YOU’RE NOT SLEEPING ALONE
House dust mites are tiny spider-like creatures that can be found all around the world. The mites, which are only visible under a microscope, live in mattresses, pillows, blankets, upholstered furniture, and everywhere else where dust can gather – no matter how clean the home is. Dust mites feed on flakes of skin shed by people and pets. They thrive in warm and humid environments. Beds offer the best living conditions for mites. Therefore, over 90% of mites are found in mattresses, pillows, and duvets. The older the mattresses and bedding, the higher the number of mites.
HOUSE DUST MITES CAUSE ILLNESS
House dust mites are, after pollen, the second most common trigger of allergic respiratory diseases – including asthma – and can aggravate eczema. About one in every ten Americans suffers from dust mite allergy. Many more are sensitive to dust mites. Mites themselves are not the allergens. It is the proteins in their droppings, eggs and remains of decayed mites that cause the allergic reactions. During its short life of 6 weeks, a dust mite produces approximately 300 eggs and 200 times its body weight in droppings. If the droppings or other mite proteins enter the respiratory tract or come in contact with the skin, they can trigger an allergic or sensitivity reaction. The extremely lightweight mite allergens stick to larger dust particles – hence the term “dust mite allergy”.
WHEN DO SYMPTOMS APPEAR? A HOUSE DUST MITE ALLERGY IS NOT A TRIVIAL DISEASE AND CAN LEAD TO ASTHMA
A house dust mite allergy often goes unnoticed for years and is in many cases confused with a harmless cold. An untreated mite allergy can lead to chronic diseases, and can also develop into asthma if the inflammation of the upper airway reaches the lower airway. Asthma is not curable, but allergic asthma is preventable with early treatment.
To prevent asthma, first check your symptoms to see, whether you could be suffering from a dust mite allergy.
Mite allergies also affect sufferers’ general state of health. If you have a restless night’s sleep and your immune system initiates an immune response, you will feel unwell during the day. This will affect you at work, school and in your everyday life. Allergies can affect your general state of health in the following ways:
- Frequent tiredness
- Lack of concentration
- Generell feeling of being unwell
The first stage of a mite allergy mainly affects the upper airways, resulting in typical cold symptoms. The symptoms are worse at night and in the morning, when making your bed or vacuuming and generally in warm periods. Symptoms include:
- Sneezing fits
- Blocked nose
- Runny, burning nose
The sensitive conjunctiva of the eye reacts on contact with an allergen, producing symptoms of inflammation that are very uncomfortable for the person concerned and primarily occur in the morning after getting up. These symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Red eyes
- Teary eyes
During the later stage of a mite allergy, the condition progresses to the lower airways. If the allergic reaction develops to involve the lungs, it can result in chronic asthma. The symptoms may be particularly noticeable at night and/or in the morning, and include:
- A need to cough
- Sore throat
- Coughing fits
- Breathlessness (in the case of asthma)
Mites can be a trigger factor for neurodermatitis. On contact with an allergen, the allergic reaction may therefore also be visible on the skin. There may not necessarily be any simultaneous symptoms affecting the airways. If your child or a family member suffers from neurodermatitis, a mite allergy test is always recommended. The typical symptoms of neurodermatitis are:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Weeping skin rashes
- Red, itchy skin
LOCATION AND TIMING OF THE SYMPTOMS
Do your symptoms not appear the same everywhere, or do they deteriorate or improve depending on the time of day and the location? You can record your symptoms in an allergy diary to determine any regular patterns. A mite allergy is an “indoor allergy” — symptoms improve, for example, in fresh air, by the sea and in the mountains at above 1200 m.
Symptoms are worse:
- At night/in the morning
- In your bed/bedroom
- In rooms with carpets and upholstered furniture
- When vacuuming
- When making your bed
- In cold seasons
- In heated rooms
Crustaceans and mollusks contain the same allergen (tropomyosin) as house dust mites, which is why both allergies often occur at the same time. Shellfish allergies are also triggered by mites, so people who suffer from a shellfish allergy should also consider that they may be affected by a mite allergy. Have you noticed one or more of the following symptoms after consuming or coming into contact with shellfish?
- Stomach pain, belching, nausea, vomiting
- Itching on the neck and in the throat
- Swelling of the mouth and throat
- Skin inflammation and itching
- Eczema, skin rash, skin irritation, reddening of the skin
- Allergic rhinitis, runny nose
- Red eyes, tears
- In extreme cases, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath
ARE THERE ANY ALLERGY SUFFERERS IN YOUR FAMILY?
If anyone in your family suffers or suffered from an allergy, the likelihood that you will also have an allergy increases as follows:
- Both parents have very strong allergies: 60-80%
- Both parents have allergies: 40-60%
- One parent or a sibling has allergies: 20-40%
- No family member has allergies: 5-15%
WHEN DO SYMPTOMS APPEAR?
People with a house dust mite allergy suffer from symptoms all year round. These symptoms are worse at night and in the morning after getting up because beds contain a large number of mite feces and mite eggs. The symptoms are also worse when making the bed or vacuuming because the mite allergens are swirled up and inhaled.
SUSPECTED HOUSE DUST MITE ALLERGY: ARE YOU AFFECTED TOO?
If you suspect that you have a house dust mite allergy, you can take immediate measures to reduce your exposure to allergens. It is also possible to have a special allergy test carried out by the doctor or in a medical laboratory. Several testing procedures are available, e.g. prick tests or blood tests.