An allergen is a material that produces an allergic reaction. Allergens can enter into the nose through the sinuses, causing irritation, inflammation and infection. Allergy attacks can occur indoors or outdoors. Pollen allergies are likely to attack your sinuses when you are outdoors, while dust mite allergies find their way into your sinuses most often when you are indoors.
Dust mites can hide in pillows and bedding
What are dust mites?
Dust mites are minuscule, 8-legged creatures present in your bedding, including your pillows, sheets, mattress, in addition to couches, and carpets. Many confuse dust mites with bed bugs, however they differ in that dust mites are thousands of times smaller and do not bite. In fact, dust mites only feed off off of the human skin that we shed.
When determining whether or not dust mites are on a certain material or fabric, if its an area where you spend a significant amount of time, then dust mites are present.
What are the symptoms of a dust mite allergy?
Dust mites leave microscopic feces behind that contain DerP1, a substance that acts as an extremely powerful allergen. You may have a dust mite allergy if you experience any or all of the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion
- Sinus infections
- Sinus headaches
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Asthma-like symptoms
- General chronic sinus problems
Very few people are allergic to just one thing, and many symptoms can very subtle, often confusing people as to what treatment course they should have. Consult your doctor if you have the above symptoms. An allergy test may be the best way to determine whether you have an allergy to dust mites.
The good news is that allergy tests are short (usually an hour in length) and your insurance should pay for the expense less deductible and coinsurance.
If you suffer from allergy symptoms, Dr. Bennett encourages you to schedule an allergy test with your allergist or primary medical physician to pinpoint your exact allergies and their corresponding severity. Knowing what you are allergic to and avoidance of those allergens are the first steps to decreasing allergic symptoms.
Ten tips to avoid dust mites
Avoiding and removing dust mites does not always entail a lengthy cleaning regime. Instead, simple hygiene goes a long way in reducing your contact with dust mites. Be sure to:
- Change the filters in your furnace, HEPA air filters and air conditioner on a regular basis and purchase high-grade filters
- Purchase a HEPA (High-Efficiency Air Particulate) purifier for your bedroom
- Clean out your air ducts regularly
- Wash bedding in hot water; and dry sheets, pillows and shams in the dryer on the High Heat setting
- Purchase special hypo-allergenic, zippered encasements for your mattress, box spring and pillows at your local home goods store
- Opt for Venetian blinds or roller shades instead of fabric drapes (and dust the blinds with a Swifter regularly). If you do have curtains then you should have them dry-cleaned at least twice a year.
- Avoid goose-down comforters, as the down feathers decompose into dust and become breeding grounds for dust mites to grow and multiply
- Minimize carpeting or completely remove it, replacing it with hardwood, pergo or linoleum
- Use a mattress pad on your mattress. (A mattress doubles in weight every 10 years due to dust and dust mites.)
- When vacuuming, use special dust mite-trapping bags that are specially-designed to prevent the mites from escaping through the bag and back into the air
Always clean vacuum bag filters
Dust Mites and Sinusitis
Dust mites can cause chronic and acute sinusitis due to their allergic effect on the mucus membranes in the nasal and sinus cavities. Dust mites cause the most damage when you are asleep, when your cilia are at rest.
Your doctor can proscribe such treatments as steroid nasal sprays, antibiotics and corticosteroid nasal spray to reduce the inflammation and facilitate drainage.
Doing Your Part
Proactively recognizing your symptoms as a possible dust mite allergy is imperative, because it leads to the necessary steps to rid both your home and body of these tiny little creatures that wreak immense havoc on your immune system. Even if you believe your immune system is resilient enough to disregard the presence of dust mites in your house, you may still develop symptoms later. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is essential in keeping your immune system strong.