Many people mistakenly believe that allergy season lasts only during the spring and summer. But for people with dust mite allergies, allergy season is year-round. Below we review everything you need to know about dust mite allergies.
What Are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are microscopic bugs that belong to the arachnid family along with ticks and spiders. They feed on dead skin cells found in dust and absorb moisture from their environment.
Dust mites can live in all climates and most altitudes; however, they thrive in conditions around 70 degrees and 70% humidity. They can mostly be found in bedding, carpeting and drapes.
How Do Dust Mites Cause Allergies?
It’s not actually the dust mites themselves that trigger allergy symptoms, but the proteins in their waste and decaying bodies.
When you inhale these proteins, usually when cleaning or spending time in the bedroom, your immune system overreacts by releasing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which tells your cells to release histamine. Histamine is responsible for increasing inflammation and mucus production, leading to symptoms such as:
- Itchy, red, watery eyes.
- Sinus pressure.
- Nasal congestion.
- Runny nose.
- Itchy throat.
- Postnasal drip.
Dust mites can also trigger asthma symptoms such as:
- Chest pains.
- Shortness of breath.
When to See an Allergist
You should see an allergist for your symptoms if they interfere with your daily life. An allergist can perform testing in order to confirm your allergy to dust mites.
The most common type of allergy test is a skin prick test, where allergen extracts are placed on the forearms or back and then the skin underneath is pricked. If a red, raised bump known as a wheal appears, it means you’re most likely allergic.
Treating Dust Mite Allergies
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for dust mite allergies.
You can practice avoidance by keeping your home clean and as dust-free as possible. You can purchase cleaning supplies from a store like Harris Teeter. Be sure to vacuum and dust regularly and wash your sheets weekly in hot water.
You can also take over-the-counter medications such as:
- Nasal corticosteroids.
Immunotherapy is another option. This long-term treatment option works by introducing harmless amounts of allergen extracts into the body so the immune system can build up a tolerance. If you’re spending more time indoors due to the cooler weather and noticing your allergy symptoms increasing, it may be because you have a dust mite allergy. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Charleston ENT & Allergy today.