What is dust mite allergy?
Dust mite allergy is an allergic reaction to tiny bugs that commonly live in house dust. Signs of dust mite allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Many people with dust mite allergy also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Dust mites, close relatives of ticks and spiders, are too small to see without a microscope. Dust mites eat skin cells shed by people, and they thrive in warm, humid environments. In most homes, such items as bedding, upholstered furniture and carpeting provide an ideal environment for dust mites.
How common is dust mite allergy?
Dust mites—sometimes called bed mites—are the most common cause of allergy from house dust. People with dust allergies often suffer the most inside their own homes or in other people’s homes. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of dust mite allergy?
The common symptoms of dust mite allergy are:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pressure and pain
- Swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes
- In a child, frequent upward rubbing of the nose
If your dust mite allergy contributes to asthma, you may also experience:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness or pain
- An audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Bouts of coughing or wheezing that are worsened by a respiratory virus such as a cold or the flu
A dust mite allergy can range from mild to severe. A mild case of dust mite allergy may cause an occasional runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing. In severe cases, the condition may be ongoing (chronic), resulting in persistent sneezing, cough, congestion, facial pressure or severe asthma attack.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Some signs and symptoms of dust mite allergy, such as a runny nose or sneezing, are similar to those of the common cold. Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you have a cold or an allergy. If symptoms persist for longer than one week, you might have an allergy.
If your signs and symptoms are severe — such as severe nasal congestion, wheezing or difficulty sleeping — call your doctor. Seek emergency care if wheezing or shortness of breath rapidly worsens or if you are short of breath with minimal activity.
What causes dust mite allergy?
An allergy is the immune system’s response to an unknown substance that’s not usually harmful to your body. These substances are called allergens. They may include certain foods, pollens, and dust mites. People who are allergic to dust mites have bad reactions to the remnants of the bugs. These remnants include tiny mounds of feces and decaying bodies.
You might have a relatively clean household, but it doesn’t take much to create an environment fit for dust mites. In fact, the average bedroom is often the ideal place for them. Bedding, carpeting, and furniture cushions all trap and hold moisture, allowing these tiny bugs to flourish. You could experience increased allergy symptoms over time as you continue to breathe in the dust mites’ waste particles.
It’s important to note that dust can be a sneeze – inducing annoyance for anyone, but only certain people have the immune responses that actually constitute a dust mite allergy.
What increases my risk for dust mite allergy?
There are many risk factors for dust mite allergy, such as:
- Having a family history of allergies. You’re more likely to develop a sensitivity to dust mites if several members of your family have allergies.
- Exposure to dust mites. Being exposed to high levels of dust mites, especially early in life, increases your risk.
- Being a child or a young adult. You’re more likely to develop dust mite allergy during childhood or early adulthood.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is dust mite allergy diagnosed?
You should see an allergist if you find your symptoms are worse at home, especially when cleaning or when you go to bed. An allergist is someone who diagnoses and treats allergies.
Your allergist will use diagnostic tests to determine whether you have a dust mite allergy. The most common type of test is a skin-prick test. During this test, the allergist will prick an area of your skin with a small extract of the allergen. Your allergist will then wait about 15 minutes to see if your skin has any negative reactions. If you do have a reaction, you will likely develop a large bump around the pricked area of skin. The area may also become red and itchy.
A blood test is sometimes used instead of a skin test. Note that a blood test can only screen for antibodies, so the results may not be as accurate.
How is dust mite allergy treated?
The best treatment option is to limit your exposure to dust mites. If that doesn’t work, there are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help relieve the symptoms of a dust mite allergy:
- Antihistamines, such as allegra or claritin, can help relieve sneezing, runny nose, and itching
- Nasal corticosteroids, such as flonase or nasonex, can reduce inflammation while offering fewer side effects than their oral counterparts
- Decongestants, such as sudafed or afrin, can shrink tissues in nasal passages, making it easier to breathe
- Medications that combine an antihistamine and decongestant, such as Actifed or Claritin-D
Other treatments that may provide relief include:
- Cromolyn sodium
- Leukotriene modifiers such as singulair, accolate, or zyflo
- Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dust mite allergy?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dust mite allergy:
- Use allergen-proof bed covers. Keep your mattress and pillows in dustproof or allergen-blocking covers. These covers, made of tightly woven fabric, prevent dust mites from colonizing or escaping from the mattress or pillows. Encase box springs in allergen-proof covers.
- Wash bedding weekly. Wash all sheets, blankets, pillowcases and bedcovers in hot water that is at least 130 F (54.4 C) to kill dust mites and remove allergens. If bedding can’t be washed hot, put the items in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at a temperature above 130 F (54.4 C) to kill the mites. Then wash and dry the bedding to remove allergens. Freezing nonwashable items for 24 hours also can kill dust mites, but this won’t remove the allergens.
- Keep humidity low. Maintain a relative humidity below 50 percent in your home. A dehumidifier or air conditioner can help keep humidity low, and a hygrometer (available at hardware stores) can measure humidity levels.
- Choose bedding wisely. Avoid bedcovers that trap dust easily and are difficult to clean frequently.
- Buy washable stuffed toys. Wash them often in hot water and dry thoroughly. Also, keep stuffed toys off beds.
- Remove dust. Use a damp or oiled mop or rag rather than dry materials to clean up dust. This prevents dust from becoming airborne and resettling.
- Vacuum regularly. Vacuuming carpeting and upholstered furniture removes surface dust — but vacuuming isn’t effective at removing most dust mites and dust mite allergens. Use a vacuum cleaner with a double-layered microfilter bag or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to help decrease house-dust emissions from the cleaner. If your allergies are severe, stay out of the area being vacuumed while someone else does the work. Wait about two hours before going back in the vacuumed room.
- Cut clutter. If it collects dust, it also collects dust mites. Remove knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books, magazines and newspapers from your bedroom.
- Remove carpeting and other dust mite habitats. Carpeting provides a comfortable habitat for dust mites. This is especially true if carpeting is over concrete, which holds moisture easily and provides a humid environment for mites. If possible, replace wall-to-wall bedroom carpeting with tile, wood, linoleum or vinyl flooring. Consider replacing other dust-collecting furnishings in bedrooms, such as upholstered furniture, nonwashable curtains and horizontal blinds.
- Install a high-efficiency media filter in your furnace and air conditioning unit. Look for a filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 11 or 12 and leave the fan on to create a whole house air filter. Be sure to change the filter every three months.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Dust mite allergy. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dust-mites/home/ovc-20318418. Accessed August 1, 2017.
Dust Mite Allergies. http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/dust-mites#overview1. Accessed August 1, 2017.
Dust Allergy. http://acaai.org/allergies/types/dust-allergy. Accessed August 1, 2017.
Review Date: July 29, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019