Dust mites, tiny insect-like creatures that live in house dust, are the most common cause of dust allergy. They thrive in warm environments with 70-80 per cent humidity and typically burrow deep in pillows, mattresses, thick carpeting and upholstered furniture.
These tiny creatures that can only be seen with a microscope or magnifying glass, are the primary cause of respiratory allergies such as asthma and allergic rhinitis in Singapore, according to a study published in the journal Allergy. The study revealed that about 15 per cent of adults in Singapore are affected by asthma and 40 per cent by allergic rhinitis.
You may have an allergy to dust mites if you experience symptoms such as:
Runny nose, congested nose
Itchy, watery eyes
Tightness in chest
Since these symptoms can also be caused by the common cold and other allergies, it’s important to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Causes and risk factors for dust mite allergy
An allergy occurs when your immune system produces an inflammatory response to a particular substance it considers harmful. In the case of dust mite allergy, the allergic reaction is to proteins found in dust mite debris.
Your risk for dust mite allergy increases if you have:
a family history of allergies
excessive exposure to dust mites in childhood or early adulthood
Diagnosing and treating dust mite allergy
Your doctor may suggest an allergy skin prick test or an allergy blood test to diagnose dust mite allergy.
Treatment involves reducing your exposure to dust mites and managing your symptoms with medication such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, in tablet form or as nasal sprays.
The best way to control your allergy is to minimise your exposure to dust mites. While it is not possible to completely eliminate these bugs from your home, you can reduce their number by doing the following:
Remove dust with a wet mop/cloth to prevent it from dispersing into the air and aggravating your allergy symptoms
Cover pillows, mattresses and upholstered furniture with dust-proof covers which have small pores that dust mites can’t pass through
Wash sheets, blankets and other bedding weekly in very hot water
Avoid fabric curtains/blinds, carpets etc that cannot be washed regularly
Remove knickknacks which attract dust and declutter your home
Use a dehumidifier to maintain humidity at less than 50 per cent
Use HEPA filters to trap dust mites, and change the filters every three months
For children, regularly wash stuffed toys in hot water