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I Think I Have a Dust Mite Allergy. What Should I Do?

I Think I Have a Dust Mite Allergy. What Should I Do?

Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Shuba Iyengar, MD, MPH
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Dr. Shuba Iyengar, MD, MPH
After graduating from UC Berkeley, Shuba completed medical school at Duke University, earning her MPH in tandem at UNC. After a research fellowship at the NIH, Shuba completed her residency at Stanford, then fellowship in allergy-immunology at Boston Childrens/Harvard.

Shuba returned to the Bay Area to join Dr. Bocian at a large multi-speciality health system where she helped lead an allergy practice. She cofounded Allermi to make expert allergy care more accessible for all.
Written by:
Katelyn Johnson, B.S., M.B.A, CMA
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Katelyn Johnson, B.S., M.B.A, CMA
Katelyn Johnson is a freelance writer, Certified Medical Assistant, and Nationally Registered EMT with 8+ years of clinical experience across multiple specialties. She has a Bachelor’s in Biology, Master’s in Healthcare Administration, and is currently obtaining a Bachelor’s in Nursing. Katelyn is an advocate for providing patient education in an approachable way through online resources.

So… You Might Have a Dust Mite Allergy, What Now? 

Do you think you may have a dust mite allergy, but don’t know what to do next? Don’t fret! Let’s  take a look at what dust mites are, symptoms you may be having or should be expecting, how to prevent them, options for treatment, and everything you need to know!

What Are Dust Mites and Dust Mite Allergies? 

So you’ve likely heard about dust mites in general but do you know what they are or where they come from? Dust mites are microscopic insect-like pests that cannot be seen with the naked eye. 

These tiny bugs live in places with high humidity levels and often in places like upholstered furniture, box springs, bedding, pillows, mattresses, and carpets. They tend to love these places because upholstered furniture and fabrics hold dead skin cells and pet dander which dust mites feed on.

In fact, most household dust is made up of 20-50% dead human skin cells and pet dander. The other components include fabric particles, pollen, human and animal hair, soil that has been tracked, and paper fibers. 

Unfortunately, these seemingly harmless bugs living in your household dust are a common cause of allergic reactions and allergy symptoms for people because they leave their waste products behind. If you are one of the people who are sensitive to a dust mite allergen, here are some of the symptoms you may experience. 

Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms

Dust mite allergy symptoms are similar to those of general allergic rhinitis or hay fever such as a runny nose, watery eyes, or clogged nasal passages. However, a house dust mite allergy can also cause asthma and difficulty breathing. 

A dust allergy is a common cause of year-round allergy and asthma symptoms though the severity may vary depending on the amount of house dust you have and how your individual immune system responds to it.  

 

Dust Mite Allergy Prevention

For dust mite prevention, we mainly concentrate on the bedroom environment since you spend most of your time there sleeping and the bedroom is full of fabrics they love. 

Allergy Covers

For the bedding, the #1 thing to do is to get special covers for your pillow and mattress, called allergy covers or allergy encasements. These covers are woven to less than 5 microns, which is the size of the dust mite, and therefore, act as a barrier. It prevents the dust mites from coming in contact with you and feeding off your dead skin cells.  We recommend a pillow cover and a mattress encasement that zips around the entire mattress, not just the top. 

Other important things that can help alleviate dust mite allergies in your bedroom include not having any down comforters or pillows.  Also, since dust mites like humidity, refrain from having humidifiers, though an air purifier is fine and can even be beneficial. 

 

Control High Levels of Humidity

If you already live in a very humid environment, you can get a hygrometer to measure the humidity in your bedroom. If the humidity is above 50%, then you can consider getting a dehumidifier to bring down the humidity in the bedroom to less than 50%. This will prevent creating the perfect environment for dust mites in your home.

  

Replacing Fabrics

Stuffed animals often harbor dust mites as well, so we recommend only keeping 1-2 on the bed and having them visit the “North Pole” once weekly. Put them in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer overnight, as this kills the mites.

Other things to consider in the bedroom are replacing fabric curtains with mini blinds or shutters.

 

Cleaning Schedules

Also, vacuuming once weekly with a high-quality vacuum cleaner and, if possible, having tile or wood floors is helpful as well. Just ensure that you also clean your vacuum cleaner often so that it does not put more dust into the air. You should wash any blankets or sheets in your home once weekly as well as in hot water. Keep in mind that it needs to be hot water above 130 degrees to actually kill the dust mites.

If your dust allergy is severe enough, you may even consider having someone without a house dust mite allergy clean areas of your home with large numbers of house dust mites like the bedroom. 

 

Diagnosing House Dust Mite Allergy

The two main ways to diagnose a dust allergy are with a blood test or a skin test. With a blood test, they look for the number of antibodies your immune system has to defend against dust mite allergens. In skin testing, a small amount of dust mite allergen is injected and then they measure the immune responses your body has to the injection. 

Though these tests can provide great information, they are not necessary. If you have worsening symptoms at home or in certain areas of your home, you can assume you are allergic to either dust mites or pet dander. Either way, the treatment and the prevention measures from above are the same, so specific testing isn’t always needed.  

Dust Mite Allergy Treatment

Like there are two testing options, there are two main dust mite allergy treatments.

Allergy Medications

The first and most common treatment is to use medications. These are often either oral medications like Claritin or in the form of a nasal spray. However, if you are having asthma flare-ups and difficulty breathing, your medication may also include inhalers prescribed by your doctor. 

For hay fever-like symptoms such as a runny nose or clogged nasal passages, a nasal spray is the best treatment as it treats the symptoms right at the source applying the medication to the lining of the nose itself. Even if you have asthma, nasal sprays can help prevent the immune responses that cause frequent asthma flare-ups. 

 

Allergy Shots

The other allergy treatment is to get allergen immunotherapy, most commonly referred to as allergy shots. This is where you are given small doses of allergens so that your body can create natural defenses and prevent allergic reactions to those allergens. Allergen immunotherapy can also be done using drops that go under the done. 

Both routes take a long time to work and can make your allergic reactions and symptoms worse in the meantime since you are introducing higher levels of allergens to your body. 

 

Allermi: Personalized Nasal Spray for Dust Mite Allergies & More

Allergies affect millions of people in the United States, but no matter what allergens cause symptoms for you, Allermi is on a mission to provide the best treatment option. 

At Allermi, you get to build a relationship with a board-certified doctor specializing in allergic diseases who will customize and curate a nasal spray unique to your symptoms. See how individualized dust mite allergy treatment can change your life with our free 30-day trial