Talk about allergies, and 8 out of 10 times, people would point the finger at pollen. While pollen allergy can cause severe symptoms, it will surprise you that it is not as widespread as dust allergy (dust mite allergy).
So what exactly is dust allergy, why is it so widespread, what are its causes and symptoms, and how does it compare with every other airborne allergy? Continue reading to find these out and more.
What Is Dust Allergy?
Dust allergy is sensitivity to microscopic arachnids (belonging to the spider family) that can be found in house dust. These bug-like creatures can be found anywhere in your home, especially in the living room, surviving on flakes of dead human skin, with about 1.5 grams conveniently feeding over one million dust mites.
In suitable conditions of 68 – 77°F ( 20 – 25°C) and humidity levels between 70 and 80%, female dust mites thrive and can produce 100 eggs during their two – four-month life cycle, depending on the species.
The result is an explosion of dust mite allergens in your home, one that causes sensitivity to half the number of people living with allergies. It does not get any better when you consider that 20 million Americans have a dust mite allergy.
But is dust mite accounting for 70% of all respiratory allergies that bad or are these stats grossly exaggerated? Let’s find out how it stacks up with other airborne allergens.
How It Compares to Other Airborne Allergens
We have already established that dust mite allergy is an airborne allergy, but it is not alone. There are others, and they are listed below:
1. Pollen Allergen
Also known as hay fever, it is one of the more common allergens in the United States. It triggers an allergic reaction when pollen, a yellow granular substance produced by flowering plants to fertilize other plants of the same specie, enters the airway.
While pollen is produced outside your house, it can quickly become an indoor allergen as it can be carried by the wind, insects, and even your pets.
You would expect pollen allergens to be more commonplace than the dust mite allergen, but this is largely untrue, except in places with trees, grass, and weed releasing pollen in different seasons all year round.
This is because while many plants produce pollen, it remains largely outdoors and only becomes an indoor allergen when tracked into your home.
2. Pet Dander Allergen
Pet allergy is an allergic reaction to harmless proteins in the dander (shed skin cells), saliva, and urine of furry animals. The microscopic jagged shape of the dander means it stays airborne for long periods and can easily be caught in furniture and bedding.
Pet allergies are common, with three in five American households having pets, with over 150 million cats and dogs. But with two out of five homes not having pets and a relatively smaller 33% of Americans living with pet allergies, it becomes immediately apparent that dust mite allergens are a bigger menace.
3. Fungal Spores
Fungus (pl. fungi) is a eukaryote with mushrooms and yeast being members of the same family. There are millions of fungus species, but only a handful, about a hundred, can cause allergic reactions, with mold being the most popular allergy-causing fungus.
About mold, it can grow indoors and outdoors, pretty much any and everywhere, with the right conditions, dampness, and high moisture levels. It reproduces by producing spores that travel through the air and can cause allergic reactions when inhaled by people living with mold allergy.
The following are some common mold species that can trigger an allergic reaction:
The following are factors that increase the likelihood of dust allergy:
Child or Young Adult
You are more likely to develop dust mite allergy or experience allergic reactions when exposed to dust mites as a young adult or a child.
The Family Has a History of Dust or Other Allergies
If members of your family show sensitivities to dust mites or other allergens, you are very likely to follow suit.
Exposure to Dust Mites
Sometimes the trigger can be exposure to very high levels of dust mites. The higher the level, the more likely you are to become allergic to dust mites.
Complications of Dust Allergy
We know what causes dust mite allergy, how commonplace it is, and its potential triggers. But how bad can it get for people living with dust allergy? Let’s find out.
It can negatively affect the quality of life of people living with asthma and dust allergy. Dust mites can cause asthma flare-ups to be more frequent.
In cases where asthma is induced by exposure to dust mites, it can cause damage to the lung muscle and the cells at a genetic level.
2. Sinus Infections
Reaction to dust mites can cause the tissues in your nasal passages to become inflamed, obstructing the hollow cavities connected to your nasal passages called sinuses. These inflations can cause your sinuses to become infected, a condition known as sinusitis.
What Are the Symptoms of Dust Allergy?
The symptoms of dust mite allergy can range anywhere from severe to mild. They include but are not limited to the following:
- Itchy nose, mouth, throat, and skin
- Runny or itchy nose
- Postnasal drip
- Scratchy throat
- Trouble sleeping
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes
- Swollen eyes
If you are living with asthma, a dust mite allergy might trigger the following symptoms:
- Breathing difficulty
- Shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing
- Talking difficulty
- Tightness and chest pain
- Severe asthma
How to Test for Dust Allergy
To avoid confusing dust allergy symptoms with other respiratory illnesses or if your symptoms worsen, you would need one of these tests for proper diagnosis.
Skin Prick Test
The test aims to expose your body to trace amounts of the allergen, dust mites in this case. The first step would be to prepare the patch of skin, usually the forearm or the upper back, by cleaning it with alcohol or iodine.
Your healthcare provider would then proceed to prick your skin with a thin needle, not deep enough to cause a bleed, or they might place the allergen on your skin before pricking it with the needle.
It typically takes 15 minutes to half an hour for allergic reactions to occur after exposure to the dust mite proteins. These reactions could be round spots resembling bug bites called wheals or skin discoloration. The size of the wheal and skin discoloration would inform your level of sensitivity to the dust allergen.
Blood (IgE) test
With a thin needle, your healthcare provider would draw some blood from your veins to run a test in the laboratory. The test sees a laboratory technician add dust mite proteins to your blood sample and then measure the amount of IgE antibodies with high levels indicating a dust mite allergy.
How Can You Manage Dust Allergy?
There is no way to completely rid yourself of a dust allergy; the only way is to manage its symptoms or prevent an allergic reaction.
Antihistamine Nasal Sprays
You spray these into your nostrils to block histamine. This is because histamine is produced by your allergy cells, and it causes a runny nose, itching, and sneezing.
These take 4 to 6 weeks before you feel the effect as it helps reduce allergy symptoms.
These work the same way as the spray to block histamine. The only difference is that they are administered orally.
This can be administered nasally or orally, providing short-term, temporary relief for stuffy, runny nose. This should not be considered a short-term fix.
Dust Mite Sublingual Immunotherapy
This involves training your body to develop a tolerance to the allergen by placing a prescribed dosage of the allergen under your tongue daily. This is not a cure; it can take as long as half a year before you begin seeing results.
Invest in Quality Air Conditioners and Dehumidifiers
We already established earlier that dust mites thrive at a certain temperature range and humidity levels. The onus then falls on you to ensure that you make your home as inhabitable as possible for them. One way to achieve this is by controlling your home temperature and humidity with quality air conditioning and dehumidifying units.
A straightforward way to get results would be to vacuum your space often. This itself can be a problem for people living with dust allergy as it brings them in close proximity to the dust mite allergen. A passable solution would be to hire someone not dust-mite allergic to handle the vacuuming.
Respiray Wear A+
As exciting as air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and having someone vacuum might be as solutions, they can be unimpressive in sizable spaces as it takes long periods before their effects can be felt.
A straightforward workaround would be to have the Respiray Wear A+ around your neck when moving about your home. The device features innovative technology that creates a zone of clear air around your face, keeping dust mites and other airborne allergens at bay. And most importantly, Respiray Wear A+ has instant relief.
Cover Beddings, Pillows, and Mattresses With Dust Proof Covers
One way to reduce allergy symptoms and prevent them from being a daily occurrence is to use dust-proof bedding covers. These covers have tiny pores, making it very challenging for dust mites to make a home on your bed, pillows, or mattresses.
You can also get tips how to reduce allergens at home from our previous blog post.
In a Nutshell
Dust mite allergy is the most common airborne allergy and can devolve into asthma and sinus infections. It is essential to take preventive measures to keep the allergen away and proper treatment if you already show any of the symptoms listed above.