Can You Really Be Allergic To Dust?

This article is contributed by Hridya from GetDoc.

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an abnormal over-reaction of the natural immune mechanism of your body to substances that are generally not harmful to the human body.

Almost any substance can become the cause of an allergy, referred to as an allergen. House dust, moulds, pollens, foods or even a pet – substances that we consider harmless, can make an allergic person too ill to function normally leading them to miss work/school etc. While most allergies are not inherited, the chance of having an allergy increases if family members are allergic.

Allergies are on a rise these days!

The incidence of allergy is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the world. Statistics reveal that up to 50% percent of the teenagers globally were already suffering from allergies with respect to airways i.e.asthma and allergic rhinitis. These allergic conditions affect people of all ages, all over the world, exhibiting signs and symptoms changing according to the ages of the person.

This is the common house dust mite (2000x magnified)

Dust Allergy: Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live on human skin scales, which we shed off regularly. They are commonly found on pillows, mattresses, upholstered furniture and in clothes changing areas.


Life Cycle of Dust Mites


Quantities of household dust vary enormously depending on these factors:

  1.     Location of the house
  2.     Climate in the region
  3.     Altitude of the region
  4.     What time of year it is

The quantity of dust also varies from one house to another – for example, a farm is different from a flat in the city, and also within the same house – a bathroom is not same as a bedroom.

But among all these factors, one thing that is a constant is that household dust is a complex pool of allergens and the main allergen is the house dust mite. These mites feed on human scales or flakes which are shed from the skin.

Dust mites are found mainly in bedding, pillows, mattresses, etc. because that is where we lose the most scales – our skin rubs against the sheets. Feeding on shed skin is not enough for these mites. They also feed on a microscopic fungus also known as mould, which grows mainly on mattresses.

Now an interesting fact to chew on – note that people with mite allergy are actually not allergic to the mites themselves, but to their, brace yourselves…droppings! Mite excreta is seen to be highly allergenic for people.


Image Source

Mites can be found in greater numbers in beds and pillows than on the bedroom floor. If we must see the magnanimity of their presence, a gram of dust in a mattress could have anywhere from 2,000-15,000 of these mites!

Mites reproduce at a temperature between 20 and 30 deg Celsius, with relative humidity that is created by your body when you are sleeping on the mattress. These are ideal growing conditions for the mould as well, on which these mites feed.

What are the symptoms of Dust Allergy?

Some of the most common symptoms of allergy to household dust (especially to mites) include:

  •          Asthma
  •          Rhinitis and/or
  •          Atopic dermatitis (eczema).
  •          Flare-ups usually happen when you wake up.

Symptoms last all through the year but can worsen in autumn and winter, especially when it is wetter.

At higher altitudes, (1500-1800 metres), allergy-causing mites are virtually non-existent. They simply cannot multiply in the drier climates so this is an ideal place for people suffering from such allergies.


How can you treat this allergy?

Getting rid of the allergen is the by far the best way to eliminate or reduce the allergy. Start with the bedroom first and then work on the other rooms in the house.

Here are some things you can do to reduce allergens in the home.

  1.     Try to sun or air your bed every day; do not immediately make the bed as soon as you get up. 
  2.     Even if your bedroom is cool and dry try to air the bedsheets at least one or two times a week.
  3.     Blankets must be made of cotton or synthetic fabric that can be washed in hot water. Use pillows that are filled with synthetic material and not feathers. Mattresses should be covered with plastic or some allergen-excluding material. If not covered, they must be vacuumed once a week at least.
  4.     Every night while we are asleep, the temperature of our body and our breathing give mites just theright conditions they need to grow and breed. So change the sheets as frequently as possible.
  5.     Other rooms in the house should be given equal attention, although not so often. Pay particular attention to floors, carpets, armchairs, cushions, curtains and drapes.
  6.     Replace bedding materials (pillows, mattresses, bolsters) that contain wool, feathers, cotton with synthetic materials such as polyester or foam rubber.
  7.     Replace fitted (wall-to-wall) carpets and rugs with parquet or vinyl flooring; it is easier to clean as well. Replace cushions or anything made of wool or cotton with synthetic materials.
  8. Intricate and bulky decorations such as double curtains, heavy drapes or tapestries are dust collectors so try to reduce their number in your home.
  9. Vacuum the house often, especially bedding and mattresses, especially when the person suffering from allergy is not at home. These days vacuum cleaners come with special accessories is very effective for mattress cleaning. Some even have a filter that prevents the exhaust air from blowing dust back into the room. Vacuuming can be very effective!
  10. Soft toys can also accumulate dust so keep them away.

If you are having trouble in treating your dust allergy, it is recommended that you consult an ENT doctor. Head over to GetDoc and make an appointment with the ENT doctor now.


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