is present, there will be a reaction on the skin within fifteen minutes. In cases where skin tests can't be performed, a blood test may be ordered to screen for various allergens. This test can also indicate your level of allergy sensitivity.
Help for Dust Mite Allergies
The best method for dealing with dust might allergies is to reduce exposure. Place airtight plastic covers on mattresses and pillows and wash bedding in hot water once a week. Vacuum carpets regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum or remove carpeting entirely. Hard wood floors are better for those with allergies. Keep the humidity level low in your home by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
Immunotherapy treatments, also known as allergy shots, may be an option for those with serious dust mite allergies. Antihistamine medications may also be prescribed for chronic sufferers.