Are you a-a-ah-allergic to dust? It’s a year-round allergy affecting 10% of us, and 80% of allergy sufferers have a dust allergy. If you do have symptoms of a dust allergy, that gives you a great excuse to hand over the hoover and polish to someone else, right?
Not to make you feel itchy, but it’s dust mites that actually cause you to sneeze, sniffle and snot. Smaller than a grain of sand, these tiny critters live rent-free in our homes and love to chill out in your bed, feasting on your dead human skin. Like miniature zombies. Nice.
Depending on how old your mattress is, it can house anywhere from 1-10 million bed mites. Ewwwwww. To avoid sleeping with the enemy, it’s best to hoover or wash your mattress with a special cleaning machine (similar to a carpet cleaner).
What are dust mites?
So, how do these mini beasts sneak into our homes in the first place? They attach themselves to us, our clothes and our bags, whenever we visit indoor places. Like other people’s homes, cars, hotels, office buildings, public transport, restaurants and cinemas.
They thrive in warm environments, happiest at 21°C with 70% relative humidity. Basically your bed is the bomb for them. Bedding, carpets and cushions all trap and hold moisture, allowing these tiny bugs to flourish and party.
To be fair, the living mites are not to blame. It’s their poo and particles left after they die which form the dust that we’re allergic to. And you thought it couldn’t get any worse. Your immune system then overreacts, producing antibodies as it thinks your body is under attack. When, in fact, breathing in this dust is completely harmless.
Six steps to clean up your dust allergy
The good news is that there’s been loads of research into dust and dust mite allergies. And as scientists know what dust mites like, they also know what they hate. There are plenty of things you can do to tackle your dust allergy.
- Wash all your bedding in hot water once a week. A 60°C wash or above will kill the pesky mites.
- Use allergy-proof bedding. Invest in allergy-proof duvet covers, sheets and pillowcases. There’s many out there but ensure you choose bedding that has the correct certification from the ARL (Allergy Research Limited).
- Don’t make the bed! Like the opposite of your childhood chores! Mites like being warm under the covers. Air your bed, take off the covers and pillows and you disturb their chillout zone.
- Buy an anti-bacterial vacuum cleaner. These are made specially to suck up millions of mites in carpets, rugs, beds and upholstery. Remember to wear a face mask and gloves when emptying it, though.
- Dust, dust and dust again. Channel your inner Mrs Hinch. Use a damp cloth to keep your home as dust-free as possible.
- Change your home interior. A tough one, we know, but rugs and carpets are perfect breeding grounds for dust mites. Snug as a bug in a rug, anyone? Consider replacing carpet with wood, tile or vinyl floors.
Medication for dust allergies
There are many excellent over-the-counter treatments depending on your dust allergy symptoms:
- Antihistamines can help you if you’re sneezing, got a snotty nose and itchy eyes.
- Nasal corticosteroids will help reduce any inflammation.
- Decongestants can help you if you’re having trouble breathing.
If your condition is more serious, go chat to your doctor and perhaps look into an allergy specialist. They might suggest changes to your diet to help calm down your allergy. For example, eating more fruits that are high in vitamin C; nuts that are rich in vitamin E; and drinking tea, which is full of flavonoids.
Is there a permanent cure for dust allergy?
In a word: no. It’s impossible to evict all the dust mites in your home. You’re going to have to live with them. But all these steps will help keep your dust allergy in check.