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Can dust cause asthma even if you're not actually allergic?

I've had symptoms of dust mite allergy for years, and since I was diagnosed with asthma last year, the dust has emerged as a major trigger. I had allergy testing done and I'm only allergic to ragweed (which seems to have only a mild effect on my asthma, despite causing other allergy symptoms).

Could it be a false negative? Or maybe dust is an irritant for me, rather than a true allergy, like cigarette smoke or air pollution?

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  1. Hi rjmoon and thanks for your question. While we cannot provide medical advice or diagnostics over the internet (for your own safety), your concern certainly warrants a reply. There could always be the possibility that the allergy test results yielded a false negative - you may want to explore that further with the allergist.
    In the interim, it sounds like the dust is one of your triggers since you become symptomatic upon exposure. Call it an irritant if you want to, the main idea would be to avoid exposure and protect yourself. You may find it helpful to wear a barrier mask of some kind when you are going to be dealing with dust. That might help you.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

    1. rjmoon, Leon offered good advice -- I wear a mask when I'm going to be exposed to dust.

      I have a portable particulate sensor that measures airborne particulates in two sizes. Drying off with a clean bath towel after a shower, crumpling a dry paper towel in the kitchen, struggling to put on a long sleeve clean cotton shirt (because I am half asleep) -- all of these things will temporarily raise the particulate count and trigger my coughin up mucus. For the 0.3 micron measurement, it increases from 100 or so to 1,000 or so.)

      None of the 3 situations I mention above are likely to have dust mites, but the particulates themselves are, as you suspected and Leon mentioned, irritant.

      My workarounds are dry off with an XXX heavyweight t-shirt instead of a towel in the bathroom (much less lint), tear off paper towels from the roll at arms length and fold them gently, and I hold my breath when I pull on my overhead shirts.

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