Dust Mite Allergies

Overview

What are dust mites?

Dust mites are eight-legged microscopic relatives of the spider, too small to see with your eyes. These tiny mites live on bedding, mattresses, carpets, curtains and upholstered furniture. They are the most common trigger of allergies and asthma.

Dust mites feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily. Dust mites are on every continent except Antarctica.

What are dust mites allergies?

Dust mites are the most common trigger of allergies and asthma. An allergen is a substance that cause your body to react with an immune system response, such as sneezing, stuffy nose, coughing and wheezing.

Who is allergic to dust mites?

Anyone can be allergic to dust mites. Individuals with asthma have a higher risk of being allergic to dust mites. Those with a family history of allergies also have a stronger risk of being allergic to dust mites.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of dust mite allergies?

Symptoms of dust mite allergies include the following. These symptoms can be signs of many allergies and conditions. You should see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms for an extended period of time:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy nose, mouth or throat
  • Postnasal mucus drip
  • Coughing
  • Asthma symptoms that get worse, including difficulty breathing, chest tightening, and/or a whistling sound while breathing out

Diagnosis and Tests

How are dust mite allergies diagnosed?

If your healthcare provider feels you might have a dust mite allergy, he or she may do the following tests to diagnose your condition:

Skin prick test: A small drop containing dust mite proteins is placed on your skin. If you are allergic, you will develop redness, swelling and itching at the test site within 15 minutes.

Specific IgE blood test: Your healthcare provider may order blood work that can be evaluated to determine if you have an allergy to dust mites.

Management and Treatment

How are dust mite allergies treated?

The most effective way to treat dust mite allergies is to eliminate as many dust mites as possible from your home.

Your healthcare provider may also recommend medicine to lessen the symptoms of your dust mite allergies. You may be prescribed:

  • Antihistamines to relieve sneezing, runny and stuffed nose, and itching in the nose and eyes
  • Nasal corticosteroids to reduce swelling in your nose and block allergic reactions
  • Cromolyn sodium nose spray to block the release of chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, including histamine and leukotrienes
  • Leukotriene antagonists, pills which can improve both allergy and asthma symptoms
  • Decongestant pills, liquids
  • Allergy shots
  • Dust mite sublingual immunotherapy in which tablets of dust mite purified protein are placed under the tongue, which may prevent and decrease symptoms of dust mite allergies

Prevention

Can dust mite allergies be prevented?

Dust mites cannot be completely eliminated from your home. However, they can be reduced. Reducing dust mites in your house can eliminate or lessen dust mite allergies.

How can dust mites be reduced?

The following practices can help reduce dust mites in your home:

  • Remove fabric curtains, carpeting and upholstered furniture in bedrooms – anything that can store dust mites.
  • Only use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. Dry cloths stir up mite allergens.
  • When vacuuming, use a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter to trap allergens. Wear a mask while vacuuming, as allergies often worsen after vacuuming when dust is stirred up.
  • Use a HEPA filter on your furnace.
  • Maintain humidity of 50% or below through the use of a dehumidifier or air conditioner
  • Use dust proof mattress 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 and other fabric toys and decorations that hold dust regularly.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/25/2018.

References

  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Accessed 2/22/2018. Dust Mite Allergy. (http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx)
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Accessed 2/22/2018. Dust Mites. (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/allergens/dustmites/index.cfm)
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Accessed 2/22/2018Dust Allergy. (http://acaai.org/allergies/types/dust-allergy). (http://acaai.org/allergies/types/dust-allergy)

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