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How Do I Know If I Have a Dust Mite Allergy?

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Morgan W. Hubeli, MSN, FNP-BC
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Morgan W. Hubeli, MSN, FNP-BC

Springtime has officially arrived, which means it’s prime allergy season. You may rely on over-the-counter or even prescription medication to get you through, but this year has been different. You’re still taking your medication, but you can’t seem to stop itching, sneezing, and feeling congested.

You’re starting to wonder if this is an issue with your allergies or perhaps something more. Could it be asthma or a previously undiagnosed allergy, such as a dust mite allergy?

What Are Dust Mites?

If you have a dust allergy, then that means you’re allergic to tiny arthropods known as dust mites. These are indeed tiny creatures, measuring far less than a single millimeter and thus cannot be seen with the human eye.

With about 13 species (and maybe more than that), a dust mite’s diet consists of human skin flakes that you naturally lose throughout the day. The skin flakes make their way onto various surfaces of your home, providing a feast for the dust mites. A million of these arthropods could feed on the amount of skin an average adult sheds in one day.

In addition to eating human skin, dust mites prefer home environments that are about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and humid.

What Are Dust Allergy Symptoms?

If you have an allergy to dust mites, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Mucous dripping from the back of the nose to the throat, which is also known as a postnasal drip
  • Itching, reddened skin
  • A scratchy throat and mouth as well as nose itchiness
  • Congestion
  • Watery, red, irritated, and itchy eyes
  • Excessive sneezing

If you already have asthma, you can expect your symptoms to be more severe. Be prepared for:

  • Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath that makes it hard to engage in physical activities and sleep well
  • Wheezing or whistling each time you take a breath
  • Consistent chest pain and tightness
  • An inability to breathe at times

Is It a Dust Allergy or Just a Cold?

The problem with a lot of the dust allergy symptoms covered above is they are very similar to a cold. In fact, the first symptoms many people use to gauge if they have a cold are a sore, scratchy throat and coughing.

To determine if you have a cold or a dust allergy, keep track of all your symptoms. Do you have a fever? If it’s a dust mite allergy, fever is very uncommon. Are you suffering from itchy and teary eyes or sneezing fits? Those aren’t typical symptoms of a cold.

Can Dust Allergies Lead to Asthma?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), a dust allergy may trigger asthma. This only tends to occur in children, though, and not teens, adults, or seniors. Of course, if someone in your family already has asthma, then an undiagnosed allergy like a dust allergy can absolutely exacerbate symptoms.

Your first inclination may be to thoroughly wipe down the house, covering every nook and cranny. The ACAAI suggests not doing this. Kicking up all that dust and dirt from cleaning will only serve to increase the severity of dust mite allergy symptoms and may trigger an asthma episode as well.

Can Dust Allergies Cause Hives, Fever, Sore Throat, and Sinusitis?

Generally, a dust allergy will cause the symptoms we covered above. These include coughing, postnasal drip, red and itchy skin, an itchy nose and throat, watery eyes, congestion, and sneezing.

There is a difference between itchy skin and hives. If your skin itches, you may scratch it until it turns red and swollen, and sometimes even until it bleeds. This is still not hives, though, which is an allergic reaction. According to the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF), hives can occur, but this is considered rare.

Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, can occur if the dust mite irritation causes inflammation which can trap mucus in your sinuses. This can become infected causing sinus pain and discolored, foul tasting nasal discharge.

How to Reduce Dust Allergies

If you want to keep your home free of dust mites, try the following:

  • Reduce humidity with a dehumidifier; if it’s under 50 percent, dust mites cannot survive.
  • Limit carpeting in the home. Use area rugs instead, and be sure to dry-clean these with very hot water to get rid of dust mites.
  • If you’re vacuuming or dusting the house, use a filtering mask. This will prevent allergic reactions as you clean your home. Also, limit your time in the room as you’re cleaning it and afterwards.
  • Consider throwing out down-filled pillows and blankets, upholstered furniture, blinds, and curtains in addition to carpeting. These surfaces are all hotbeds for dust mites.
  • Use dust-proof covers for pillows and mattresses to keep dust mites out of bed.

Dust Allergy Treatment

If you’re diagnosed with a dust mite allergy, you have plenty of treatment options. Some of these are for mild allergy sufferers and others are for those with more severe symptoms. Treatments include:

  • Decongestant drops, nose sprays, liquids, and pills. These control congestion by reducing nasal passage lining size.
  • Sublingual under-the-tongue immunotherapy or SLIT, which gradually alleviates symptoms through direct contact with the allergen.
  • Subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT allergy shots, which also gradually let you build up a tolerance to the allergen.
  • Nasal corticosteroids, a common nose spray treatment that alleviates congestion and other uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Antihistamine nose sprays, liquids, or pills. These are used to treat congestion, stuffiness, runny noses, itching eyes, and sneezing.

If you suspect you might have dust mites in your home that are contributing to your allergies, visit Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. Dust allergies can severely detract from quality of life. If you already have asthma, leaving your allergies untreated can be dangerous.

For more than 50 years, Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center has been a trusted choice for Charlotte residents and beyond. All physicians are board-certified in treating allergies and asthma. In fact, we’re the biggest facility of our kind.

Patients will asthma, venom allergies, drug allergies, food allergies, and more are welcome to set up an appointment with one of our physicians to discover a treatment for their allergies. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Contact Us

To schedule or request an appointment with one of our physicians, please call 704-372-7900