Dust Mite Allergy - good news!
Dust Mite Allergy
Learn dust mite allergy symptoms, tips, prevention, and a breakthrough treatment that can eliminate your allergy to dust mites completely!
What are dust mites? If you ever manage to see them at all, they would appear to be a white speck, but a white speck that can be very troublesome for your health. These critters are tiny (0.3 millimeters in length) eight-legged insects that are part of the insect class Arachnida.
Surprisingly, there are an estimated 10 million types of mites. Out of those 10 million, there are over a dozen species commonly found in houses. The three types of mites that are of particular interest to people are: hair follicle mites, scabies mites, and house dust mites.
Hair follicle mites live on our eyelashes or other hair follicles, which contain sebaceous glands and sebum. Scabies mites burrow into our skin where they cause irritation and itching. It is the house dust mite, whose fecal pellets are about the size of a grain of pollen, that is the most common species that lives around people.
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It is the fecal pellet, sometimes called frass, of the mite that causes dust mite allergy. This fecal pellet is a round pellet about 20 microns wide, and it contains proteins which cause our allergic reactions. This dastardly pellet has been the primary cause of many asthma related deaths, and has been described as quite beautiful; “hard, light, glassy, translucent, rather like pearls” (Scanlon, 1992).
Compared to cat allergen and other materials that contribute to dust allergies (lint, feathers, fungus spores, bits of insects), dust mite allergen is relatively heavy; it doesn’t float in the air as easily. mite allergen, therefore, is usually received close to the source; most likely by inhaling near a pillow, mattress, or stuffed toy.
why the dust mite loves you!
So, why do these mites like to hang around people so much? These eight-legged creatures hang-around us because they want dinner! We shed about an ounce of skin scales every month, and dustmites feed on our skin scales, but only on skin that has first been broken-down by molds.
Not to be indelicate, but there are other substances in our beds that are a delicacy for mites. Based on the fact that dried semen is very common in the beds of sexually active adults, a researcher’s study found that mites given a diet of dried semen and dead skin produced more eggs than other mites!
Mites have no eyes, but they don't have a problem locating food because they live close to our bodies. They also have no trouble finding water. They have glands in their legs that extract water right out of the air; the water from our skin is picked-up through the glands in their legs.
Since our bodies provide excellent sustenance for the mites, you can find them in places in which we spend lots of time, like: our favorite upholstered furniture, in carpeting, inside mattresses, in bed sheets and blankets, on pillows, and on soft toys.
These ubiquitous little creatures like temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees fahrenheit, and they love high humidity, since these temperatures favor the mold that breaks down the dust mite’s food (human skin). When humidity falls to between 50 & 60 percent, mites die.
are there dust mites in your home?
If you would like to know if you have a mite problem in your home, simply take a sample of dust from your home, put it in a plastic bag, and send it to a laboratory for analysis. Usually, a laboratory will determine the amount of mites present in a gram of dust. A level of 100 mites per gram of dust is considered risky for allergy and asthma susceptible people.
symptoms of dust mite allergy
About 10% of the population suffer from dust mite allergy. This particular allergy is the foremost cause of perennial allergic rhinitis, or rhinitis that persists year-round. Some of the annoying dust mite allergy symptoms are as follows:
2. Itchy, watery eyes
3. Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
4. Persistent stuffy nose or ears
5. Repeated sneezing upon awakening
6. Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
7. Improvement of symptoms when outside the house
9. Runny nose
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dust mite control
It is critical for the mites to have moisture, and they are killed by intense heat. We can use this information to our advantage as we attempt to minimize their presence in our lives:
• Wash bedding at 130 degrees fahrenheit to kill the mites and remove their allergen
• Regular washing of clothes and bedding in cool water will remove skin scales, leaving less food for dust mites
• Dry cleaning kills the mites (but 20-70 percent of the allergen will remain)
• Use reputable allergy reduction products throughout your home
• Leaving rugs and blankets in direct sunlight for three hours will kill mites (but sunlight will not remove the allergen)
• Use a hygrometer to measure the humidity in your home and aim for a level of 50% or less
• Cover bedroom air vents with layers of cheesecloth to minimize the dust blowing into the room
• Use mite allergen-proof mattress covers and pillow covers (vapor impermeable)
• Buy comforters that can be washed at high temperatures, and wash them every two to four weeks
• Enclose upholstered box springs in mite-proof covers
• Dry clean wool pants, sweaters, and coats, then store them in well-heated, dry areas
• Store out-of-season clothes in plastic
• Use a Hepa vacuum cleaner that “keeps in” all the allergens it picks-up.
• Consider using a powerful dehumidifier in the bedroom during the day while you are at work. Turn the dehumidifier off at night about an hour before retiring
• Consider using acaracides, which are chemicals that kill dust mites. Benzyl benzoate is considered safe by the FDA. It is a powder that is applied to carpeting, then vacuumed
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dust mite allergy treatment
Medication for dust mite allergy is the same as that for pollens and other inhalant allergies: bronchodilators, antihistamines, and corticosteroids.
A series of injections, in gradually increasing dosages, which includes extracts of various allergens so that an individual can develop a tolerance to that allergen.
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by Bob Fioravante, M.S.
I Welcome Your Comments and Suggestions...
Krohn, Jaqueline. Allergy Relief & Prevention. Vancouver, BC: Hartley & Marks, 2000.
Kwong, Frank & Cook, Bruce. The Complete Allergy Book. Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks Inc., 2002.
Lipkowitz, Myron & Navarra, Tova. Allergies A-Z. New York, NY: Facts on File Inc., 1994.
May, Jeffrey. My House is Killing Me. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press: 2001.
Reader’s Digest. The Allergy Bible. Pleasantville, N.Y. The Reader’s Digest Association, 2001.
Scanlon, Kevin. “Behold the Mite.” Equinox. (March/April, 1992).