Got the sniffles? Dust mites could be the cause

Hayfever sufferer

Hayfever sufferer

People with dust mite allergies can really struggle during the colder months. This is because, as we close our windows and doors to keep the cold out, our living and working environments suddenly get a lot less ventilation. We also tend to spend a lot more time indoors snuggling up to these tiny creatures.

So what does it mean for your health?

 

Why are dust mites a problem?

Dust mite populations may thrive in winter, but dust mites (and the problems they bring with them) are common all year round. In fact, it may come as a shock to learn the number of dust mites you share your home with at any time of the year. For instance, did you know that a used mattress can host anywhere between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites or that 10 per cent of the weight of an old pillow may be made up of dust mites and their poop1?

But your mattress and pillow aren’t the only problems.

Many other soft furnishings (including carpets and curtains) are well known for harbouring dust mites, as well as other less obvious things like soft toys, your lounge and even your beloved pet. They can also be found in car seat covers, in the office, on public transport, at the cinema and even at your favourite cafe.

Like us, dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments (which is why they just love warm winter homes). They also delight in feeding on our dead skin – of which we can shed up to one million cells per day2 – so it’s no wonder they occupy the same areas we do.

The good news is that dust mites only live for around a month or two, depending on the quality of your hospitality. But during this time they breed rapidly and, despite they microscopic size, can cause big problems for people with sensitivities.

 

Dust mites and your health

Dust mites are a common cause of year-round allergies, eczema and asthma. They’ve also been linked to various other health conditions, including dermatitis3, migraines4, and conjunctivitis5.

But dust mites don’t bite or transmit disease – it’s actually the many proteins (or allergens) contained in their bodies and their secretions that we can react to, the most potent being the allergens found in their faeces. Even though they’re only 0.2 millimetres long, dust mites poop up to 20 times per day. And this adds highly allergenic proteins into our immediate environment, partly due to the proteases (digestive enzymes) that are still present in their droppings.

What’s more, there are more than 13 known species of dust mite – most of which can cause allergies in people with sensitivities – including Blomia tropical (BT), which is commonly associated with acute asthma symptoms. BT used to be classed as a storage mite because it contaminates and thrives on processed, grain/cereal-based foods that we often ingest, such as wheat, oats, barley and corn. In fact, studies have shown that BT is present in almost a quarter of cereal products retailers in the UK, and this figure almost doubles after a six-week period of household storage6!

 

Spot the symptoms

An allergy to dust mites is often mistaken for a cold or flu because it can produce similar symptoms. Watch out for:

  • A runny nose
  • Watery or red eyes
  • Sneezing, coughing or wheezing
  • Itchy skin, eyes, nose, mouth or throat
  • Skin rashes
  • Breathlessness
  • Facial pressure

For people with dust mite sensitivities, these symptoms are especially noticeable on contact with dust or first thing in the morning. During a typical night’s sleep, we spend up to eight hours with our faces pressed right again our pillow, so it’s easy to understand why people who are sensitive to dust mites wake up sporting a few symptoms.

 

Time to banish the bugs?

While you can’t get rid of dust mites completely, there are a few simple things you can do to help you reduce their population in your home:

  • Wash your bedding at 60oC – allergens dissolve at high temperatures, so washing your sheets on a weekly basis at 60oC or over will usually do the trick
  • Place non-washable items in the freezer – dust mites don’t take kindly to the cold. So putting items like soft toys in the freezer for 24 hours will help kill them
  • Replace carpets and soft furnishings – carpets, curtains and soft furnishings are dust mite heaven. So getting rid of these items, where possible, is one of the most effective ways of eliminating them.
  • Use a damp rag to remove dust – dry cloths serve only to stimulate dust mite allergens
  • Don’t sleep with your pets – your furry, four-legged friends bring dust mites with them wherever they go.

 

Managing dust mite reactions

At Health & Wellness Australia & Auckland (HWA), we use a technique called muscle testing or kinesiology, to help identify people’s sensitivities species of dust mites, including BT. Following testing, you can work with your practitioner to address these sensitivities using a natural allergy treatment called Positive Association Technique (PAT).

PAT is a non-invasive holistic therapy, which:

  • draws on acupressure and kinesiology techniques
  • aims to re-train your body
  • may reduce your reactions dust mites that may be causing or exacerbating allergy symptoms.

Some cases can be complex, so our naturopaths may also recommend supplements, herbs and lifestyle advice, to help you achieve the best long-term results.

Want to know if PAT is right for you? Get in touch!

Send our practitioners a question using our Ask a Practitioner service, and you’ll get a call-back or reply straight to your email inbox.

Call our Head Office on 1300 853 023(Aust) / 09 479 5997(NZ) 9am-5pmEST Monday-Saturday

Request an E-PACK straight to your email inbox with more information about how we can help you with some of the most common allergy-related conditions and for more information about your local clinic.

Want to try Positive Association Technique (PAT)?

Request an appointment with one of our experienced PAT practitioners in one our clinic locations – North Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Auckland.

This blog is intended as general information only. PAT cannot cure dust mite allergies. It is intended to decrease your reactions and help you manage dust mite-related symptoms. It is not intended to raise unrealistic expectations. If symptoms persist, consult your GP.

 

References

1Environment, Health and Safety Online.  Dust Mites: Everything You Might Not Want To Know!http://www.ehso.com/ehshome/dustmites.php

Boston Globe. Does the dust in my house really include my own skin?http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2008/09/01/does_the_dust_in_my_house_really_include_my_own_skin/

3ASCIA. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) http://www.allergy.org.au/health-professionals/hp-information/asthma-and-allergy/atopic-dermatitis

4European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. Allergen-specific sublingual immunotherapy in the treatment of migraines. http://www.europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/1044.pdf

5World Allergy Organization. Allergic Conjunctivitis http://www.worldallergy.org/public/allergic_diseases_center/conjunctivitis/

6Tropical Biomedicine. Antigenic profile of Blomia tropicalis, Aleuroglyphus ovatus and Glycycometus malaysiensishttp://www.msptm.org/files/223_-_236_Wong_SF.pdf

 

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