What Is A Dust Mite And Why Can It Trigger Asthma Symptoms?
Last updated: October 2020
We’re all too familiar with the light layers of dust that can accumulate on our surfaces and furniture after we haven’t cleaned for a few days. In addition to being a constant and sometimes annoying chore around the house, many asthmatics know that there’s a connection between dust and how it can affect asthma symptoms. But it may surprise you to learn that it’s not necessarily the dust itself that’s triggering asthma symptoms - it’s the dust mites living inside.
It’s usually easy to tell when a surface is gathering dust, but even if you don’t see tell-tale signs of it, there are typically still dust particles present in your bedding, mattresses, carpets, upholstered furniture, and curtains. One of the key components of dust is dead human skin, which attracts microscopic dust mites that feed on it. Even though you can’t see dust mites with the naked eye, they are ever-present. Thankfully, they are mostly harmless to humans since they don’t bite, burrow, or sting.1
Why can dust mites trigger asthma symptoms?
Even though thousands of dust mites live with us at any given time and generally pose no threat, they do become a problem for many people with asthma and allergies. As dust mites feed off of the dead skin cells found in dust, their excrement pellets and body fragments produce an allergen that can trigger allergic reactions.1
Regardless of cleaning habits, 4 out of 5 houses in the U.S. have detectable levels of dust mite allergen. And for asthmatics and people with allergies, dust mites are one of the most prevalent indoor triggers.2 The allergen produced by dust mites can produce a response from the immune system called allergic rhinitis, and it can be mild or severe depending on the person.
Tips to avoid/remote dust mites
Although we can’t prevent dust mites from cohabiting with us, there are ways we can significantly reduce the number of mites in the home:2
- Decreasing humidity. Humid temperatures help dust mites reproduce. Keeping the house below 50 percent humidity and opening windows for about an hour on dry days can help minimize mite growth. Dehumidifiers and air conditioning systems with properly replaced filters can also help.
- Cleaning floors often, using a damp mop. A vacuum with a high-efficiency filter on can make a big difference on carpeted areas, and dusting with a damp mop or damp cloth on all surfaces can minimize the number of dust mites put in the air while cleaning.
- Taking away places for dust mites to thrive. Minimizing the amount of furniture and choosing furniture with smooth surfaces, taking out drapes or curtains, using pillow and mattress covers, and washing bedding in hot water once a week are all measures we can take to decrease the number of spots where dust mites can thrive in the home.
- Reconsidering the carpets. In cases of severe allergic reactions, people with asthma and allergies may also have to consider completely taking carpeting out of the home to reduce dust mites.
What dust management means for ne
As an asthmatic who also chooses to have pets, keeping a clean house is important to managing my asthma symptoms. A routine of dusting and disinfecting all surfaces, sweeping the floor, and vacuuming my furniture, rugs, and carpeting on a weekly basis helps me control my asthma and allergies along with my daily maintenance inhaler and allergy medication. I also keep an air purifier running 24 hours a day and regularly change out the filter in my air conditioning unit.
Although it takes a little extra time every week to maintain a clean space, enjoying my downtime without symptoms is worth the effort.
What are your tips for managing asthma with dust mites? Share in the comments below!
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