Dust Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment
When most people think of allergies, they typically think of pollen, animal dander, or food allergies like peanuts. With so many different allergy causes, it can sometimes be difficult to determine that something like dust is the real culprit. If your attempts to rid yourself of a mysterious allergy have been unsuccessful so far, read on to learn if dust might be the cause.
There are a number of different particles within dust particles which may be causing your allergy symptoms:
Dust mites, or bed mites, are the most common cause of dust allergies. They live and multiply more easily in warm, humid places. Dust mites thrive in temperatures at 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of 75 – 80%, and die as soon as the humidity drops below 50%. If you live in a dry climate, they are much harder to find.
Dust mites leave particles found in pillows, mattresses, carpeting, and upholstered furniture. Vaccuuming, walking on carpets, or even rearranging your bedding may cause these particles to float throughout the air. They will settle once these disturbances pass.
Even if your house isn’t visibly dirty, this doesn’t mean you will be safe from dust. Oftentimes, there are particles too tiny to be seen throughout your house which cannot be removed using typical cleaning methods. In fact, cleaning might make your symptoms even worse.
Cockroaches may be found in any building or neighborhood. Unfortunately, they contain a protein which some people are allergic to. Cockroaches often leave tiny particles containing these proteins wherever they go. As a result, cockroach particles are a common component of household dust, and may be the real cause of your allergy symptoms.
Mold is a type of fungus which is often found in the air. If you have a mold allergy, inhaling these spores will cause allergy symptoms. Mold takes on many different forms, but not all of them are visible.
Mold can live just about anywhere, including logs, fallen leaves, and moist places in the house like bathrooms and kitchen. Mold particles and spores are also common components of dust and may be the real cause of your dust allergy.
You might be surprised to learn that pollen from trees, grasses, flowers, and weeds are commonly found in household dust as well. People are allergic only to certain types of pollen: some might react to pollen from beech trees, while others only react to a certain type of grass.
Animal Hair, Fur, or Feathers
Pets can leave behind a number of particles which may prove problematic for allergic people. Dander (or skin flakes), saliva, and even urine can cause allergic reactions which may become worse once they combine with dust. Bird owners should be aware that feathers and droppings may also become embedded in household dust, which can be a potential problem for people with allergies.
Dust Allergy Management
If you have determined that dust has been causing your allergy symptoms, you should take the following steps to reduce dust exposure:
- Use wood flooring rather than wall-to-wall carpets, particularly in your bedrooms.
- Clean your house regularly with a central vacuum or a vacuum with a HEPA filter. If you are allergic, wear an N95 filter mask while dusting, sweeping, or vacuuming. Keep in mind that the dust may take more than two hours to settle after cleaning. It would be best to have the person with the allergies leave when cleaning, and to avoid cleaning in the bedroom at night.
- Use mite-proof mattresses and pillows and wash your bedding regularly with hot water.
- Use a HEPA air cleaner/purifier in the allergic person’s bedroom.
- Keep pets out of the allergic person’s bedroom.
- Keep unrefrigerated food covered, and dispose food waste in a tightly sealed garbage can.
- Use roach traps and have a professional pest control service regularly check if cockroaches are causing allergy symptoms.
- Install a high-efficiency media filter with an MERV rating of 11 or 12 in your furnace or air conditioning unit.
- Use a hygrometer to measure humidity, and keep the humidity level below 55%. A dehumidifier will be helpful in a humid climate. Vent fans can also remove moisture from problematic places like the bathroom and kitchen. Repair any water leaks in your home.
Concerned About a Dust Allergy? We Can Help
If you are concerned about a dust allergy, our doctors will be able to determine the specific cause of your symptoms by gathering information about work and home environments, medical history, symptoms, and possible triggers. They can also use skin tests to confirm whether or not you have an allergy.
Dr. Shukla has been helping patients with allergy symptoms for over 15 years, seeing thousands of patients annually. You can trust his experience and expertise to determine exactly what causes your allergy symptoms.