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.
Dust mite in a pillow (photo: iStock photos)
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.
Allergies can cause a number of symptoms such as:
The best natural remedy for allergies is, when possible, avoidance. Both doctors and natural healers will suggest that you limit or avoid allergens, which are what causes your allergic reaction.
You should avoid exposure to your allergens. For example, if you’ve had an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug, let your doctor know about your allergy. They’ll most likely prescribe an alternate antibiotic if you’ll ever need one.
That being said, some allergens are hard to avoid. In that case, after discussing your symptoms with your doctor, you might consider a home remedy for allergies to deal with the results of exposure to an allergen.
Saline nasal irrigation-A 2012 reviewTrusted Source of 10 studies showed that saline nasal irrigation had beneficial effects for both children and adults with allergic rhinitis, which is often referred to as hay fever.
HEPA filters-By trapping airborne irritants such as pollen, dust, and pet dander, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters reduce allergens in your home.
Honey-Although there’s no scientific evidence to prove it, a popular theory suggests eating locally produced honey. According to the theory, you will lower your allergic reaction over time to the pollen that the bees collect in your area to make their honey.
Air conditioners and dehumidifiers-By removing moisture from the air, air conditioners and dehumidifiers can limit the growth of mildew and mold that can negatively impact allergies.
Stinging nettle-Natural healing practitioners suggest stinging nettle as a natural antihistamine to help with allergy treatment.
Quercetin- Quercetin is a favorite of natural healing advocates who believe that it stabilizes the release of histamines and helps to control allergy symptoms. It’s naturally found in broccoli, cauliflower, green tea, and citrus fruits.
Peppermint essential oil-A 1998 study Trusted Source showed that peppermint oil treatment had enough anti-inflammatory effects that reduced the symptoms of bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis to warrant clinical trials. Essential oils can be diffused into the air but should be diluted in a carrier oil if applied topically.
Eucalyptus essential oil –Advocates of natural healing suggest using eucalyptus oil as an antimicrobial agent by adding it to each load of wash during allergy season.
Frankincense essential oil –Based on the results of a 2016 study, frankincense oil may help against perennial allergic rhinitis. You can dilute it in a carrier oil and use behind your ears or use inhalation by diffusing it into the air.