Dust Mite Allergy: Symptoms and Precautions

Dust mites, or acarids, of the Arachnid family, are invisible to the naked eye, as they measure between 0.2 to 0.4 mm in length. They have four pairs of legs and have hairs and claws on the end of their tails.

Dust mites develop indoors. All houses, even the cleanest ones, host dust mites. They are most often found in bed linen, curtains, cuddly toys, and carpets. They can also be found in barns, cattle sheds, and warehouse attics. Domestic dust mites feed on human skin flakes, skin, hair, and nail remains, whereas storage mites feed on flour, grain, or cereal flakes.

Dust mites, namely the remains of dead ones, are responsible for 50% of allergic symptoms.

Symptoms of Dust Mite Allergy

The inhalation of dust mite dander causes respiratory symptoms such as allergic rhinitis or asthma. Their contact with the skin causes a form of eczema, called atopic dermatitis.

A person allergic to dust mites can develop allergic reactions to eating shrimp or snails or by being in contact with cockroaches.

The symptoms caused by dust mites reach a peak in intensity in autumn and last throughout the winter. This is largely due to the fact that, during these periods, homes are heated and poorly ventilated.

Avoiding Dust Mites

To reduce the amount of dust mites in your home, ventilate rooms for about 30 to 60 minutes per day. Change bed linen each week and wash them at the highest temperature. Get rid of fan heaters, vacuum two to three times per week, and regularly remove dust from furniture with a wet cloth. Wash your cushions, sleeping bags, and covers at least once a month at the highest temperature. Put cuddly toys in the freezer wrapped in a plastic bag one night per month. Additionally, store clothing in a wall cupboard.

You should also maintain a room temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with a maximum humidity level of between 50 and 60%. Avoid bunk beds, as the child sleeping in the lower bed inhales the dust mites coming from the higher bed. A slatted bed base is recommended in an allergic person's bedroom. Pillows and blankets should be made out of synthetic materials (i.e. not feathers, where dust mites are likely to live). Finally, use an anti-dust mites cover.

As an extreme course of action, you may consider using anti-dust mite sprays, which are chemical substances that kill dust mites. They destroy dust mite eggs and larvae, and some also destroy mold, which represents an important source of food for dust mites.

Image: © Sebastian Kaulitzki - Shutterstock.com
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