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Allergies, asthma, and dust

Reactive airway disease - dust; Bronchial asthma - dust; Triggers - dust

In people who have sensitive airways, allergy and asthma symptoms can be triggered by breathing in substances called allergens, or triggers. It is important to know your triggers because avoiding them is your first step toward feeling better. Dust is a common trigger.

Dust and Dust Mites

When your asthma or allergies become worse due to dust, you are said to have a dust allergy.

  • Very tiny insects called dust mites are the main cause of dust allergies. Dust mites can only be seen under a microscope. Most dust mites in your home are found in bedding, mattresses, and box springs.
  • House dust may also contain tiny particles of pollen, mold, fibers from clothing and fabrics, and detergents. All of these can also trigger allergies and asthma.

Choose the Right Home Furnishings

You can do many things to limit your or your child's exposure to dust and dust mites.

Replace blinds that have slats and cloth draperies with pull-down shades. They will not collect as much dust.

Dust particles collect in fabrics and carpets.

  • If you can, get rid of fabric or upholstered furniture. Wood, leather, and vinyl are better.
  • Avoid sleeping or lying on cushions and furniture that are covered in cloth.
  • Replace wall-to-wall carpet with wood or other hard flooring.

Since mattresses, box springs, and pillows are hard to avoid:

  • Wrap them with mite-proof covers.
  • Wash bedding and pillows once a week in hot water (130°F [54.4°C] to 140°F [60°C]).

Other Tips

Keep indoor air dry. Dust mites thrive in moist air. Try to keep the moisture level (humidity) lower than 30% to 50%, if possible. A dehumidifier will help control humidity.

Central heating and air-conditioning systems may help control dust.

  • The system should include special filters to capture dust and animal dander.
  • Change furnace filters frequently.
  • Use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

When cleaning:

  • Wipe away dust with a damp cloth and vacuum once a week. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to help control the dust that vacuuming stirs up.
  • Use furniture polish to help reduce dust and other allergens.
  • Wear a mask when you clean the house.
  • You and your child should leave the house when others are cleaning, if possible.

Keep stuffed toys off beds, and wash them weekly.

Keep closets clean and closet doors closed.

References

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website. Indoor allergens. www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/indoor-allergens. Accessed June 18, 2018.

Cipriani F, Calamelli E, Ricci G. Allergen avoidance in allergic asthma. Front Pediatr. 2017;5:103. PMCID: PMC5423906 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5423906.

Platts-Mills TAE. Indoor allergens. In: Adkinson NF Jr, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 28.

  • Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust

    Animation

  •  

    Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust - Animation

    Your house is where you're supposed to feel most comfortable, but for many people life at home is pretty unpleasant. When they breathe in the tiny particles of dust, mold, or pet dander that are floating around their house, they sneeze, cough, break out in a rash, and can even have trouble catching their breath. Let's talk about allergies to mold, pet dander, and dust. Although we try to keep our homes clean, all sorts of little critters can sneak in. Mold is a tiny fungus that thrives in damp places, like your bathroom shower curtain or basement ceiling. Dust is made up of particles from your skin and clothing, plus tiny insects called mites. It floats around your house, skirting your broom and collecting into bunnies. And pet dander is the little pieces of skin your dog or cat sheds. Most of us can breathe in a little bit of mold, dust, or dander without having any problems. But for some people, these substances trigger a chorus of sneezes, wheezes, and coughs, as well as watery eyes, itchy skin, and hives. If you're allergic to dust, dander, or mold, it's because your immune system is over-reacting, mistakenly targeting them as if they were bacteria or viruses. So, how do you know you have an allergy? Your doctor can find out for sure by doing allergy tests. One common way to do these tests is to put a small amount of the offending substance under your skin. If you have a reaction, you're probably allergic to it. You can also have a blood test to look for substances called antibodies, which your body produces in response to dust and other allergens. How your allergy is treated depends on your symptoms, and what's causing it. You may take allergy medicines like Zyrtec or Claritin. Or, you can have allergy shots to get your body used to whatever substance you're allergic to, so it doesn't react to it in the future. The obvious treatment is to avoid whatever is causing your allergy. Once you know what you are allergic to you may want to, Keep your house dry so mold has nowhere to grow. If your home tends to be humid, a dehumidifier can help take some of the moisture out of the air. Throw out any moldy shower curtains and clean mold from ceilings and floors. Wrap your mattresses, box springs, and pillows in dust mite-proof covers. Wash all of your bedding in hot water at least once a week. Also wash stuffed toys, which can collect dust, and vacuum carpets. Wash and groom your pet regularly to get rid of dander. And install a HEPA filter to clean the air in your home. By keeping your house clean and treating your symptoms, you should be able to live more comfortably in your home without sneezing. Allergy shots can also do the trick. If you've tried everything and your allergies are still driving you nuts, talk to your doctor about finding other ways to relieve your symptoms.

  • Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover - illustration

    To help decrease the amount of dust mites encase mattresses, boxsprings, and pillows with mite-proof covers. Further methods consist of washing bedding once a week in hot water, and dusting with a wet cloth once a week. Carpets can be a significant source of dust mites and should be vacuumed weekly with a vacuum cleaner containing a HEPA filter. Wooden and leather furniture is also another way to reduce the dust mite population in the home.

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    illustration

  • HEPA air filter

    HEPA air filter - illustration

    A HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arresting) filter can remove the majority of harmful particles, including mold spores, dust, dust mites, pet dander and other irritating allergens from the air. Along with other methods to reduce allergens, such as frequent dusting, the use of a HEPA filtration system can be a helpful aid in controlling the amount of allergens circulating in the air. HEPA filters can be found in most air purifiers, which are usually small and portable.

    HEPA air filter

    illustration

  • Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust

    Animation

  •  

    Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust - Animation

    Your house is where you're supposed to feel most comfortable, but for many people life at home is pretty unpleasant. When they breathe in the tiny particles of dust, mold, or pet dander that are floating around their house, they sneeze, cough, break out in a rash, and can even have trouble catching their breath. Let's talk about allergies to mold, pet dander, and dust. Although we try to keep our homes clean, all sorts of little critters can sneak in. Mold is a tiny fungus that thrives in damp places, like your bathroom shower curtain or basement ceiling. Dust is made up of particles from your skin and clothing, plus tiny insects called mites. It floats around your house, skirting your broom and collecting into bunnies. And pet dander is the little pieces of skin your dog or cat sheds. Most of us can breathe in a little bit of mold, dust, or dander without having any problems. But for some people, these substances trigger a chorus of sneezes, wheezes, and coughs, as well as watery eyes, itchy skin, and hives. If you're allergic to dust, dander, or mold, it's because your immune system is over-reacting, mistakenly targeting them as if they were bacteria or viruses. So, how do you know you have an allergy? Your doctor can find out for sure by doing allergy tests. One common way to do these tests is to put a small amount of the offending substance under your skin. If you have a reaction, you're probably allergic to it. You can also have a blood test to look for substances called antibodies, which your body produces in response to dust and other allergens. How your allergy is treated depends on your symptoms, and what's causing it. You may take allergy medicines like Zyrtec or Claritin. Or, you can have allergy shots to get your body used to whatever substance you're allergic to, so it doesn't react to it in the future. The obvious treatment is to avoid whatever is causing your allergy. Once you know what you are allergic to you may want to, Keep your house dry so mold has nowhere to grow. If your home tends to be humid, a dehumidifier can help take some of the moisture out of the air. Throw out any moldy shower curtains and clean mold from ceilings and floors. Wrap your mattresses, box springs, and pillows in dust mite-proof covers. Wash all of your bedding in hot water at least once a week. Also wash stuffed toys, which can collect dust, and vacuum carpets. Wash and groom your pet regularly to get rid of dander. And install a HEPA filter to clean the air in your home. By keeping your house clean and treating your symptoms, you should be able to live more comfortably in your home without sneezing. Allergy shots can also do the trick. If you've tried everything and your allergies are still driving you nuts, talk to your doctor about finding other ways to relieve your symptoms.

  • Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover - illustration

    To help decrease the amount of dust mites encase mattresses, boxsprings, and pillows with mite-proof covers. Further methods consist of washing bedding once a week in hot water, and dusting with a wet cloth once a week. Carpets can be a significant source of dust mites and should be vacuumed weekly with a vacuum cleaner containing a HEPA filter. Wooden and leather furniture is also another way to reduce the dust mite population in the home.

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    illustration

  • HEPA air filter

    HEPA air filter - illustration

    A HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arresting) filter can remove the majority of harmful particles, including mold spores, dust, dust mites, pet dander and other irritating allergens from the air. Along with other methods to reduce allergens, such as frequent dusting, the use of a HEPA filtration system can be a helpful aid in controlling the amount of allergens circulating in the air. HEPA filters can be found in most air purifiers, which are usually small and portable.

    HEPA air filter

    illustration

A Closer Look

 

Talking to your MD

 

Self Care

 
 

Review Date: 5/20/2018

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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