Dust Mite Bites – Overview and More

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Dust mites are microscopic creatures that inhabit household items like bedding and carpets. While these tiny pests don't bite, sting, or settle on the human body, they can sometimes cause itchy rashes in some people who are allergic to them. However, more often, dust mites can exacerbate symptoms associated with an allergic reaction or asthma , such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

Dust mites are ubiquitous in most homes, but they are not always a problem. When they are there, you can take steps to lessen their impact.

Laura Porter / Get Medication Information

Symptoms of exposure to dust mites

Symptoms can be mild to moderately upsetting, but they can also seriously affect comfort and quality of life.

In general, the greater the exposure to dust mites (number of mites, exposure time, or both), the more severe the symptoms. However, some people experience very serious allergic or asthmatic reactions with even minimal contact.

Allergies can be limited to nasal congestion or affect the skin or lungs. You may experience some or all of these reactions immediately after exposure to dust mites, and your symptoms will likely be the same every time:

  • Spotty areas with small red bumps on the skin.
  • Itchy areas of the skin
  • Red and / or watery eyes
  • Itchy nose or eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion and / or runny nose.
  • Cough

Most people refer to a skin reaction when they say "dust mite bite," when the mites don't actually bite. The rash shouldn't hurt or bleed unless you scratch it hard.

Although asthma symptoms can appear soon after exposure to dust mites, these reactions can take longer to develop than allergic effects.

Asthma symptoms can include any of the following:

Usually this set of symptoms only appears in response to dust mites if you have asthma. Your asthma can usually be made worse by mild wheezing and coughing, or dust mites can cause bronchospasm (sudden narrowing of the airways) with severe shortness of breath and chest tightness, leading to an asthma attack .

Causes

Dust mites, the most common of which are Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farinae, tend to live indoors and thrive in humid environments.

They are very widespread in places like homes and hotels because they inhabit fabrics and dust. Dust mites feed on pet dander and dead human skin, which tends to accumulate on mattresses, carpets, and upholstered furniture, especially in some places. they are not cleaned often .

Tiny debris particles and decomposed dust mite bodies are generally not carried through the air unless the room is disturbed. Exposure to dust mites usually occurs when a person lies in bed with their face buried in a pillow or mattress. These things are not really harmful; many people do not experience any side effects from exposure. But because dust mites leave behind allergens and can act as triggers, they can be problematic for some people.

In particular, dust mites can stimulate the production of:

  • Immune proteins : IgE antibodies, interferons and interleukins.
  • Immune cells: T cells and eosinophils.

These proteins and immune cells contribute to inflammation, causing or worsening symptoms in people with pre-existing allergies or asthma.

Many people think that touching dust mite material causes dermatitis (skin irritation) . Although possible, skin reactions to dust mites generally develop in response to inhaling allergens.

Research shows that early exposure to dust mites at a young age can increase the risk of asthma in children, especially children with a genetic predisposition to the disease .

Dust mites are ubiquitous, so a certain level of exposure is warranted. However, they are not visible to the naked eye like bed bugs , so the likelihood that dust mites are causing your symptoms may not immediately come to mind.

Diagnostics

If you have persistent nasal congestion, shortness of breath, or a rash that persists for more than a few days, you should see your doctor.

It may take some time to detect an allergic or asthmatic reaction to dust mites. This is because there are many other allergens in the environment that are as common as dust mites that can cause your symptoms, including odors , plants , and pets .

Your healthcare professional will ask about your exposure to these allergens, and you may also have an allergy or asthma test if your symptoms point to these conditions (and you have not yet been diagnosed).

History and physical exam

Your evaluation will include a medical history, a physical exam, and possibly diagnostic tests. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your symptoms and ask how often they occur and how long it takes for them to go away. They will also consider whether you have other triggers that cause the same symptoms.

The physical exam may include examining the nasal passages and throat, as allergies often cause swelling or redness in these areas. Your healthcare provider will also listen to your lungs. Many people with asthma have wheezing that can be heard with a stethoscope, even if they have no noticeable symptoms.

An asthma evaluation may also include a lung function test (PFT) before and after exposure to the allergen.

Allergy tests

You can also perform an allergy test to determine the substance that is causing your allergy or asthma symptoms. This includes skin tests, in which you will be specifically exposed to common allergens in different areas of your skin so that the allergist can assess your reaction.

Specialized blood tests may also be done as part of allergy testing, which may include the detection of IgE antibodies to dust mites.

Keep in mind that allergy tests, while generally harmless, can cause a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction. These tests should be done under close supervision so that you can receive timely medical attention with medications or respiratory assistance if exposure to an allergen causes you to have difficulty breathing.

Differential diagnosis

The distinction between reactions to dust mites, mold allergies , bed bugs, scabies , and chigger bites is not always clear cut, but there are some distinguishing characteristics that make them different. Your healthcare provider may consider these possibilities when making a diagnosis.

Dust mites Scabies Chiggers Bedbugs The shape
Allergic character Yes No No No Yes
Visible organism? No No No Yes Yes
Exposition Household dust and cloth Personal contact Especially outdoors. woods Inner fabric Inside or outside
Rash Small, red, itchy spots Scaly red bumps Bubbly bumps Large hard red bumps Spotted red scars
Allergy symptoms • Red / itchy eyes and nose
• Sneezing.
• Group
Nobody Nobody Nobody • Red / itchy eyes and nose.
• Sneezing.
• Group
Respiratory symptoms Cough Nobody Nobody Nobody • Cough
• wheezing

Watch out

To cope with dust mite allergies, you need to avoid them as much as possible, reduce their number, and minimize their accumulation in your environment.

Treatments for dermatitis, nasal allergies, or asthma caused by dust mites include taking medications to lower the immune response. This may include over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Flonase (fluticasone) , which are available over the counter and by prescription. Discuss the correct dosage with your doctor.

Topical products like hydrocortisone or calamine lotion can reduce itching and redness, but they do not help reduce the systemic inflammatory response that causes dust mite skin reactions. If you are frequently or almost constantly exposed to dust mites, you will never feel complete relief from creams / lotions alone.

Medical treatment

Using regularly prescribed allergy medications or asthma maintenance medications (such as corticosteroids) can help alter your immune response to allergens. These medications work by reducing the body's immune reactivity to triggers in general , not just dust mites.

Vitamin D and probiotics , which help support healthy immune function, can also be helpful in reducing the effects of dust mite allergies .

Allergy shots

Studies have found that immunotherapy (allergy shots) given sublingually (under the tongue) or subcutaneously (directly under the skin) reduces dust mite allergy symptoms in children and adults while improving quality of life.

Immunotherapy is more targeted than drugs commonly used to prevent asthma and allergy symptoms because it mediates the body's response to a specific allergen, such as dust mites, rather than reducing the overall immune response as do corticosteroids.

Get rid of dust mites

There are several things you can do at home to eliminate or reduce your exposure to dust mites. However, keep in mind that if you are allergic to animals or cause asthma symptoms in yourself or a family member, these interventions will not be sufficient to prevent allergic reactions, according to the Institutes' updated asthma guidelines. National Health. (NIH) in December 2020.

Similarly, if you are not susceptible to dust mites, the NIH does not recommend taking steps to reduce your exposure to them (or any other indoor allergens).

However, talk to your doctor about whether any of these strategies are right for your family:

  • Dust mites tend to thrive in high humidity environments. Keeping humidity low through temperature control and / or a dehumidifier has been shown to reduce dust mites.
  • Wash sand frequently in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill accumulated mites / particles.
  • Wrap bedding, mattresses, and pillows in waterproof covers to keep dust mites out of your bed.
  • Replace carpet with wood or synthetic flooring.
  • When cleaning, use a damp cloth, not dry, which will raise dust and other allergens.
  • Use a HEPA filter vacuum to reduce the risk of infection while cleaning your home.

Using harsh chemicals can cause symptoms like redness and watery eyes, which can only worsen the effects of a dust mite reaction if you already have one, so be sure to use non-irritating cleaners.

Get the word of drug information

Dust mites and their debris cannot be seen without a microscope. But if you are allergic to them, you can tell they are there simply by your symptoms. According to the American Lung Association, dust mites are among the top contributors to asthma and indoor allergies, and are present in about four out of every five homes.

If you are allergic to dust mites, you can do everything you can to minimize your exposure. But if this is not possible or insufficient, and you have a severe reaction to exposure, you can talk to your doctor about taking medications to help prevent your symptoms.

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