Tips for dealing with dust allergy

February 25, 2013

By Marlene Peng, MD
Allergist, Minor & James

Although it’s hard to imagine, we are living and sleeping with thousands of little bugs called dust mites.

For many people, ignorance is bliss, but for those who are allergic, these bugs can cause lots of problems. Dust mite allergy symptoms include eye redness and discharge, itching, sneezing, congestion and trouble breathing. Dust mites are a problem all year long, but can be more obvious in the winter when people spend more time indoors.

Dust mites like to burrow into soft surfaces, like carpets, curtains, pillows, mattresses and stuffed animals. It is impossible to completely kill all dust mites, but here are six ways to minimize exposure:

  1. Vacuum and wet dust weekly. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  2. Encase the pillows, mattress and box spring with dust mite encasements. These are like pillowcases that completely go around the pillow/mattress and zip up. The fabric is impermeable to dust mites and provides a barrier between you and the bugs.
  3. Dust mites can be killed temporarily by heat, so wash sheets and blankets weekly in hot water.
  4. Stuffed animals that can’t be washed can be frozen for a day.
  5. If possible, take out the carpet and change to a hard surface floor (ex. wood, tile cork).
  6. Dust mites are very prevalent in more humid climates (ex. Seattle!) since dust mites drink through ambient water. Don’t run a humidifier and if your home is moist, use a dehumidifier.

Symptoms may still be present even after thorough environmental dust mite control measures. This is where allergy medication, such as antihistamines and nasal sprays, can be helpful. For more severe allergies, allergy shots can be a good solution.

Dust mites often trigger allergies, but relief is possible with avoidance measures and medication.