House Dust Mites and Their Effect on Our Health 

A runny nose, itchy red eyes, nasal congestion, a swollen throat, coughing, and sneezing are common symptoms of an allergic reaction. Some people may also experience facial pressure and pain or swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes. Many people brush off these allergic reactions, thinking it’s a change in weather or the common cold. However, the most common cause of allergies and their symptoms are airborne allergens, including dust mites.

House dust mites are microscopic creatures only about 0.4 millimeters in length. They live where humans live because their preferred food source is dander, the flakes of dead skin that we and our pets shed from our bodies. Dust mites are closely related to ticks and spiders and thrive in warm, humid environments. Upholstered furniture, bedding, curtains, and carpeting are where you will find most dust mites, though the naked eye cannot see them.

Dust Mite Allergies

Dust mite allergies are often referred to as house dust allergies despite the cause of the allergy being the droppings of dust mites. Dust mite fecal particles produce about 20 pellets per day. These pellets are about the size of a pollen grain. We are exposed to house dust mite droppings when the tiny particles of feces attach to dust and become airborne. And without realizing it, we breathe in these particles and introduce allergens into our upper airways or nose, sinuses, and throat. [1]

Dust mite droppings are tiny (consider the size of the dust mite and imagine how small their droppings are). Due to the small size of their droppings, they are very easy to inhale after they attach to dust and become airborne. 

Another contributing factor to dust mite allergens is the dust mite’s exoskeleton, which they molt (shed) through their various life stages.

For most adults with dust mite allergies, their allergy develops during childhood or adolescence, with symptoms manifesting before age 20. 

Some of the allergic symptoms that have been linked to house dust mites include: [2]

  • allergic asthma
  • allergic rhinoconjunctivitis
  • atopic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema). 

Asthmatic people who are also allergic to dust mites have an increased risk of severe asthma attacks, which will involve severe shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, and low peak expiratory flow readings.

Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in people allergic to dust mites refers to problems that occur in the nose and eyes. Symptoms include sneezing, itchy nose, runny or blocked nose, and itchy and watery eyes. The condition is often referred to as hay fever.

A study revealed that house dust mite allergens are the most relevant airborne allergens for atopic dermatitis, [3] which cause the skin to become itchy, dry, and sore. People with atopic dermatitis have altered or compromised skin barrier function. This makes it easier for airborne allergens such as dust mites to penetrate the skin, interact with local immune cells, and trigger hypersensitive allergic reactions. The severity will vary between people. While some may only have a patch of dry, cracked skin, others may experience inflamed skin all over their entire body. 

To determine whether you have a house dust mite allergy, your doctor may refer you to an allergy specialist for an allergy skin or antibody blood test.

If you are positively diagnosed, your doctor may recommend medications or immunotherapy to help desensitize your immune system to the allergen. 

But lifestyle changes that help you avoid exposure (as much as possible) to dust mites are the most helpful. 

Here are 12 lifestyle changes that will help you avoid allergic reactions from house dust mites:

1. Use mattress, pillow, and bed protective covers. You can purchase good allergy-proof protective covers made from tight fabrics that prevent dust mites from passing through the mattress, blankets, or pillows. Since the dust mites in the pillows, covers, or mattresses will have little or no access to dander, their food source will slowly die or drastically reduce in numbers.

2. Wash bedding once a week. Wash all bedding in water at least 60 degrees C (130 F). These temperatures will kill the dust mites and will remove allergens. Then thoroughly dry in a dryer when possible. 

3. Use easy-to-use covers. Purchase pillow, mattress, and duvet covers that are easy to put on and remove so that you will not be put off by the work required to do this weekly.

4. Keep humidity levels low. Dust mites need hydration to thrive. High humidity is the perfect thriving ground for them. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier in the room where you sleep to reduce humidity.

5. Regularly use a special vacuum cleaner for your carpets. The standard vacuum cleaner helps remove surface dust but can’t reach the house dust mites and their allergens found inside the rug. You will need a special vacuum cleaner, such as the Kirby Home Cleaning System, to reach them. It is expensive but worth it as it also has a special filter to prevent house dust leaks from the vacuum cleaner. If your allergies are severe, avoid doing the vacuuming and stay out of the room for an hour after vacuuming is done to be on the safe side.

6. Buy washable upholstery covers. Anything upholstered should be easy to remove and wash. 

7. In children’s rooms, you want to keep stuffed animals to a minimum and wash them regularly. If your child sleeps with them, wash them more frequently and dry them thoroughly, preferably in the sun. If you have little sunshine where you live, dry them thoroughly in a dryer.

8. Remove dust around the house with wet rags and mops. This helps remove the dust and not just move it from one place to another.

9. Keep your house orderly and minimally designed, especially your bedroom. The more furniture and decorations you have, the more difficult it becomes to clean. Dust mites are found in the dust, so keep your house clutter-free.

10. Go for tiled flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. Carpeting is a great place for dust mites to thrive. Avoid them whenever possible, or use small loose carpets that you can easily clean. 

11. Avoid curtains. Instead, go for external sun shades or blinds.

12. Clean air conditioning filters regularly — do this every three months under running hot water, cleaning with a scouring pad.

13. Take supplements that help boost immunity. See my book How To Avoid Hospitals — A Science-Based Self-Care Guide To Heal or Manage 140 Medical Conditions With Nutrition — the chapters on immunity and allergies, for the best, most practical advice.

You can control your dust mite allergy with simple lifestyle changes that reduce exposure to the duct mite and will keep you and your family healthier in the process.

ll references are found at this link: I keep this list updated. 

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