Dust mite allergies

The words ‘dust mite’ evoke images of microscopic, alien-like creatures hiding in your homes. At only 0.2 - 0.3 millimeters…they are microscopic indeed with a diet consisting of the human and animal skin flakes found lying around.


Owen Wiseman

28 November 2018

When the immune system detects an intruder, it rapidly takes stock of the resources available.

These white blood cells come in an array of different shapes and sizes and respond to certain categories of pathogens.

The most easily recognizable are the non-specific macrophages which devour anything that is not deemed as safe by the body, such as our own cells.

Other immune cells are known as natural killer cells. These can be considered the second wave of defense as they are more selective, targeting cells that the pathogen or virus has entered. When they encounter a new pathogen, the body will create antibodies to that particular agent.

The next time that agent invades, these antibodies bind to the antigens presented by the intruder and signal the immune system, resulting in a faster and more powerful response. In the case of those with dust mite allergies, the body reacts to the mite itself. This triggers allergy symptoms such as runny nose, cough, itchy eyes, and facial pressure among others.

Mucus creates a barrier that catches certain pathogens and prevents them from entering an otherwise unprotected membrane. When a pathogen enters, the body ramps up mucus production as a way to protect itself against subsequent invaders. The cough is also a way for your body to expel any subsequent invaders and clear the trachea of any unwanted visitors who have taken up residence.

As the sinuses around your face swell, they place increased pressure on your facial bones that in severe cases, may potentially require draining. Now before you go and sterilize your entire home, it’s important to note that normal cleaning methods usually don’t affect these microscopic organisms.

They are too small to be picked up in the fibers of common cleaning fabrics, and stirring up all that dust can actually aggravate your symptoms as the mites become airborne. Some better ways to manage allergies to dust mites include :

  • Brush your furry companion. When pets aren’t brushed for a while, their loose dander becomes a breeding ground for dust mites. By brushing their fur out on a regular basis, not only are they glad for the attention, but you send a potential home for the dust mites to the trash. Also, brushing animals requires the same motion as petting which has been shown to increase immunoglobulin A, an antibody which helps protect against potential pathogens and allergens, and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Be mindful where you lay your head. Dust mites love a pillow cover or bedding that hasn’t been washed in quite some time. These organisms are susceptible to heat, and when you run them through the wash, not only do they die off, but the dead skin flakes that the mites feed on disappear as well. An additional step is to purchase plastic casing for your mattress and pillows to prevent the accumulation of skin flakes and stop the mites from taking up residence in the fabric.
  • Symptom relief. While it would be near-impossible to get rid of every single dust mite in your home, it is far from impossible to mitigate allergic reactions that cause burning eyes and an itchy nose. Products such as Allergy Relief act to normalize the body’s reaction to allergens and come in the form of a liquid, tablets, or a nasal spray.
  • Take note of the weather. Dust mites tend towards warmer and more humid temperatures and therefore get worse in the early months of summer. Preventative measures could include an air filter for the dust and a dehumidifier to make the home environment less inviting to those unwanted guests.
  • Get tested! Seeing an allergist is one of the greatest preventative measures you can take. These physicians are trained to test for and identify the specific triggers that their patients are susceptible to. You may leave the clinic surprised to discover that dust mites don’t bother you, but the fur of your kitty does. This also helps avoid unnecessary expenditures and helps you focus on the real trigger at hand.