Synopsis: Information regarding various dust allergies including symptoms, types, and triggers of allergic reactions.
Dust can make people feel itchy, but dust allergies make it hard for a person to breathe and might trigger asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or tightness in the chest. People with dust allergies often suffer the most when they are in their own or other people's homes. A person with dust allergies may find their symptoms worsening during or immediately after sweeping, dusting, or vacuuming. The process of cleaning can stir up dust particles and make them easier to inhale. The symptoms of dust allergy can include:
An allergy is defined as a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Symptoms include red eyes, itchiness, and runny nose, eczema, hives, or an asthma attack. Allergies can play a major role in conditions such as asthma. In some people, severe allergies to environmental or dietary allergens or to medication may result in life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis. Food allergies and reactions to the venom of stinging insects such as wasps and bees are more often associated with these severe reactions. Not all reactions or intolerances are forms of allergy.
Triggers of Dust Allergies
A number of things can trigger dust allergies. Below, you will find descriptions of these triggers. The triggers involve dust mites, cockroaches, molds and more.
Cockroaches: Cockroaches live in all types of neighborhoods and buildings. Some people develop allergy symptoms when they are around cockroaches. Tiny particles from the cockroach are a common part of household dust and might be the true cause of a person's dust allergy.
Pollen: Pollen comes from grasses, flowers, trees and weeds. People may be allergic to different types of pollen. For example; some people are allergic to pollen from only beech trees, while others are allergic to pollen from only specific kinds of grasses. Pollen is a common part of household dust and may be the cause of a dust allergy.
Animal Fur, Hair and Feathers: Pets may cause issues for people with allergies in some different ways. Pet dander, urine and saliva may cause an allergic reaction, particularly when combined with household dust. In homes with birds, feathers and bird droppings can also become embedded in household dust and cause issues for people who are allergic to them.
Mold: Mold is a fungus that makes spores which float in the air. When people with a mold allergy inhale the spores, they experience allergy symptoms. There are several different kinds of mold; some can be seen while others cannot. Molds live everywhere, on fallen leaves, on logs and in places that are moist such as kitchens or bathrooms. Tiny mold spores and particles are a common part of household dust and might be the cause of a dust allergy.
Dust Mites: Dust mites, at times referred to as, 'bed mites,' are the most common cause of allergy from household dust. Dust mites live and reproduce easily in places that are warm and humid. The mites prefer temperatures at or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 75-80%. The mites perish when the humidity drops below 50%. They are not usually found in climates that are dry. Dust mite particles are often found in mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture and carpeting. They float into the air when someone vacuums, disturbs bedding, or walks on a carpet; they settle after the disturbance is over. Dust mites are a common cause of asthma in children. A home does not need to be visibly dirty to trigger a dust mite allergy reaction. The particles are too small to be seen and often times cannot be removed using regular cleaning procedures. A thorough cleaning may, in fact, make an allergic person's symptoms worsen.
Management of Dust Allergies
To manage a dust allergy, it is best to avoid the things that are most likely to cause an allergic reaction. What follows are some simple steps you can take in order to reduce exposure to indoor dust.
Clean your home on a regular basis using a central vacuum or a vacuum with a HEPA filter. If you are allergic, wear an N95 filter mask as you sweep, dust, or vacuum. It may take more than two hours for dust to settle following a complete cleaning, so if you can, clean when the person who is allergic is away and avoid cleaning the bedroom of an allergic person at night.
Install a high-efficiency media filter with an MERV rating of 11-12 in your air condition unit and furnace. Leave the fan on to create a whole house air filter that removes particulates. Change the filter at least every 3 months to keep the air clean all year long. Have your air conditioning units and furnace inspected and serviced every 6 months.
Get in the habit of using a hygrometer to measure the humidity level in your house. Keep the humidity level below 55%. If you live in a sticky or humid climate, you might find it helpful to use a dehumidifier. You may use a vent fan for removing moisture in the kitchen and bathrooms. Repairing all water leaks will help to keep moisture away as well.
Treating Dust Allergies
If you think you might have an allergy to any of the components of household dust, visit an allergist. To pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, the allergist will ask detailed questions about your home and work environments, frequency and severity of symptoms, exposure to pets, family medical history and other potential triggers. At times, the medical interview will reveal a likely cause. For example; a person who gets a stuffy nose each time she plays with a friend's cat may have an allergy to cats, or simply to the dust infused with the cat's hair in their friend's home.
An allergist will often times need to conduct a skin test to determine exactly what is triggering a person's allergic reaction. Skin tests involve using a small and sterile probe to prick a person's skin with extracts of common allergens such as pet dander or tree pollen while observing the person's reactions. A positive reaction might indicate a person is allergic to a substance. On occasion, an allergist may order a skin test and blood test to confirm an allergy. Once a dust allergy has been identified, an allergist will recommend one or more of the following forms of treatment; medications, allergy shots, or changes in a person's household routine.
Medications for Dust Allergies
If your attempts to reduce exposure to indoor dust do not provide enough relief, an allergist might recommend a prescription or over-the-counter medication. Antihistamines and decongestants are the most common allergy medications. The medications help to reduce a runny nose, stuffy nose, itching and sneezing. Other medications work by preventing the release of the chemicals that cause a person to experience allergic reactions.
Corticosteroid sprays are effective in treatment of inflammation in a person's nose. Allergy shots work by gradually increasing a person's tolerance to allergy triggers. An allergist can work with you to determine which medications are best for you, as well as how much and how often you should take them.