Dust mite allergy: symptoms, causes, treatment, adaptation

Dust mites are microscopic arthropods that live in furniture, bedding, carpets and stuffed animals. Some people are allergic to the body parts and feces of dust mites. A dust mite allergy often causes respiratory allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes.

This article explains dust mite allergies, their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Alright / Theresa Chiechi


Dust mite allergy symptoms

Dust mite allergies lead to allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever). These symptoms affect the respiratory system. They understand:

  • To sneeze
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Congestion (choking when breathing through the nose)
  • Itching
  • Postnasal drip (which can cause a sore throat)
  • Cough

Also, for people with asthma, an allergy to dust mites can trigger an attack. If you have asthma, dust mite allergy symptoms may also include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing (hissing or rattling when breathing)
  • Chest pain

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that causes the airways to close. It appears suddenly and requires immediate medical attention. Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Eruption
  • swollen throat
  • Wheezing
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Panic

causes

Like other allergies, dust mite allergies occur when your body mistakes an allergen for a dangerous object. When this happens, your immune system makes antibodies to fight them. As a result, you experience allergy symptoms.

Scientists don’t fully understand why some people develop allergies and others don’t. However, some known risk factors increase your chances of developing allergies. These include:

  • A family history of allergies
  • Have asthma (chronic lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe)
  • Having eczema (a group of conditions causing itchy, red skin)

How common are allergies?

Nasal allergies are common and affect more than 40 million Americans.

Some researchers believe the rising prevalence may be due to better hygiene and fewer infections leading to a less trained immune system.

Diagnostic

To diagnose a dust mite allergy, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and take a detailed medical history. It’s important to share as many details as possible with your healthcare provider to help them determine what may be causing your symptoms. Try to prepare the following answers before you go to your appointment:

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • How often do they bother you?
  • Do you notice them at a specific time of day?
  • Do you see them after certain activities (sleeping, being in a specific room, for example)?

Additionally, your health care provider may perform allergy testing. Testing is especially likely if the cause of your symptoms is not apparent. These tests may include:

  • Skin test: This test is the gold standard for allergy testing. This involves pricking (skin prick test) or injecting (intradermal test) a small amount of an allergen into the skin and observing a reaction.
  • Blood test: Doctors rely less often on these tests. They are not as reliable as skin tests, but they can be used in children who cannot tolerate skin tests or if you are taking medications that interfere with skin tests. Blood tests measure specific antibodies to allergens in your blood.

Treatment

As with other allergies, the main treatment is to avoid exposure to the allergen. Avoidance can be especially tricky with dust mites because they exist in so many places in your home. However, there are things you can do to reduce your exposure, including:

  • Cover mattresses and pillows: Anti-allergy zipper cases can encapsulate dust mites and prevent them from bothering you while you sleep.
  • Wash your bedding: Use warm water and wash frequently.
  • Replace wall-to-wall carpet: Install hard flooring instead.
  • Limit fabrics: Stuffed animals, curtains and upholstered furniture all harbor dust mites.
  • Wear a mask while cleaning: This will limit your exposure to allergens that are agitated in the process. Or better yet, get someone allergy-free to clean.
  • Use HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters: Use filters in your vacuum cleaner and in appliances like air purifiers and humidifiers to limit the recycling of dust into the air.
  • Keep humidity low: Humidity below 50% creates a less ideal environment for dust mites.

If avoiding allergens isn’t entirely possible or doesn’t provide enough relief, there are other options for managing your symptoms. These treatment options include:

Injections against allergies

Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy. They consist of regularly injecting increasing doses of allergens over time so that you are desensitized and less affected by the allergen. Immunotherapy is more of a cure than symptom management. It’s a long-term investment, typically lasting three to five years.

Prognosis

There is no cure for allergies.

Most of the time, you will live your whole life with allergies. Some people, however, will overcome their sensitivity to allergens.

The good news is that allergies are manageable. It may take some time to figure out which treatments work for you. You will be able to determine a treatment plan with the help of your health care provider.

It is common for people to become immune to (resistant to) specific treatments after being there for a while. You may need to change your treatment plan periodically. It is also possible to develop additional allergies over time. Regular follow-up with your allergist or healthcare provider can keep you on track.

To face

Allergies can range from being a minor annoyance to interfering with your daily life and activities. To deal with a dust mite allergy, you may want to:

  • Avoid dust mites by keeping mattresses and pillowcases clean and covered and by removing as many carpets and other fabrics from your home as possible.
  • Take your prescription or over-the-counter medications regularly.
  • Consider allergy shots.

Summary

Dust mite allergies occur when your body mistakes dust mites for a dangerous foreign object and makes antibodies against them. This response leads to respiratory allergy symptoms like a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and congestion.

To diagnose a dust mite allergy, your doctor may perform allergy testing to determine if you react to dust mite allergens. The tests may involve a skin test or a blood test. The key way to manage a dust mite allergy is to avoid the allergen. You can also take various over-the-counter or prescription medications or allergy shots.

A word from Verywell

If you think you may be allergic to dust mites, it is advisable to contact your healthcare professional for a diagnosis. They can help you identify the allergy and suggest treatment options that will provide relief. Although there is no cure for allergies, most people learn how to manage their allergies so they don’t have a significant impact on their lives.

However, some people with allergies also develop asthma or, more rarely, a serious and life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Be on the lookout for warning signs and see a doctor if you notice wheezing, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing or swallowing.

Verywell Health only uses high quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact check and ensure our content is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. American Asthma and Allergy Foundation. Dust mite allergy. Updated October 2015.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Dust mite allergy. Updated January 25, 2015.

  3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Anaphylaxis.

  4. National Health Services. Allergies: overview. Updated November 22, 2018.

  5. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Hay fever: Overview. Updated June 17, 2020.

  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine. Hay fever: Overview. Updated April 23, 2020.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Overview of allergies. Updated November 30, 2020.

  8. Cleveland Clinic. Can you overcome hay fever or other allergies?. Updated May 7, 2021.

By Kathi Valei

As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing features and essays for national publications on the topics of health, advocacy and education. Much of her work focuses on parenting, education, health and social justice.

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