Dust Mite Allergies May Be Making Your Seasonal Allergies Worse

April 22, 2019

Young woman using a vacuum cleaner while cleaning carpet in the house.

Allergy season is officially here, but it isn’t just the pollen and grasses you need to worry about. According to experts, there may be another factor affecting your allergies year-round: dust mites.

Dust mites are microscopic insect-like pests that live inside bedding, mattresses, and pillowcases. They feed on dust and dander but don’t usually bother homeowners. Almost every bed has dust mites.

But some people are more sensitive to dust mites than others. In fact, dust mite allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy/watery eyes, and congestion can look a lot like seasonal allergy symptoms.

Dr. Jacqueline S. Eghrari-Sabet, an allergy and asthma specialist, says that year-round dust mite allergies can actually make seasonal allergies more intense once pollen and ragweed start up in spring.

“Things are firing on all cylinders, so when seasonal allergies come around, you’ll have a more exaggerated response,” said Dr. Eghrari-Sabet.

One recent study conducted by Odactra, an FDA-approved drug designed to treat dust mite allergies, found that the medication not only improved patients’ dust mite allergy symptoms but also their seasonal allergies. Researchers say treating dust mite allergies could help to reduce symptoms during allergy season.

So how do you reduce dust mite allergies? “There is no better therapy than avoidance,” said Dr. Eghrari-Sabet.

Dust mites feed on dust, which means you need to first clear your house of dust and dander. Some HVAC experts say that 75% of no-heat calls during the winter months are related to lack of maintenance, and that lack of maintenance can cause dust. In fact, excessive dust is often a sign of leaky ducts.

Have an HVAC contractor come and clean your air ducts and perform maintenance on your HVAC system at least twice a year. You also want to be sure you’re routinely changing your HVAC filters so the system isn’t sending dust into the air.

Another dust trap lurking in your home is your carpet. The U.S. flooring industry grew 3.85% in value in 2018, and carpeting is still as popular as ever even with growing popularity in hardwood floors. But just like your HVAC system, it’s important to have your carpet professionally cleaned at least once a year.

In between professional cleanings, vacuum your carpets once or twice a week to keep dust and dirt from accumulating in the fabric. This goes for rugs as well.

Hardwood floors may be less likely to trap dust, but they still need to be swept and mopped periodically to keep dust from kicking up into the air.

Dr. Eghrari-Sabet also recommends washing bedsheets, duvets, and pillowcases once a week in hot water to kill the dust mites living in them. And although it’s recommended to replace your pillows every two years to ensure comfort, Dr. Eghrari-Sabet says it’s not as important to buy new pillows if you invest in high-quality pillow covers.

Finally, the American Lung Association recommends keeping the humidity in your home below 50%. This is because dust mites thrive in humid environments, which can be a major issue when you live in a humid climate. Dehumidifiers can help keep the humidity in your home under control.

With these tips in mind, it’s important that you maintain a regular cleaning schedule in your home to help mitigate allergy symptoms and keep dust under control.

In an interview with KIMA, homeowner Sarah Branham said her family stays on a regular cleaning schedule and use cleaning products that don’t bother her allergies. She also recommends asking the professionals for advice.

“Our HVAC professional gave us some tips on how to bring down the allergen load in our house,” said Branham. “We’ve had a really great set of tips from our pediatrician and our allergist also on how to make sure that we’re lightening the load so that we don’t trigger episodes or have a big allergic reaction.”

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