Allergy to Dust Mites

 

Photo of african american woman lying in bed and sleeping,
Dust mites are tiny insects that live in mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture – anywhere they can find moisture along with their favorite food, tiny bits of shed human skin. Dust mites are invisible to the naked eye. You can fit about 50 on the head of a pin. They thrive and multiply fast in warm, humid environments. Dust mites are not “bed bugs.” Dust mites do not bite.

How do dust mites cause allergies?

Allergens from dust mite droppings and dead bodies collect in bedding, furnishings and dust, then irritate airways and eyes on contact.

What are symptoms of a dust mite allergy?

Dust mites are a common cause of:

  • itchy eyes,
  • scratchy throats,
  • runny nose and
  • other allergy symptoms

Dust mites are also a potent trigger of asthma.

photo of a dust mite

How do you manage a dust mite allergy?

  • Reduce humidity in your home between 30% to 50% or lower, as dust mites need moisture to survive and reproduce.
  • Cover your mattress, box spring and pillows with dust-mite-proof encasings, to keep dust mites and their allergens out of your airways while you sleep. Allergy supply companies sell comfortable fabric-textured covers that the dust mites and their tiny allergens cannot penetrate.
  • Wash all of your bed linens weekly in hot water to remove dust mites and their allergens. Cold water will not kill dust mites.
  • Keep household dust down by vacuuming regularly with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter or bag that traps dust mite and other allergens.
  • Replace dust collectors like carpets, drapes, and upholstered furniture with washable floors and furnishings. Focus on the rooms where you spend the most time – bedroom and family room.
  • Keep dolls and toys to a minimum in the bedroom and choose stuffed animals that can be washed in hot water. Putting stuffed animals in the dryer or in plastic bags in the freezer overnight will kill the dust mites, but will not remove their residue, which is a major part of the problem.

How do you treat a dust mite allergy?

Dust mite allergy can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants or antihistamines to treat the symptoms of the runny nose and itching. Nasal sprays can also be used to treat the nasal congestion often seen with this allergy. Before starting any medication, consult with your doctor or allergist.

Immunotherapy, or desensitization, is designed to make your body less reactive or allergic to an allergen over time. There are two options for dust mite immunotherapy:

  • allergy shots
  • oral immunotherapy in pill form

Allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy)

With allergy shots, you get a weekly injection of dust mite allergen in your allergist office for about 6-8 months. By getting increasing doses, it makes your immune system more tolerant over time. Thus, you experience fewer reactions. After this buildup phase, you have to get a shot just once a month for the next 2-3 years. This allows you to maintain your immunity to dust mites.

If you’re fearful of injections or you don’t have time to come into your doctor’s office frequently, allergy shots can be burdensome.

Allergy tablets (oral allergen immunotherapy)

Similar to allergy shots, oral tablets provide increasing doses of dust mite allergen that make your body less allergic over time. You take the first dose in the doctor’s office to be sure you don’t have a severe reaction and that you’re safe. After that, you can take the tablets at home every day.

You need to have epinephrine auto-injectors at home in case you need treatment for a severe reaction.

Keep in mind that, with allergy tablets, if you have severe or uncontrolled asthma, you are not eligible to take the oral tablet. Also, if you are allergic to multiple allergens, such as pollen, mold and pet dander, oral tablets may not be the best option since they can only treat one allergen. Allergy shots are able to treat multiple allergens at once.

One important thing to remember about the oral tablet is you need to be diligent about taking it on a daily basis. If you happen to miss too many days in a row, you need to contact your doctor because it can be dangerous to restart immunotherapy on your own.

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