Dust and Dust-mite Allergy

Living in New York City brings with the luxury a nuisance – dust. However clean you may keep your apartment, dust seeps in through windows, doorways, Airconditioning ventilating ducts. Open the door and a gust of new dust comes in. If that weren’t enough, our skin replenshes itself constantly and as it does it sheds tiny flecks that add to the environmental dust. Within the dust, live creatures called house dust mites. For creatures you can’t even see, dust mites can stir up a lot of trouble. About 20 million Americans are allergic to these little bugs. You may feel as if you have an endless cold or even asthma.

Medication can help, but there are also simple ways to keep the dust mites away.

Symptoms to Watch For
Dust allergy symptoms are similar to those of pollen allergies:

  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny, itchy, stuffy nose
  • Sneezing

What Are Dust Mites?
To get rid of these tiny creatures in your home, it helps to know about their living habits.

  • They prefer temperatures of 70 F or higher and humidity of 75% to 80%. They can’t survive in colder, drier places.
  • In the U.S., dust mite allergies peak in July and August, when dust mite populations are high because of warm weather.
  • Dust mites like to eat dead skin from pets and humans. You probably shed enough skin a day to feed a million dust mites.
  • Flakes of dead skin in carpeting, beds, and furniture are like snacks for dust mites.

What Causes Dust Allergies?
It sounds nasty, but one piece of dust can contain pet dander, pieces of dead cockroaches, and mold spores, in addition to dead skin and dust mites.

Both cockroaches and pet dander are common allergy triggers, too. Cockroach waste, saliva, and body parts are a problem in some homes, particularly in the southern U.S.

How Can I Prevent Dust Allergy Symptoms?
The best strategy is to reduce your exposure to dust. Large numbers of dust mites can gather in mattresses, bedding, and upholstered furniture.

Start in the bedroom, where you probably spend the most time. Wear a mask while cleaning

Bedroom Dust-Busting Tips

  • Put airtight, plastic dust-mite covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs.
  • Use pillows filled with polyester fibers instead of kapok or feathers.
  • Wash bedding in very hot water (over 130 F) once a week. The water needs to be this hot to kill dust mites. Dry the bedding in a hot dryer.
  • If your bedroom is in a basement with a concrete floor, move upstairs if you can. Concrete stays damp and creates the moist, humid environment dust mites love.

Tips for Around the House

  • Clean bare floors often with a damp mop or cloth.
  • Vacuum carpets once or twice a week. Use a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter – any other vacuum cleaner spreads the dust particles back into the room.
  • Wash throw rugs in hot water.
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture such as sofas. Wood, leather, plaster, or metal furniture is better for dust allergies.
  • Replace drapes with roll-up window shades. If you must have curtains, wash them in hot water each season.
  • Get rid of stuffed animals, soft toys, and other dust collectors.
  • If your dust allergy is severe, ask your doctor if it would help to replace wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood or vinyl floors.
  • Keep Household Air Clean and Dry

    • Use a HEPA filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12 in your heating and air-conditioning unit. You can find the rating listed on the packaging. Change the filter every three months.
    • Use a hygrometer to measure humidity in your home and keep it below 55%. You can get one at hardware and building supply stores.
    • Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to lower humidity.
    • Get an air purifier, they are tremendously helpful in reducing the dust count in the air.

How Are Dust Allergies Treated?
Over-the-counter or prescription allergy drugs can help control symptoms.

  • Antihistamines relieve itching, sneezing, and watery eyes.
  • Decongestants help with nasal congestion.
  • Nasal steroids reduce swelling in your nose so you can breathe better.

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may also be an option. They treat allergies over a long period of time. Ask your doctor if they make sense for you.