Dust particles contain many different items. They may contain human or pet hair, human skin cells, plant pollen, textile fibers, cockroach extract, and/or outdoor soil. These items can contain allergens (specific proteins that cause an allergic reaction) or attract dust mites which can directly cause allergic reactions as well. Dust allergy symptoms may make it difficult to breathe and may trigger asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Dust may also make some people itchy. People with dust allergy symptoms often suffer the most inside their own homes or in other people’s homes. Oddly enough, vacuuming, dusting, or sweeping may make allergies worse immediately afterwards. The process of cleaning can stir up dust particles, making them easier to inhale.
Dust Allergy Symptoms
- Runny nose
- Post-nasal drip
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal obstruction
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
- Wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath
Dust Allergy Triggers
- Dust mites
- Pet hair, fur or feathers
Dust Allergy Management and Treatment
Make changes to your home and to your behavior.
- Remove wall-to-wall carpets, particularly in the bedroom.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom, and preferably out of the house.
- Minimize household humidity.
- Use “mite-proof” cases on mattresses and pillows; wash bed linens frequently in hot water.
- Install a high-efficiency media filter in your furnace and air conditioning unit.
Dust Allergy Triggers
Dust mites (Dermatophagoides farinae). Dust mites – sometimes called bed mites – are the most common cause of allergy from house dust. Dust mites are different than bed bugs. Dust mites live and proliferate in warm, wet places. They prefer temperatures at or above 70 degrees F with humidity of 75 to 80%. They die when the humidity falls below 50%. They are usually found in tropical climates, and not usually found in dry climates.
Dust mite particles are often found in pillows, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They float into the air when anyone vacuums, walks on a carpet or disturbs bedding. They settle once the disturbance is over.
Dust mites are a common cause of asthma in children.
A house does not need to be visibly dirty to trigger a dust mite allergy reaction. The particles are so tiny they can’t be seen. The dust mites often cannot be removed using normal cleaning procedures. In fact, a vigorous cleaning can make an allergic person’s symptoms worse.
Cockroaches. Cockroaches live in all types of buildings and neighborhoods. They are more prevalent in more densely populated areas (eg: inner cities). Some people develop may develop allergies when they are exposed to cockroaches. Tiny particles, or aeroallergens, from the cockroach are a common component of household dust and may be the true cause of a dust allergy.
Mold. Mold is a fungus that makes spores. These spores float in the air. When people with a mold allergy inhale the spores, they get allergy symptoms. There are many different kinds of mold—some kinds you can see, others you can’t.
Molds live everywhere. They can be found in moist places like bathrooms and kitchens, or on fallen leaves or logs. Tiny mold particles and spores are a common component of household dust and may be the real reason for a dust allergy.
Pollen. Pollen comes from trees, grasses, weeds, and flowers. People can be allergic to different types of pollen. For instance, some people are allergic to pollen from only ash trees; others are allergic to pollen from only certain kinds of grasses. Pollen is a common component of household dust and may be the true reason behind a dust allergy.
Animal hair, fur and feathers. Pets can cause problems for allergic patients in several ways. Their dander (skin flakes, skin epithelium), saliva and urine can cause an allergic reaction. When added to household dust, an allergy to pets can have a synergistic effect and result in increased allergy symptoms. In households with birds, feathers and bird excrement can also become part of household dust particles and cause more symptoms for people who are allergic to them.
Dust Allergy Treatment
To pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, we will ask detailed questions about your work and home environments, family medical history, frequency and severity of symptoms and exposure to pets and other possible triggers.
Sometimes the medical interview will reveal a likely culprit—for instance, a boy who gets a runny nose every time he plays with a friend’s dog might have an allergy to dogs or to the dust infused with dog hair in his friend’s house.
Most of the time, a skin test can be used to determine exactly what is triggering an immune response resulting in an allergic reaction. Skin prick tests involve using a small, sterile probe to prick the skin with extracts from common allergens, such as tree pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, and observing the reaction. A positive reaction (a raised welt with redness around it) may indicate that you are allergic to that substance. Occasionally, we will order a blood test to further confirm an allergy.
After a dust allergy is identified, we will recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Improved hygiene
- Weekly dusting and vacuuming
- High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance HEPA air filter for HVAC
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy) or allergy drops
Dust Allergy Management
To manage a dust allergy, it’s best to avoid the things most likely to cause an allergic reaction. Here are some simple steps to reduce exposure to indoor dust:
- Opt for wood flooring over wall-to-wall carpets when possible, especially in bedrooms.
- Clean your house regularly, using a central vacuum or a vacuum with a HEPA filter. If you are allergic, wear an N95 filter mask while dusting, sweeping or vacuuming. (It can take more than two hours for the dust to settle after a thorough cleaning—so, if possible, clean when the allergic patient is away, and avoid cleaning the bedroom of an allergic person at night.)
- Use “mite-proof” cases on your mattresses and pillows. Wash all bed linens regularly, using hot water.
- Keep a HEPA air cleaner running in the allergic person’s bedroom.
- Keep pets out of the allergic person’s bedroom at all times.
- Keep all unrefrigerated food covered; dispose of food waste in a tightly sealed garbage can.
- If cockroaches are a known problem, use cockroach traps and schedule regular visits by a professional pest control service.
- Install a high-efficiency media filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12 in the furnace and the air conditioning unit. Leave the fan on to create a “whole house” air filter that removes particulates. Change the filter at least every three months (with the change of the seasons) to keep the air clean year-round. Have your heating and air conditioning units inspected and serviced every six months.
- Get in the habit of using a hygrometer to measure the humidity in your home; keep the humidity level below 55 percent. If you live in a humid or sticky climate, you may find it helpful to use a dehumidifier. You may use a vent fan for removing moisture in bathrooms and the kitchen. Repairing all water leaks will also help keep moisture away.
Dust Allergy Medications and Immunotherapy
Your allergist may recommend a prescription or over-the-counter medication if your efforts to reduce exposure to indoor dust don’t provide adequate relief. Decongestants and antihistamines are the most common allergy medications. They help to reduce a stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing and itching. Other medications work by preventing the release of the chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Corticosteroid sprays are effective in treating inflammation in your nose. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) work by gradually increasing a person’s tolerance to allergy triggers. Allergy shots can be very effective.