Are you finding yourself coughing and wheezing all of a sudden? If there's no immediate clue of a viral or bacterial infection, you may be dealing with an allergen in your living space or environment. People with sensitivity to respiratory allergens have to pay special attention to their hygiene and cleanliness.
When dust and dust mites get out of control, it affects the air quality in your home, leading to the onset of an increase in the frequency and intensity of allergic responses. Dust is a seasonal problem, occurring when the dry season reaches its peak. Particulate matter floats up into the atmosphere, where it travels great distances.
If you live next to a construction site, then chances are the dust from the site will find its way into your home. Living in a dusty home is a surefire way to start noticing the effects of dust allergies in your life. However, it's not only dust that can interfere with the air quality in your home.
Dust mites are microscopic parasites that feed off dead human skin cells. They reside all around the home, in carpets and rugs, furniture like the couch, in curtains – and your mattress. You wouldn't believe us if we told you what's living in your bed.
Dust mites are particularly active when relative humidity levels in the home reach over 55%. At this humidity level, the dust mites start to colonize and spread. As a result, you'll end up breathing them in at night when you sleep, while you're resting on the couch, or lying on the carpet.
Dust mite exposure also causes allergic responses in sensitive individuals. So, how do you tell the difference between the effects of the two allergens, and what can you do to control the accumulation and spread of dust and dust mites in your home?
If you have overexposure to dust mites, you'll know about it through the symptoms produced by the inhalation of the parasites. Some of the common symptoms associated with overexposure to dust mites include the following.
Itchy skin, especially on the side you sleep on.
Watery, itching, red eyes, with plenty of inflammation.
Post-nasal drip and a sore throat.
A persistent cough that won't go away.
Congestion and a runny nose.
Dust mites live in the fibrous items in your home, like the carpets and your mattress. It's impossible to remove these microscopic critters from your life entirely. We all live with some degree of dust mites crawling around in our homes.
However, when the dust mite populations get out of control, they start to cause issues without health. Typically, it would help if you overly had overly humid conditions in a room for a persistent amount of time to increase dust mite activity.
Conditions where relative humidity rises above 80% cause dust mites to get busy. They start colonizing and spreading through the home at a rapid rate.
Allergies start to occur when the immune system interacts with foreign contaminants like pollen, dander, dust, or dust mites. The immune system produces IgE proteins, also known as antibodies, to spearhead the bodies defense against the invading pathogen.
However, people with allergies have a type of auto-immune dysfunction where the antibodies recognize allergens as harmful pathogens, creating an immune response in healthy tissues to drive out the substance they deem dangerous.
As a result, the affected individual starts to notice the onset of allergy symptoms, such as a cough, sneeze, or congestion. Prolonged exposure to allergens may be a cause of the development of asthma in affected individuals.
Since the dust mites get water directly from the atmosphere, an increase in humidity levels gives them the ideal conditions they need to thrive and spread throughout the home.
However, while you might breathe in a few dust mites, it's not the actual creatures that are the cause of the allergies you experience. Dust mites eat our skin cells, producing dust-like feces. When we breathe in that dust, we encounter respiratory problems associated with overexposure to dust mites.
Some people are at a higher risk of developing dust mite allergies than others. Some of the risk factors that increase your chances of developing an allergic response include the following.
Existing allergies – If you have existing allergies, you are more likely to develop sensitivity to dust mites.
Family history – If anyone in your family has a history of allergies, you are at risk of developing them against dust mites.
Exposure – Prolonged exposure to dust mites will lead to the development of dust mite allergies.
Children – Being young places you at higher risk of developing dust mite allergies. Young people have yet to develop a robust immune response. As a result, overexposure to dust mites could result in the formation of allergies.
Those individuals with dust mite allergies are at risk of developing complications associated with their conditions. If you don't take steps to curb the allergic response, you may develop sinusitis, leading to a sinus infection.
Some individuals, especially children, are at risk of developing asthma if they don't get their exposure to dust mites under control.
Unlike mold, dust mites don't have a specific season where they are more active than others. As a result, it's challenging to pinpoint the allergen when it first appears. In many cases, the affected individual will need to go for an allergen test with their doctor to uncover the cause.
However, the most commonplace of infection is the mattress. When humidity gets out of control, they tend to show up there first. One of the noticeable symptoms of dust mite activity is itchy skin. If you're waking up with itching, then chances are you're dealing with a dust mite problem.
If you experience symptoms like a cough, runny nose, or sore throat a few hours after being in a dusty environment, you could have dust mite allergies. Individuals that suffer from allergies year-round might very well be dealing with a dust mite problem at home.
Here are a few strategies you can use to stop dust mites from colonizing and spreading throughout your home.
Clean your home at least three to four times a week, and wash all your sheets at least once a week. Get a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to help clean the air returning to the room from the machine.
Dust mites love living in fibrous environments. They'll set up shop in blankets and bedding, as well as carpets and mattresses. It's important to vacuum all rugs and wash the bedding and curtains regularly.
As mentioned, dust mites love living in your couch cushions and your bed. Purchasing covers for your cushions and mattress help keep dust mites out of your living and sleeping spaces.
A True HEPA filter traps 99.97% of all particulate matter from the air. Installing an air purifier with a HEPA filter can help to remediate the air in rooms.
For people living in overly humid conditions, consider investing in a dehumidifier. This machine pulls the water out of the air, adjusting the RH to your preferences.
Keep the humidity in your home at between 50% to 55%.
If you want the best way to provide an inhospitable environment to the dust mites, you need to know where you stand on the playing field. Measuring the air quality in your home is the best way to know if you have the right relative humidity levels and if the air is free of pathogens like mold and other allergens.
Companies like MI&T offer you air testing in your home. They'll use the latest technology to measure the air quality and detect signs of mold or pest infestations. You get an unbiased report on the air quality in your home and an action plan to help you remediate your living quarters.
Finally, we can't say enough about the benefits of strengthening your immune system. Typically, people with allergies have weak immune systems, or they might even have a few auto-immune disorders they're dealing with in life.
The immune system is responsible for managing the immune response to invading allergens. If you have a strong immune system, you can fight off the inflammatory proteins, and IgE developed without the overproduction of histamine in the body.
Building the strength of your immune system through good habits like eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep is critical for helping you overcome your allergies and reducing the intensity and frequency of allergy attacks.