A dust mite allergy causes your immune system to react to proteins found in dust mites. Symptoms include congestion, watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing. Treatment includes medications and avoiding dust mites.
A dust mite allergy is an allergic reaction to dust mites. Dust mites are tiny, eight-legged relatives of spiders. They’re too small to see with your eyes. An allergic reaction is your body’s response to an allergen.
Dust mites live on bedding, mattresses, carpets, curtains and upholstered (fabric). They feed on the dead skin cells that you and your pets shed.
Dust mites have proteins in their feces (poop) and dead bodies. Usually, these substances — called allergens — are harmless. However, your immune system views them as harmful “invaders,” like bacteria or viruses, and responds to get them out of your body.
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Anyone can have a dust mite allergy.
You’re more likely to develop a dust mite allergy if you have asthma, eczema, hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or a biological family history of atopy. Atopy is a genetic (inherited) likelihood to develop allergies.
Dust mite allergies are common. Approximately 20 million people in the United States have a dust mite allergy.
If you have a dust mite allergy, the first time you encounter dust mite proteins, your body responds by creating immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is antibodies that your immune system makes to “attack” allergens, even though these allergens might not be harmful. Once you encounter dust mite proteins again, your immune system has a greater response. This response causes allergy symptoms.
Dust mite allergy symptoms include:
You may confuse a dust mite allergy with upper respiratory viral illnesses, such as influenza (flu) and the common cold. If you’re not sure whether your symptoms result from a dust mite allergy or an illness, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine the cause of your symptoms.
No, a dust mite allergy isn’t contagious. You can’t spread a dust mite allergy to another person.
If you have dust mite allergy symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your healthcare provider. They may refer you to an allergist. An allergist is a healthcare provider who specializes in allergies. They can help diagnose your dust mite allergy through tests.
Before conducting dust mite allergy tests, they may ask you questions, including:
Your healthcare provider may use different allergy tests to help diagnose a dust mite allergy. These tests may include:
This test exposes your body to small amounts of dust mite proteins.
Your healthcare provider will first clean a test area of your skin with iodine or alcohol. The test area is usually on your forearm or upper back.
Your allergist will use a thin needle (lancet) to prick the surface of your skin with dust mite proteins. The lancet won’t go deep into your skin. You’ll only feel a tiny pinch, and you won’t bleed.
Allergists may place droplets of dust mite allergens on your skin. They then use a lancet to scratch your skin lightly. The droplets will enter your skin through the scratch. You’ll only feel slight discomfort, and you won’t bleed.
Allergic reactions typically occur within 15 minutes of exposure to dust mite proteins. Reactions may include skin discoloration (red, gray or white) or raised, round spots called wheals that look like bug bites.
Your allergist will measure the size of your wheal and flare (discolored area of skin around the wheal). The size helps determine if you are sensitive to dust mite allergens.
A skin prick test takes less than an hour.
During a blood test, your healthcare provider will use a thin needle (21 gauge, slightly smaller than the size of a standard earring) to withdraw a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. The blood sample goes to a laboratory. The lab adds dust mite proteins to your blood sample and measures the levels of IgE antibodies in it. High levels of IgE antibodies indicate a dust mite allergy.
It may take a week or longer to get the results from a blood test sent to a lab.
You can’t stop being allergic to dust mites or cure dust mite allergies. However, your healthcare provider can help treat your dust mite allergy symptoms.
Your healthcare provider may recommend or prescribe medications to treat your dust mite allergy symptoms. These include:
Once you’re no longer around dust mite allergens, your symptoms usually go away after a few hours. If you have severe dust mite allergies, your symptoms may last for several days.
The following tips can help reduce dust mite exposure in your home:
You can’t cure a dust mite allergy. However, you can control the symptoms by avoiding dust mite allergens and taking medications.
See your healthcare provider if you regularly have dust mite allergy symptoms, especially if they affect your day-to-day quality of life.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A dust mite allergy can be frustrating. If you have a dust mite allergy, your immune system thinks dust mite proteins are harmful invaders. It tries to get them out of your body by releasing histamine, which causes dust mite allergy symptoms. You might have symptoms until you reduce or get rid of dust mites.
If you have dust mite allergy symptoms, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can conduct tests to determine if dust mites are causing your symptoms. They can also recommend or prescribe medications to improve control over your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/03/2022.
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