Types of Allergies: Dust Mite Allergy

By Spader, Catherine, RN

Do you wake up in the morning with a stuffy or runny nose? The culprit could be dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic bugs related to spiders that commonly live in mattresses, pillows, carpeting and upholstery. They live off a diet of shed human skin cells. Dust mites are harmless unless you have a dust mite allergy. If you sleep with a pillow you could be continuously exposed to dust mite droppings all night long. Learn how to reduce the number of dust mites in your home and control your symptoms.

How Will I Know If I Have Dust Mite Allergies?

You may have any of these symptoms after coming in contact with dust mites:

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Sneezing or coughing

  • Hives, or raised areas on your skin

  • Red, watery eyes

  • Itchy nose, eyes, mouth, throat or skin

  • Mucus dripping down the back of your nose into your throat

  • Asthma

Your doctor can determine if your symptoms are caused by a dust mite allergy or other conditions with similar symptoms, such as a cold. Making a diagnosis of a dust mite allergy includes a physical exam and collecting information about your medical history and symptoms. Be prepared to provide details about when and how often you have symptoms and if there are certain activities, such as dusting, that trigger the symptoms.

Your doctor may also do allergy tests: A skin test involves pricking the skin with a tiny amount of allergy causing substance from dust mites and watching for a reaction. A blood test measures antibodies to dust mite allergens. The antibodies are the substances that cause allergies.

Who Gets Dust Mite Allergies? 

You have a greater risk of dust mite allergies if someone in your family is prone to allergies. Your risk also increases with a high level of dust mite contact, especially during your childhood. Dust mite allergies develop most often in children and young adults.

What Can I Do to Prevent Dust Mite Allergies?

Although it can be difficult to completely avoid dust mites, this is the best way to prevent dust mite allergies.

The following steps are effective:

  • Keep indoor humidity levels below 55%. Dust mites will not survive in low humidity. Use a dehumidifier if necessary.

  • Keep the house clean and dry. Have someone else vacuum, dust, and sweep the home frequently or wear a dust mask. Use a vacuum cleaner with an effective HEPA filter.

  • Use a furnace filter and air purifier designed for allergies.

  • Press a cool wet compress to your face when you begin to have symptoms.

  • Vacuum upholstery, mattresses, and pillows and wash linens in hot water. Try and do this every week.

  • Cover your mattresses and pillows with “mite-proof” products. Replace older pillows.

  • Replace draperies and carpeting with blinds and wood or tile floors.

A house completely free of dust mites (and dust) is not possible, but you can definitely reduce the amount by following the above strategies.

What Are the Best Remedies for Dust Mite Allergy Relief?

If steps to reduce your contact with dust mites are not enough, you may need medications.

The types of medications that are recommended for allergy symptoms include:

  • Antihistamines to relieve itching, sneezing, nasal congestion, and irritated eyes

  • Decongestants to reduce nasal congestion

  • Corticosteroids to reduce and prevent nasal congestion and itching

  • Montelukast (Singulair) to relieve asthma and other dust mite allergy symptoms. Singulair is a leukotriene modifier.

  • Nasal saline sprays to clean out nasal allergens and break up congestion in your nose

You may be interested in allergy shots if your symptoms are not controlled with these medications. Allergy shots are also known as immunotherapy, which involves frequent injections of allergy causing substances until you develop a resistance. Immunotherapy can reduce your symptoms and reduce your need for medications.

All medications can have side effects so check with your doctor before using any medications.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

You should let you doctor know if you have chronic symptoms of dust mite allergies. Your doctor will plan a treatment strategy that manages your symptoms and prevents more serious problems, such as asthma attacks.

You should also notify your doctor if:

  • You have unexplained symptoms such as a fever, which is a symptom of infection

  • You notice medication side effects

  • Your treatment plan isn’t controlling your symptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Dec. 15, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2013 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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