Irritating Household Dust

31. August 2015

Sneezing, a constantly runny nose and restless sleep may all be caused by something familiar to all of us – dust. Luckily, you can take your wellbeing into your own hands by making minor changes in your surroundings.

A dust allergy is caused by house dust mites, invisible to the naked eye. These spider-like creatures feed on the flakes of dead skin shed by humans and that is why bedding and mattresses are a perfect living environment for them. Dust mites may live on lampshades in the living room as well as on bath rugs in the bathroom. They may be found on stuffed toys and upholstered furniture. One gram of dust extracted from a mattress may contain as many as 15,000 dust mites! Dust mites thrive equally well on mattresses made of natural or artificial materials. For those microscopic insects to be able to breed, air humidity has to be over 50% and temperature in the range of 10–30°C.

“Dust mites are not a sign of poor hygiene, because they can exist in very clean homes as well,” explains Krista Ress, allergologist-immunologist at East Tallinn Central Hospital. “However, a very dusty environment can be mite-free, because it lacks favourable conditions.” Although household dust may cause allergies due to its containing fungi, the main culprit is believed to be mites.

What causes allergies?

A dust allergy is caused by mite droppings. Dried and decomposing faeces get mixed up with dust and trigger acute dust allergies in sensitive people. The life cycle of dust mites is not long, but over the course of a couple of months they are able to produce droppings in an amount that exceeds their weight by approximately 200 times.

The procedure for diagnosing an allergy to dust mites is similar to identifying other allergies. It is useful to take note of where, when and what you have come into contact with when symptoms occur. Other options for allergy testing include skin tests with dust mite allergens and detecting serum house dust mite antibodies, if necessary.

The best course of treatment is to reduce coming into contact with dust mites, but that is rarely an easy task. Doctors may choose to prescribe allergy medication that can be taken for prolonged periods. The most popular choice is orally administered allergy medication, or antihistamines. Other medications can be used locally and are administered to the nose, eyes or lower respiratory tract. “A dust mite allergy requires regular treatment that has to be continued even after initial symptoms have subsided,” says Dr. Krista Ress.

Potential signs of allergy

  • Runny or blocked nose

  • Constant sneezing

  • Itchy skin and restless sleep

Allergy symptoms may be short-lived or chronic, with flare-ups commonly occurring at night or early in the morning.

Get rid of dust mites!

If you suffer from dust allergies, you can make minor changes at your home to reduce the number of dust mites and get your allergy symptoms under control.

1. In your living space, keep the temperature around 20–22°C and air moisture level below 50%.

2. Do not dry laundry in living quarters to avoid excessive moisture.

3. Get rid of carpets, bed covers and stuffed toys that collect dust.

4. Air rooms out at least once a day.

5. When cleaning, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or a central vacuum cleaner. Allergy-sufferers should not be at home while it is being cleaned or they should wear a protective mask. After vacuuming, clean floors and other surfaces with a damp cloth.

6. Change bedding once a week and for best results, wash it at 60°C minimum.

7. Get a new mattress (at least once every 8–10 years) and use dust mite-proof covers to protect your bedding.

8. When getting up in the morning, you may choose to leave the bed unmade to remove body moisture from the sheets and mattress.

9. Avoid storing bedding in closed spaces during the day, for example, in a storage drawer under the bed, because high humidity levels provide a perfect microclimate for dust mites.

10. From time to time, store stuffed toys and pillows in the freezer overnight and then beat them. This helps get rid of dust mite build-up.

Source: Tervis Pluss