Dust mites are microscopic arachnids that live inside common house dust. They eat human skin cells (after they have been shed), and they live most easily in warm, humid areas.
There are two types of dust mites found in the United States: the Dermatophagoides farinea and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus. The farinea is more common in the US. Sufferers of dust mite allergies can have a stronger allergy to one kind of dust mite than the other.
Dust mite allergies typically involve sneezing, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and watery or itchy eyes. Extreme allergic reactions are very similar to asthma and sometimes have to be treated with an inhaler to return breathing to normal.
Other treatments for dust mite allergies that doctors commonly prescribe include: antihistamines like Clarinex, Allegra, and Claritin and steroid nasal sprays like Flonase. These help open nasal cavities and improve breathing.
Complications to the effectiveness of these treatments can arise in several ways. Some patients suffer allergic reactions to some of the drugs. Others may have birth defects that attribute to poor reception of nasal sprays, such as choanal atresia- a blockage of the nasal cavity.
Dust mites themselves can be prevented at the source through a number of ways. The most obvious way is through cleanliness- keeping your house and vehicle free of dust and dirt. If the cleaning is done by sweeping and vacuuming, it should be someone other than the allergy sufferer performing these chores. Using a broom or a vacuum cleaner stirs up dust particles (along with dust mites) into the air, generally resulting in acute allergy attacks.
The most important places to keep clean are the places that the allergy sufferer spends the most time. These locations generally include a bed and any couches or stuffed chairs. Bedrooms in particular need the most attention when trying to keep areas clear of dust mites. Areas where dust is most likely to build up include window sills, under and around dressers, and underneath beds.
A great way to fight dust mites in beds is through the use of protective anti-allergy coverings. Specialized covers can be purchased at most major retailers that carry bedding supplies. For the best results, allergy sufferers should purchase a pillow cover, box spring and mattress covers, and a bed sheet. These covers can be fitted underneath regular bed coverings and hidden from view.
Dust mites can affect allergy sufferers all year long, since most people keep their houses warm during the winter when dust mites would normally stay hidden away. Ventilating one’s house through the year can help keep them away. Filters in air and heating units should be changed regularly and electric fans should be cleaned routinely to prevent dust buildup. When possible, ventilation should be provided by opening windows.
All of these are great ways to severely cut down on the aggravation caused by dust mites for those who are allergic to them.