A dust allergy can be a frustrating problem. Symptoms occur year-round and have a big effect on your quality of life. It’s also impossible to avoid dust – even if your home is spotless.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to gain relief from this type of allergy. You may never eliminate symptoms, but it’s possible to reduce them to a minor annoyance rather than a constant frustration.
Before you can tackle a dust allergy, however, you need to know why the symptoms happen in the first place.
What Causes a Dust Allergy?
Despite the name, dust allergies are not caused by dust. Instead, the culprits are dust mites – microscopic organisms that feed on dead skin cells.
These creatures cause a surprising amount of trouble considering their size. The dead body parts of mites, along with their waste, can trigger allergic reactions throughout the year. It’s estimated over 65 million people suffer from a dust allergy, with symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, a runny nose and difficulty sleeping.
The normal way to relieve an allergy is to avoid the allergen. This isn’t possible with a dust allergy, as it’s impossible to get rid of every dust mite in a home. The average person sheds enough skin each day to feed millions of mites – and they are resilient enough to live almost anywhere, including bedding, carpets, and curtains.
Instead of avoiding dust mites, the best way to relieve symptoms is to reduce the quantity in your home. Here are five tips that can quickly provide relief.
1. Reduce Humidity in the Home
Dust mites find it difficult to survive if the humidity drops below 50%. This is because they take on water through absorption, which becomes harder as the humidity drops.
For this reason, your first task when tackling a dust mite allergy should be to reduce the humidity in your home. Installing vents in kitchens and bathrooms can help, but for a rapid reduction, it may be helpful to buy a dehumidifier. Make sure you choose one that can maintain a humidity of lower than 50% throughout the home.
This won’t relieve a dust allergy immediately, as the mite’s dead body parts can still cause a reaction. It’s a great first step though.
2. Vacuum with a HEPA Filter
Modern vacuums have a built-in filter. This prevents dust and other home mess from escaping via the exhaust air.
The problem is the average vacuum filter isn’t capable of filtering very small particles. Tiny allergens, including mite body parts and excrement, can escape. This is why allergy symptoms might feel worse after vacuuming, as the machine has pumped allergens into the air.
A solution is to buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter. These filters are more effective at capturing particles, so the air in your home is cleaner and contains fewer allergens.
It’s also a good idea to buy a bagged vacuum cleaner. The top models have self-sealing bags, so allergens can’t escape when it needs to be emptied.
3. Buy Allergy-Proof Covers for Your Bed
A common place for dust mites to live is in bedding. The warm, humid environment with plenty of skin cells makes it ideal for mites to thrive.
The result is that allergy symptoms are often worse at night. Blocked nasal passages, coughing and a tight chest can also reduce sleep quality and lead to a continuous feeling of tiredness.
An easy way to reduce night-time symptoms is to buy allergy-proof covers for your duvets, pillow, and mattresses. These don’t kill mites, but prevent allergens from escaping from bedding into the air.
It’s also important to wash all bedding on a hot cycle at least once per week. Temperatures above 140F kill dust mites and remove many existing allergens. If possible, dry the bedding outside so it doesn’t increase your home’s humidity.
4. Replace Carpeted Floors
While bedding is probably a dust mite’s favorite hiding spot, carpets are a close second. Carpet fibers trap dust, skin cells and other mite food, while providing a warm environment to reproduce.
For this reason, if you’re serious about relieving a mite allergy you may want to consider replacing carpets with hard floors. It’s much easier to keep hard floors dust-free, which reduces the quantity of mites that can survive in your home.
If you don’t want to replace all carpets, consider removing those in the bedroom. This tip, combined with allergy-proof bedding covers, can greatly improve sleep quality.
Similarly, replacing curtains with window shades or blinds can eliminate another hiding spot for mites.
5. Dust with a Damp Cloth
It’s vital to frequently dust all surfaces on your home. The less dust and skin cells in your home, the harder it is for dust mites to survive.
It’s a mistake to dust with a dry cloth though. This just stirs allergens into the air and can make symptoms worse.
Instead, use a damp cloth to wipe windowsills, counters and other surfaces. The moist surface traps allergens and prevents dust from accumulating.
What About Medication?
Medication is often recommended as a last resort for a dust allergy. If you’ve tried to reduce dust mites in your home without success, however, there are several options your doctor may recommend.
Some examples include antihistamines, such as Claritin, and nasal corticosteroids. A doctor might also suggest immunotherapy to treat a dust allergy.
A dust allergy is a common problem that can have frustrating consequences. Mites can cause continuous reactions and are almost impossible to avoid – especially as they thrive in bedding, carpet, and curtains.
The good news is there are many ways to get relief. Some of the best methods include reducing the humidity in your home, buying allergy-proof bedding covers and vacuuming with a HEPA filter. Replacing carpets with hard floors can also reduce the quantity of mites in your home.
If these tips don’t make a noticeable difference to your symptoms, a doctor may recommend over the counter or prescription medication. These can relieve nasal congestion and prevent other symptoms – but it’s still important to minimize your exposure to dust mites.
James is a cleaning expert from the UK and editor of SpotlessVacuum.co.uk. He specializes in writing about the intersection between a clean home and health. Aside from writing, he enjoys spending time with his family and hiking with his dog.