Health Issues

Dust Allergies

Why dust mites really bite (but not literally)

One of the most common indoor health issues is dust allergies - or more accurately, allergies to what's contained in the dust. Aside from tiny particles of fabric, skin and dirt are many known allergens, such as pollen and animal allergies from pet dander. Dust is known as one of the worst allergy offenders because of the other allergens found within it.

The worst part of dust

The biggest allergy trigger in dust is the dust mite, which is no more than one-third of a millimeter in size and invisible to the naked eye. It may be small, but anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dust mites can occupy a single gram of dust.

Cockroach debris can also be a problem, but not to the same extent. Proteins in saliva, droppings and eggs can cause reactions in some people. Cockroach allergies may not be as common because cockroaches don't live in all homes, while dust mites do.

Why are some people allergic to dust mites?

Dust mite bites aren't the reason, and people aren't sensitive to the mites themselves; digestive enzymes found in their droppings cause allergy symptoms. Mites and their feces can be found in bedding, pillows, furniture and carpets. They feed on shed human skin cells, so wherever people spend a lot of time, mites will congregate. Dust mite dung disintegrates into a powder, making it easy to be inhaled or stirred up. It is the most common trigger for individuals with asthma and is often the cause of sinusitis, allergic bronchitis and allergic conjunctivitis, as well as contributing to eczema.

Solving the dust-allergy dilemma

It's impossible to completely rid a home of dust mites, but it is possible to control mite levels and keep droppings from stacking up. Here's how:

  • HEPA filters - These air filters can be used in the furnace, portable air purifiers or vacuums and can trap small dust particles and lower the numbers of allergens.
  • Dehumidifiers - Dust mites need moisture from the air to survive. If the home is kept below 50 percent relative humidity, they will be less likely to thrive.
  • Bedding covers - Special mattress and pillow cases can stop dust mites from multiplying and causing problems.
  • Washing - Hot water can kill dust mites if it's over 130 F. Materials can also be left in a freezer overnight.

Controlling dust allergies seems like a pretty daunting task, but with proper cleaning and care, the problem can become a thing of the past. Your local hardware store will carry a wide variety of dust mops and other types of dusters that can help you maintain a dust-free environment in your home.

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