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House dust mite allergy

Dust mites are microscopically small, but can cause big problems for people who are allergic to them.

Having dust mites doesn’t mean a house is dirty, but they do thrive in household dust.

Why is my house so dusty?

Every home has a few clumps of dust tucked away in a corner somewhere. Even the most pristine estate is unlikely to pass the white glove test. Dust particles quickly and easily creep under the bed or high on top of a lampshade. Cleaning can actually stir up dust and put more of it in the air, causing trouble for anyone with house dust mite allergy. Even just a minute or two in a dusty room can trigger symptoms such as sniffling and sneezing for someone with a house dust mite allergy.

Where does dust come from?

Dust is made up of many different things. What is found in the dust in your home depends on the type of furniture you have, whether or not you have pets, where you live and other factors.

A single piece of dust can contain flakes of dead skin from humans, pet dander, parts of fabric and lint, bits of food, pieces of dead insects, even living organisms such as bacteria, fungus, mould spores and teeny tiny creatures called dust mites. A scoop of dust weighing as much as a paperclip contains as many as 19,000 dust mites.

What are dust mites?

Dust mites are spider-like creatures that thrive and multiply in warm, moist areas. You can't see the little rascals with your naked eye, but they can cause big problems for you if you are allergic to them. They prefer places where the temperature is at or above 21C (70F) and the humidity reaches 75% to 80%. They can't survive in colder, less humid settings - they've never been seen in Antarctica and are rarely found in dry climates. Dust mites peak during warmer weather.

Dust mites like to eat dead skin from pets and humans. Since flakes of skin normally fall off humans unnoticed every day, mites aren't likely to starve. An average adult sheds up to 1.5 grams of skin each day - enough to feed a million dust mites. Flakes of dead skin work their way into carpets, beds and furniture, inviting dust mites in for a delicious meal. Most dust mites are found inside mattresses, bedding and upholstered furniture.

What causes house dust mite allergy?

Millions of people are allergic to the little bugs and their droppings. Most people with house dust mite allergy are actually allergic to proteins found in the waste produced by house dust mites. The insects may be the most common cause of year-round allergic rhinitis and asthma symptoms, particularly in children.

If you are allergic to house dust mites you can sneeze, sniffle or have other allergy symptoms when you breathe in dust containing these particles.

Other allergens can be found in dust. People with pet allergies will have symptoms if dust contains pet dander, and those who are allergic to moulds will sniffle and sneeze if mould spores hitch a ride on a dust particle. Some people are allergic to the bits of cockroaches found in dust particles. The allergy is due to proteins in cockroach waste, saliva and the insect's body parts.

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