There’s no place like home, right? You like to think of your space as your shelter and your retreat away from the rest of the world.
But, as it turns out, your seemingly safe haven could be harboring some unwanted visitors that wreak havoc on your nasal passages. Yep, we’re talking all about dust mite allergies—including what they are and how to deal with them.
Are you prepared to never look at the soft surfaces in your home the same way again? Dust mites are microscopic, eight-legged little pests that thrive in things like your bedding and curtains or carpets and mattresses. Say it with us: yuck.
Bear with us, because it gets worse. As dust mites move throughout your home and feast on dust, they leave behind some not-so-desirable materials—things like pellets of their own fecal matter and even dead body fragments. Those waste materials are a common allergen.
These creepy crawly creatures aren’t visible to the naked eye (and honestly, we’re thankful for that), but chances are good that there could be millions of them in your home. One study found that four out of five homes in the United States have detectable levels of dust mite allergens in at least one bed.
Yes, a dust allergy and a dust mite allergy are the same thing. It’s not the actual dust mite itself that people are allergic to, but instead the particles that they leave behind.
Those leftover particles dry up and become part of your house dust (which also contains everything from dead skin cells to clothing fibers). When you have exposure to dust in your home that contains those dust mite particles, it triggers your allergy symptoms.
So, a dust mite allergy and dust allergy are one in the same—but we’ll admit that saying you’re allergic to dust feels a little less icky to say.
You get that it’s highly likely that dust mites are crawling around your home right now, and unfortunately, they’re a super frequent allergen. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic says they’re the single most common trigger of year-round allergies and asthma.
But, how can you know if you’re allergic to them?
As the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) explains, you’ll experience symptoms similar to the ones you’d have with seasonal allergies or any other type of allergic reaction, including:
If you have asthma, dust mites can mean even more bad news for you. They can worsen your asthma and cause breathing difficulties, chest tightness, and wheezing.
Allergy symptoms aren’t fun to deal with and, if you suspect you have a dust mite allergy, you’re likely wondering when and how often you’ll experience all of that itching, sneezing, and sniffling.
Between May and October is peak breeding season for dust mites (yuck again), so your allergy symptoms could reach an all-time high around that time.
However, while most dust mites die during the winter, that doesn’t mean your allergies go away. All of the gross stuff that these microscopic dust mites left behind can still be lingering in your home, which means you can still experience symptoms. With that in mind, it’s more than possible that you’ll deal with a dust mite allergy year-round.
Year-round allergies aren’t anybody’s idea of a good time, so wanting to prevent them in the first place is understandable. Dust mites are hard to eliminate completely, but there are a few steps you can take to minimize them in your home:
Reduce humidity: Dust mites thrive in humid areas, so aim to keep your home below 50% humidity. Running a dehumidifier can be helpful in especially humid spots or areas with a lot of soft surfaces.
Wash textiles and soft surfaces regularly: Things like your bedding, towels, and curtains should be washed frequently—ideally once per week and in hot water.
Protect yourself when deep cleaning: Learning about dust mites is enough to make you want to scrub your home from top to bottom, but be mindful of the fact that cleaning actually kicks up a lot of dust that can trigger your allergies. Use a damp cloth when dusting to cut down on the particles that fly in the air, look for a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and consider wearing a mask as you clean to avoid inhaling dust.
Use an air purifier: Also known as an air cleaner, this type of device can help to remove allergens from the air in your home.
Those steps can help you limit dust mites as much as possible, but an allergic reaction is still possible (and common). If you start sniffling and sneezing, then traditional allergy medications like antihistamines and decongestants can help you get some relief.
Your home should be your sanctuary—but little did you know that you had these unwanted house guests crawling along all of your soft surfaces.
The idea of dust mites alone is creepy enough, but it’s even worse if they cause allergies. Fortunately, this is another instance where knowledge is power. When you recognize what’s triggering your allergies, you can take the necessary steps to reduce your allergens, treat your symptoms, and show those eight-legged pests who’s boss.