Everything You Need to Know About Dust Mite Allergies

Dust mites! How can something as tiny as a dust mite cause such a huge problem?

It’s a fact. Dust mites can be a serious problem for people who are susceptible to allergies and to children who are in danger of developing life-long respiratory problems.

Thankfully, when it comes to combatting an army of dust mites there are steps you can take which will allow you and your family to live a happier, healthier life.

What Exactly Are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are very tiny insects, related to spiders and ticks, that can only be seen under a microscope. Unlike bedbugs, mites are too small to see with the naked eye. There could be thousands tucked in the corner of a couch and you would never know it by looking.

Technically, dust mites are arthropods, a hard-shelled animal with a segmented body, jointed legs and no internal spine. They measure only about 1/4 millimeter in size.

Mites might be microscopic but the havoc these spineless creatures cause is far from minuscule. Coughing, sneezing, sinus congestion, even sinus infections, are just a few of the miserable conditions that are caused by these little buggers.

Every home is a breeding ground for dust mites. They invade by the millions and are so small they can be almost everywhere without you realizing it.

Despite the multitudes and evasiveness of these little tormentors, the good news is that it is possible to get them under control so that your life and health are not plagued by them.

Why Are Dust Mites So Bad?

Dust mites feed off the dead skin of people and animals. People can shed over a gram of dead skin cells in one day. This can feed over a million dust mites in a single sitting. What’s worse, they can hydrate themselves using just the moisture in the air.

They can live by the millions in blankets, sofas, pet hair, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothing and a host of other places in the home where dead skin cells accumulate. Since they can live in fabric, they can travel with you from your home to your office or wherever else you go.

Dust in the home can contain the feces and decaying bodies of dead dust mites. Male dust mites live only 30 days while female mites can last for 90 days.  So, as you can see, your home can have a new supply of these dead buggers’ carcasses every month. (Ew. Seriously disgusting.)

This dirty biological material, as well as the live mites themselves, is what your body recognizes as dangerous to your health and then activates your immune system to get to work on your behalf.

According to Healthline, dust mites don’t bite human beings, but they can cause red and itchy rashes on your skin.

Once the dust mites invade a living being, an allergic reaction can result. The body tries desperately to expel them but can get overwhelmed at the number of mites or the continual invasion.

Although the symptoms can start off on the mild side, persistent irritation from dust mites can cause escalation of the problem when the body is continually trying to overcome their infiltration. As the problem persists, the body can develop a sensitivity or an intolerance to dust mites and the immune system battle against them grows more intense.

This can leave the human or animal victim suffering with continual hay fever or asthma symptoms. Your home – which should be a place of peace and rest – now becomes a battleground for health and comfort.

How Common Are Dust Mites?

I hate to say it, but dust mites are very common. The chance that you have dust mites in your home is very high.

Why Do Dust Mites Cause Problems?

The problem with dust mites is that they are extremely tiny and can be present in dust throughout your home. When that dust enters your body through your nose or mouth, they are regarded as foreign invaders and the body produces antibodies to fight them off.

Your immune system works overtime to fight the dust mites and the germs they bring with them. Part of your body’s defense mechanism involves inflammation in your lungs and nasal passages. This is why your throat starts to close. The symptoms you experience are designed by nature to trap and expel these invaders.

Coughing and sneezing are meant to send the dust mites back out into the air from whence they came. Mucus is designed to trap them before they can get further down the windpipe to infect the rest of the body. Your eyes itch and water because these bugs and germs do not belong in or around the eyes. The body is trying to wash them away.

Every symptom of dust mite allergy is designed to protect you – while at the same time they are making you absolutely miserable.

Dust Mite Allergies

What Members of Your Family Are Most Affected by Dust Mites?

Anyone prone to allergies will suffer the most from dust mites. People with allergies have already demonstrated a sensitivity to foreign particulates in the air.

If there is a history of allergies in your family, you are at a higher than average risk of developing allergies to dust mites.

Sadly, children can develop allergies for the first time by being exposed to dust mites. Their tender and developing lungs are fertile ground for foreign invaders of every kind. Prolonged exposure to dust mites can cause life-long sensitivities and allergies to these bugs. Therefore, if you have children or grandchildren in your home, you need to address and remedy the situation as soon as possible.

Those who spend the most time in the home are also prone to developing dust mite allergies. Family members who stay home most days or work at home receive the most exposure. Nevertheless, anyone who spends any time in the home can be affected. Allergies can develop in anyone, no matter how much overall time is spent inside the home. Even if a person is only home in the evenings. Sleeping for hours in a bed with dust mites can take its toll on even a relatively healthy person.

Most elderly people already have a certain degree of deterioration of their respiratory system either from smoking or decades of exposure to pollutants or chemicals. COPD, emphysema, asthma and other breathing difficulties common in senior citizens can be made worse when dust mites and the associated germs are inhaled. If an elderly person is already weakened from other serious illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease, developing a dust mite allergy could make a serious situation even worse.

What Symptoms Could Your Family Have That Indicate You Have A Dust Mite Allergy?

There is a long list of symptoms that are exhibited in people with dust mite sensitivities and allergies:

  • Sore and itchy eyes
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Itchy roof of the mouth or throat
  • Runny nose
  • Burning in the nose
  • Sore throat
  • Burning in the throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Inflammation of nasal passages
  • Postnasal drip
  • Persistent coughing
  • Headaches
  • Facial pressure and/or facial pain
  • Blue color and/or swollen area under the eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Children rubbing their nose, sometimes in an upward motion
  • Typical hay fever symptoms

Many of these symptoms mimic the common cold. But unlike the common cold, allergic reactions to dust mites do not go away in a week or two. They linger for as long as the dust mites exist in your environment, making your life miserable and leaving you feeling unwell or tired most of the time.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states that dust mites are a known asthma trigger.  If someone in your home has asthma, these are the physical symptoms that can be present:

  • Wheezing, usually audible when exhaling
  • Trouble sleeping due to wheezing noise and shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Tightness in the chest and/or throat
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing, sometimes severe

Symptoms can be worse when lying down. A good night’s rest may be impossible until your condition is made manageable.

Asthma attacks can get suddenly severe and life threatening. They can be scary for the person experiencing the attack and for those around them who are witnessing the asthmatic panicking while gasping for air.

Asthma can be managed with inhalers that contain albuterol or other bronchodilators. However, the best course of action is to remove any and all asthma triggers, such as dust mites, in the first place.

Unlike hay fever, which is commonly associated with spring, dust mite allergies can affect you year-round.  Symptoms can worsen during the hot, humid months since the dust mite population thrives in moist conditions.

What Types of Remedies Can Fight an Allergy to Dust Mites?

Until you are able to rid your home of dust mites, there are some immediate over-the-counter (OTC) remedies you can use, with the advice of your doctor, to lessen the uncomfortable symptoms that you or a family member is experiencing.

  • Antihistamines – These block the histamines produced during an allergic reaction.
  • Decongestants – To break up the mucus in your sinuses and throat
  • Prescription Drugs – Your doctor may offer you a prescription that alleviates your symptoms. If you suspect a sinus or throat infection, over-the-counter remedies will not clear it up; a trip to your doctor or clinic will be required. If considerable swelling is present, slowing the passage of air, you may need to take a steroid drug.
  • Allergy Testing & Shots – If medication will not reduce symptoms, your doctor may advise allergy shots. These shots are designed to force the body to build up immunity over time. This can be a long, slow process that can take weeks, months or even years to be effective.

Why is Using Cold Remedies Not the Best Way to Fight Dust Mite Allergies?

A dust mite allergy can cause complications beyond sneezing and coughing.  These include:

  • Sinus infections – The swelling of the nasal passages can cause an infection called sinusitis, requiring the attention of a doctor and prescription medicine in order to cure.
  • Asthma – Asthma is far more difficult to manage than hay fever symptoms. Tightness of the chest and in inability to get a good breath can be a serious situation, requiring regular monitoring by a doctor and prescription inhalers. Often asthma attacks require quick emergency medical treatment.

Asthma is not cured by prescription medicine. The best course of action is to discourage asthma from developing in the first place by dealing effectively with the environmental situation that could cause a person to develop this chronic disease.

Self-prescribing over-the-counter remedies for allergies is not ideal. These remedies can sometimes mask the symptoms for a short time but they do not deal with the root of the problem – dust mites in your home.

Rather than continually taking medication that could adversely affect your liver and kidneys, it’s far better to reduce the onslaught from dust mite marauders and their nasty biological debris.

The best way to deal with dust mite allergies is to reduce the number of dust mites in your home by instituting an effective cleaning routine and consulting professionals who are knowledgeable in purifying the air in homes, schools and offices.

Should You See a Doctor if You Have These Allergy Symptoms?

According to the Mayo Clinic, if your symptoms are severe or last longer than a normal cold or flu should last, it is time to get an appointment with your doctor.

If you are short of breath at the slightest exertion or if bouts of shortness of breath come on rapidly, seek immediate emergency care at a clinic or emergency room.

What is the Best Way to Fight the Battle Against Dust Mites?

The ideal way to win the battle against allergies to dust mites is to take this two-fold approach:

[1] Do what you can on your own to perform weekly dust mite control using a specific cleaning routine and decluttering.

[2] Employ a reputable, professional indoor air quality (IAQ) company to clean the air in ways that go beyond what a homeowner can do for himself.

What Specific Routine Maintenance Can You Perform to Prevent Dust Mites Allergies?

To take control over dust mites and the havoc they can cause on your family, begin by establishing a thorough cleaning routine designed to rid your home of as many dust mites as possible. Although the sheer number of mites may seem overwhelming, it is possible to reduce their population to the point where they are less likely to cause allergies.

Bedding – Start by thoroughly cleaning each bed and its bedding. Wash all sheets, blankets and pillows weekly in hot water. Dry on high heat. On sunny days, hang the bedding outdoors.

Purchase several complete sets of bedding so that each set can be completely washed and dried thoroughly. Dust mites like moist, humid conditions so be sure that everything is 100% dry before it returns to the bed.

Vacuum every crevice of the mattress, box spring and under the bed thoroughly. Focus on any place where dust, dead skin cells or dust mites can hide.

Some even recommend purchasing new pillows and discarding the old on a regular basis.

Carpets – Carpet fibers are an ideal place for dust and dust mites. Vacuum regularly, taking care to reach corners and under furniture – anywhere where dust tends to accumulate.

Dust Mites In Carpet Fibers

Vents – If your house has forced air heat or air conditioning, vacuum on and around vents.

Furniture – Upholstered furniture is another ideal place for dust mites to hide and thrive. Corners of couches, under cushions and crevices of couch pillows are places where dust mites are found.

Curtains – Washable is best since dry cleaning fumes can also cause allergies. Vacuum these often between washings.

Stuffed Animals – Soft toys are often found on the floor where they pick up dust mites and their debris. Wash these items weekly and don’t place them on beds if you can help it.

Declutter – Clean out any area of your home that has clutter which collects dust. Store needed items in bins or cabinets that can be easily and regularly wiped down with a damp cloth.

Consider redecorating, using items and materials that are less friendly to dust mites:

  • Hardwood floors instead of carpets
  • Furniture with less upholstery
  • New stuffed toys, only washable ones
  • Blinds instead of curtains
  • Use a true HEPA air purifier in main rooms
  • Hypo-allergenic cleaning products instead of harsh chemicals

As you can see, there are measures you can take to begin your battle against dust mite allergies and asthma.

However, the task can be daunting and time consuming. You might consider contacting a company that specializes in cleaning the air in homes, offices and schools. They can analyze your home’s condition and present a plan of attack that will address every aspect of the problem.

Everyone’s goal should be to create the healthiest home environment possible in order to reduce the risk of developing life-long allergies or other chronic respiratory problems.

What Type of Professional Help Can You Get to Combat the Dust Mite Allergies?

Professional carpet cleaners – Unless you have decided to switch from carpets to hardwood floors, have your carpets cleaned regularly. Ask about the cleaning products used and be sure they are not going to cause additional respiratory stress on you and your family members.

Professional house cleaning service – At least for the initial deep cleaning of your home, consider hiring a professional house cleaner to help you get rid of all the dust and dander in your home. Again, examine the cleaning products used. Allow only those products that are safe to breathe.

Professional indoor air quality (IAQ) company – Find a company that specializes in providing good air quality in homes. Their expertise will improve your situation in ways that you cannot do yourself.

IAQ companies are knowledgeable in the use and installation of certified HEPA air filters and proper air duct cleaning. They will be able to advise you about where allergens are lurking and what should be done about them. And most importantly, they will know how to stay on top of the situation so that dust mites remain at the lowest levels possible so that your family is safe from their negative health effects.

Final Words

As you can see, having dust mites in your home is no small thing. These microscopic creatures can cause allergies that can lead to chronic asthma. They particularly affect young people and the elderly.

The first step is to understand how important it is to reduce the number of dust mites in your home. The next step is to do what you can to control the population. Then, you should seek professional companies that have the expertise to keep your home’s air environment healthy throughout the entire year.

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