Dust Mite Allergy
A dust mite allergy is an immune system reaction to the proteins that dust mites shed. Signs of dust mite allergy include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Dust mites, relatives of the spider, are too small to see without a microscope.
Where Dust Mites Live:
Mites are found in pillows, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They thrive in temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees, the range that most of our homes are kept.
Dust mites live by eating tiny flakes of skin and pet dander, which comprise a large portion of house dust. Dust mite symptoms are often confused with other allergies.
One study reported by the Boston Globe estimates that people lose from 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells per hour, which comes out to nearly one million per day. If you have pets, the number of dead skin cells in your home is even greater.
While their primary food is dead skin, dust mites are not averse to eating small particles from pet food, cereal, breadcrumbs or other food. Food availability and moisture levels are the two greatest factors in dust mite proliferation.
Are Dust Mites Dangerous?
Dust mites, themselves, are not dangerous and they do not bite people or pets. The problem some people have with dust mites is that they are allergic to dust mite waste.
Dust mite excretions, sometimes called castings, build up in their habitat until they reach levels that can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.
According to research introduced by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, anywhere from 18 percent to 30 percent of people in the United States suffer from a dust mite allergy, and approximately 50 percent of all U.S. homes have high enough dust mite allergen levels to induce a reaction in those who would normally not experience dust mite sensitivity.
A dust mite allergy is triggered when a person inhales dust or other airborne dust mite excretions. In some cases, external contact may also trigger certain allergy symptoms. Even though house dust has many components, studies have found that dust mite castings are the strongest.
Up to 80 percent of asthma cases may be directly related to dust mite exposure. Eczema and hay fever may also primarily be caused by dust mites.