Dust mites belong to the same class as spiders and scorpions. They are barely 0.3 millimeters in size, and therefore are not easily visible to the naked eye. They are mainly found within mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, soft toys, etc. Due to this they are also known as bed mites. You will be surprised to know that a double bed may contain more than 2 million dust mites. They survive well in places with high humidity and in the temperature range of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dust mites feed themselves with dead human skin. They absorb water from the atmosphere. Normally, our body sheds about one ounce of dead skin scales every month, which get trapped in the fibers of cushions, carpets, bed linens, etc., making these places the ideal habitat for dust mites.
Dust mite allergy is not caused due to the bites of dust mites. Our body gets allergies by the waste matter released by the dust mites, and their decayed bodies, which is then inhaled by us. Proteins present in these substances is what causes this allergy. When these allergens enter the body, our immune system assumes it to be a toxic substance like bacteria, virus, etc. As a result, it releases antibody substances to protect us. Thus, it becomes so sensitive to this particular substance, that every time we inhale any debris of dust mites, it promptly responds by causing inflammation in the air passages like nasal cavity or lungs.
When this allergy causes inflammation of nasal passage only, the symptoms are less severe. They may include: runny nose, itchiness in the nose, throat and eyes, frequent sneezing, cough, swelling of the eyes, watery eyes, etc. Usually, children tend to rub their nose frequently in the upward direction due to congestion in the nasal passage. When this condition persists for a long time, people often experience facial pressure and pain. In some people, eczema or atopic dermatitis has also been observed. Sometimes, this allergen can cause sudden blockage in the air passage. Improvement in the allergic symptoms can be seen when the affected person stays out of the house.
When the exposure to the allergen is for a prolonged period of time, the inflammation becomes chronic and gives rise to asthma. In such a condition, allergy symptoms include breathing difficulty, a whistling sound every time the affected person is exhaling, feeling of tightness in the chest, bouts of continuous coughing, and allergic rhinitis. It is often found that in asthmatic condition, the affected person finds it difficult to fall asleep due to the shortness of breath or frequent bouts of coughing. It is further worsened if he/she gets infected by the cold or flu virus.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Doctors can diagnose this condition from its symptoms. They often monitor the breathing of the affected person. Then an allergy skin test is done, where purified extracts of dust mites are pricked into the skin surface and allowed to stay there for 15 minutes to see if the skin shows any signs of allergic reaction. Blood tests are also conducted to confirm the presence of allergens. As such, there is no definite treatment that can treat dust mite allergy. The only thing that can be done is to reduce the adverse effects of the symptoms.
Doctors prescribe antihistamine drugs for quick allergy relief. Nasal sprays are given to bring down the inflammation of the air passage. Oral decongestants are administered to lessen the swelling of the tissues in the nasal passage. When the affected person becomes asthmatic, drugs for asthma treatment are also prescribed. Some doctors suggest rinsing of the nasal passage with saline water to reduce the nasal congestion. Specific syringes are available for this purpose, in which a solution of warm water and salt is taken and administered into the nose.
Thus, you can see that it is very important to identify the dust mite allergy symptoms in order to start the treatment as soon as possible. If the treatment starts when the symptoms are still mild, it is more likely that one can prevent it from turning severe.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.