When one encounters a stuffy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing now and then, it may take months or even years for them to realize they are exhibiting allergy symptoms. When we begin to discuss the idea of allergies, only certain factors come to mind. Most people recognize allergies as they relate to the environment, to pets, or to certain foods. But dust mites? What even are they?
What Dust Mites are and Where They Live
Dust mites are microscopic organisms that, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, may be the most common trigger of year-round allergies and asthma. These teeny tiny creatures are believed to be related to spiders and ticks. They are so small that you cannot see them except through a microscope. However, while you can’t see them, they can definitely make their presence known.
Dead skin cells are the food of choice for dust mites. For this reason, it is common to find them in the fabrics of furniture, carpet, and bedding, where skin cells are routinely left behind. Dust mites also enjoy humidity and warmth, making the average home temperature of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit ideal. Since most homes keep ideal conditions, most homes have at least a few (thousand) dust mites.
Signs of Dust Mite Allergies
Symptoms of a dust mite allergy include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy eyes, skin, mouth, throat, or nose
- Asthma symptoms including wheezing, chest pain, and shortness of breath
Symptoms are only one indication of dust mite allergy. A conclusive diagnosis also requires a consultation and examination with an allergist. To diagnose dust mite allergies, we usually conduct a skin prick test in which a tiny amount of dust mite allergen is applied to the skin.
What to Do About Dust Mite Allergies
Allergy management may involve lifestyle habits or a combination of those and medical care. People with a dust mite allergy can make their home less inviting by placing dust-proof covers on pillows and mattresses. Washing bedding in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) every week is also beneficial. Hardwood flooring is less welcoming to dust mites than carpeting, and a HEPA filter on the vacuum cleaner prevents dust mites and their biproduct from blowing through the air.
For more intense allergy symptoms, relief may come through allergy shots or other immunotherapy, in which small doses of the allergen is administered routinely to increase tolerance.
Learn more about dust mite allergies and how to treat them. Call our St. Louis office at 314.473.5433.