Try these simple strategies to manage dust mite allergies.
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Winter can be tough on people who have allergies to dust mites, one of the biggest culprits when it comes to indoor allergies. As many as 10 percent of Americans are sensitive to dust mites and in some regions they play a role in 90 percent of allergic asthma cases, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Where Are Dust Mites Found?
Dust mites are everywhere, even in the cleanest of houses. “You can’t get rid of [dust mites]; there is no way,” says Julie McNairn, MD, an allergist/immunologist in Cincinnati. “You have to just contain them.” Dead dust mites and dust mite waste products make up some of the dust you can see floating in the air or sitting on a hard surface. They also live in your bedding, upholstered furniture, rugs, and carpeting.
Diagnosing Dust Mite Allergies
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis from dust mite allergens are like those from other causes of allergic rhinitis, including pollen, animal dander, and include itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, and a runny nose. Allergens from dust mites can also trigger asthma symptoms.
If you have asthma or sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes that bother you all year — or all season — long, an allergist can find out if dust mite allergens are triggering your symptoms.
Without allergy testing, it’ll be difficult to tell whether you’re reacting to dust mites or have an allergy to another substance, such as pollen or mold. But one clue, says Dr. McNairn, is that people with dust mite allergies tend to have the most severe symptoms first thing in the morning. The reason: “You have been sleeping in your room with the dust mites all night long,” McNairn says. “And your bedroom is where the dust levels are high.”
Managing Dust Mite Allergies
Allergy medications and immunotherapy (allergy shots) can help manage symptoms in people who have an allergy to dust mites. And while you can’t get rid of dust mites, you can learn to reduce your daily exposure to them, says McNairn. Here’s how.
Keep the relative humidity in your home below 50 percent. A dehumidifier placed in damp areas such as the basement can help accomplish this.
Replace carpeting with hard floor surfaces such as hardwood, linoleum, or tile.
Wash your bedding in hot water regularly.
Minimize the number of soft objects in your home that you can’t clean (stuffed animals and pillows, for instance).
Have a person who is not allergic to dust mites or other indoor allergens do the cleaning in your home.
If you clean, wear a face mask and goggles to limit your exposure to airborne dust mite allergens.
Consider replacing upholstered furniture with leather furniture, which can be wiped down.
It might take a little work to keep the dust mites under control, but it’ll be worth it — and your house will be cleaner for it.