Dust Mites & How They Affect Our Health

allergies and dust mites

Dust mites are tiny, microscopic relatives of spiders and ticks that lurk around our homes.  They feed on the dead skin cells that we shed.  Due to their diet, dust mites are commonly found in the areas where dust and dead skin cells accumulate the most. This includes carpets, mattresses, bedding, curtains, stuffed animals and furniture.

Dust mites are allergenic- meaning materials from their skin and fecal matter can cause allergic reactions and symptoms, especially in people with allergies and asthma.

Common dust mite allergy symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy nose, mouth or throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Coughing
  • Red, Itchy skin
  • Itchy, red or watery  eyes

In people with asthma, symptoms can include:

  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

It is impossible to completely eliminate dust mites, even in the cleanest homes.  However, there are ways to limit exposure and reduce the risk of symptoms. Here are a few:

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • Cover mattresses and pillows in zippered dust-proof covers
  • Dust regularly
  • Avoid carpeting if possible or vacuum frequently
  • Use certified allergen capturing filters in vacuums and air conditioners
  • Keep the humidity levels in your home under 50% (Dust mites thrive in environments with humidity levels of 70 to 80%)

If symptoms persist, relief can be achieved by taking over-the-counter or prescription decongestants, antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids.  Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets can also be effective. 

The Division of Allergy and Immunology at Jamaica Hospital focuses on the diagnosis and long-term treatment of allergic and immunologic conditions. To schedule an appointment with an allergist, please call 718-206-6742.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.