Mites, tiny insects that live in dust, exist in most homes. They do not sting, but some people are allergic to them. Read this fact sheet to learn how to remove them from your home.
My daughter Olga, 8, had a very cozy bedroom, with wall-to-wall carpeting, curtains and lots of stuffed animals in the bed. But sneezing and coughing kept her awake for much of the night. The doctor * diagnosed her allergy to dust mites and asked about her bedroom. He also suggested that we compare a mattress and anti-allergy bedding and that we wash the sheets and blankets every week with hot water and also that we wash the stuffed animals in hot water every week to keep some of them. A few weeks later the symptoms of Olga’s allergy had improved.
What is allergy to dust mites?
Mite dust debris causes allergy symptoms to people who are allergic to these insects. An allergy occurs when a person reacts to things that do not affect most people, such as pollen and this type of mite. If you come in contact with something you are allergic to (an allergen) you may have symptoms. This is an allergic reaction.
What are the symptoms of dust mite allergy?
The symptoms are: sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itching of the throat or ears, hives, swelling of the eyelids, itchy eyes and cough, whistling (sounds similar to whistling that occur when breathing) and shortness of breath. It may have only one symptom or several.
How is allergy to dust mites diagnosed?
The doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms and what will worsen the symptoms in your home. He may also recommend that you consult an allergy expert (an allergist) for skin tests or a blood test. In these tests the doctor introduces a small amount of possible allergens into the skin through a puncture or scratch. If you are sensitive to an allergen, a small red bump appears on the skin.
How is allergy to dust mites treated?
- Take measures to prevent or eliminate dust. See “How can I remove dust mites from my home?” In this fact sheet.
- Take medicines to relieve symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, or eye drops.
- Get vaccinated against allergies, if the doctor recommends it. Some people need them when they can not avoid an allergen. The vaccines contain a small amount (which is gradually increasing) of the allergen to which you are sensitive. Over time, the body becomes accustomed to the allergen and no longer reacts to it.
* In this fact sheet the words “doctor” or “doctor” are used, but may refer to any person who provides medical care, such as a member of the nursing staff or medical assistant.
Where is it common to find dust mites?
Dust mites are so small that they can not be seen with the naked eye. They live in warm places with high humidity levels and in things made of cloth, for example:
- mattresses and pillows
- upholstered furniture
- carpets and rugs
- stuffed toys
Did you know? More dust mites live in your bedroom than in any other part of your house.
How can I eliminate dust mites from my home?
It is impossible to eliminate all dust mites, but there are steps you can take to reduce the amount present in your home.
Remove and protect things that accumulate dust
- If possible, remove carpets and rugs. Dust mites do not live on vinyl or wood surfaces.
- Limit the amount of upholstered furniture, curtains and stuffed toys. (Check that the stuffed toys that you keep are washable.)
- Use anti-allergic bedding on pillows and mattresses.
- Avoid dehydrated flowers and other things that accumulate dust.
Clean everything that accumulates dust
- Wash bedding (sheets, blankets, comforters, duvets, and down blankets) with hot water once a week. Dry it completely.
- If you can not get rid of rugs, use washable rugs and wash them often.
- Wash curtains, clean blinds and ceiling fans frequently.
- Vacuum furniture and carpets at least once a week.
- Limit the amount of animals and other stuffed toys and if possible, wash them with hot water once a week.
- Use a mask when cleaning the house or look for a person who is not allergic to mites to do so. The masks can be obtained in many pharmacies and hardware stores.
- Use a damp cloth to remove dust.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate filter (HEPA) to trap dust mites.
Reduce the humidity in the home
- Use a dehumidifier and use the air conditioner when the weather is warm so that the humidity inside the home (or at least in the bedroom) does not exceed 50%.
How are dust allergies treated?
- Prescription or over-the-counter allergies can help control your symptoms.
- Antihistamines relieve itching, sneezing and watery eyes.
- Detoxifying agents ease or obstruct a congested nose.
- Nasal steroids reduce swelling in the nose, so you can breathe better.
You may be able to receive allergy shots (immunotherapy). They treat allergies for a longer period of time. There is also a prescription drug called Odactra, which is an allergen extract that can be taken under the tongue instead of in an injection. It can help relieve nasal and eye irritation from dust mite allergy.
Who should treat my allergy to dust mites?
Talk to your doctor about what is the best treatment for you. Your doctor can treat any allergies. If the symptoms do not improve in 3 to 6 months, if they are severe or you have needed emergency treatment.