Dust Mites: The Most Common Type of Dust Allergy
Some allergies you can easily diagnose.
Hay fever, for example, is one type of allergy sufferers can usually identify on their own. Spring or fall rolls around, the plants begin to pollinate, and coughing and sneezing starts to get out of control. Sure, you may not know which plant or tree causes your symptoms, but you’re pretty certain you are reacting to the pollen in the air.
Pet allergies are another one that’s fairly easy to pinpoint. Every time a cat or dog approaches, your nose and throat begin to itch, letting you know that the animal is most likely the cause of your symptoms.
But some allergies are not so simple to diagnose. A lot of indoor allergens live in household dust and are too microscopic to be seen. The most common form of indoor allergy? Allergies to dust mites.
What are Dust Mites?
By Employee of US Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Measuring one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter, dust mites cannot be seen with the naked eye. Under a microscope they appear to be small, white, eight-legged bugs. Classified as arthropods like spiders, they are not technically insects. Dust mites have no developed respiratory system and no eyes.
Thirteen different species of dust mites exist. They typically take 2 to 5 weeks to develop from egg to adult and their lifespan ranges from 2 to 4 months. Female dust mites can lay as many as 100 eggs while alive.
So why do dust mites flourish indoors?
For starters, dust mites thrive in warmth and humidity. Temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius) and humidity levels of 70 to 80 percent make the ideal breeding ground for these critters.
But it’s more than just the warmth of your house that dust mites love. Your home also provides more than enough nourishment for millions of dust mites to survive. Why is that? Because dust mites feed on the tiny flakes of human skin that we shed on a daily basis. These skin flakes find their way into carpeting, bedding, furniture, and stuffed toys – the places where these bugs live and breed. The average human adult loses about 1.5 grams of skin daily – enough to feed one million dust mites.
You can actually kill off the dust mites in your home by changing their environment. Most dust mites die when humidity levels are below 50%. A dehumidifier or air conditioner can help maintain a lower humidity level in your home.
The Real Cause of Your Dust Mite Allergy
People allergic to dust mites react to the bug’s waste as well as to their body parts. The waste of a dust mite contains a protein that’s an allergen. Each dust mite can produce as much as 200 times its body weight in waste over the course of its lifetime.
Household dust in reality is a mixture of many different substances. Look at the dust found in your home under a microscope and you’ll find particles of food, plants, insects, pollen, mold, fungus spores, pet dander, and bird feathers. You’ll also find dust mite waste.
About half of all allergy sufferers react to dust mite byproduct.
It’s important to note, that if you do succeed in killing off the dust mites in your home, their waste still may lurk in your bedding and furniture. If you want help ease your allergy symptoms, you’ll need to thoroughly clean and rid your house of all the dust that may contain the remnants of dust mite waste.
Diagnosing Your Dust Mite Allergy
Think that you may be allergic to dust mites? Talk to your doctor. Most specialists will ask you specifics about your home environment. They will also want to know where and when you experience your worst symptoms in an effort to diagnose the cause of your allergies. If you have symptoms year-round, there’s a good chance you could be allergic to dust mites.
Since allergies to dust mites are sometimes difficult to pinpoint, your doctor may want to either do a skin or blood test to find the allergen you’re allergic to.
What You Can Do to Ease Your Symptoms
These few simple measures will help alleviate your allergy symptoms by reducing the amount of allergens in your home:
Use a Dehumidifier or Air Conditioner to Keep Humidity Level Low. Dust mites
mostly die off if you maintain a humidity level below 50%.
Buy Dust-Proof Mattress and Pillow Covers. You’ll find more dust mites in your bedroom than any other room in the house. Purchase allergen resistant bedding to keep them out of your bed.
Wash Bedding Weekly. Use hot water of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use a HEPA Filter on Your Vacuum. They effectively suck up dust mite waste from your floors.
Opt for Hardwood Floors. Dust mites love to hide out in carpets and rugs.
These simple steps will help manage your dust mite allergy and keep your home relatively allergen free.