Dust is a messy mix of organic and inorganic matter. As far as allergic reactions go, the organic matters are the ones that become the triggers.
Let’s discuss dust allergy in more detail including the causes, symptoms, remedies, and preventions.
Dust Allergy Causes
Allergic reactions happen when your immune system goes over the top and considers a non-threatening object as potentially harmful one so it tells your body to take care of it at all cost.
As we have mentioned above, the inorganic part of dust is not the one responsible for dust allergy. The microscopic organic matter that made up the dust is the real culprit. Those organic matters may come from cockroaches, molds, pollen, pets, and dust mites.
There are more than 4,500 species of cockroaches in the world. Humans consider 30 species as pests, but only 4 are well-known to us: the American, German, Oriental, and Australian roaches.
The saliva, feces, and parts of cockroaches’ body mixed in the dust may trigger allergic reactions and asthma.
More than 70 percent of homes in the United States have cockroach allergens mixed in the household dust. If you see dead cockroaches when you clean somewhere, there’s a high chance the dust nearby is already contaminated.
Mold loves to grow in damp places inside your home. There are more than 7,000 known species of mold in the US and most of them are too tiny for the eyes to see.
Mold spores are even tinier, in the range of 10 to 30 micrometers. They are easily blown away and mix with dust particles. When you inhale these spores, they can trigger allergic reactions.
Pollen is yet another common organic matter found in household dust. They can invade your home from even the smallest opening. People also unknowingly bring pollen from outside, as they are small and easily stuck on your clothes.
The bad thing about pollen is that the outer layer, the exine, is composed of sporopollenin, the hardest and most durable organic polymer known to man.
This means the pollen that’s already mixed with the dust in your home may still trigger allergic reactions even when pollen allergy season has passed.
Animal Fur, Hair, And Feathers
Pet owners know very well how small bits of fur, hair, dander, and feathers from their loving companions tend to find their way under the bed, furniture, or even stuck deep in the carpeting. And just like the case with pollen, allergens from pets will remain active for a long time.
Compared to all other allergens, dust mites are the most common cause of allergy found in household dust. Dust mites love warm and humid places. Homes where the humidity level exceed 50% are the perfect breeding ground for them.
You can find dust mites all around your house. Grab a magnifying glass and check your mattresses, pillows, and upholstered furniture.
These mites feed on skin flakes so you’re bound to see the freeloaders crawling carelessly on those places.
Check out this video to learn more about these tiny creatures.
Dust Allergy Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of dust allergies include:
- Swelling and itching
- Stuffy nose
- Eyes inflammation
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing and wheezing
- Asthma attack
Please note that several different allergic reactions may have similar symptoms. To be sure that your allergic reactions are caused by dust, you need to see an allergist to be tested.
Dust Allergy Remedies
There are plenty of over-the-counter medicines you can take to relieve dust allergy symptoms. Here are some of them:
- Antihistamine: Antihistamines are widely used to treat allergies. Antihistamines block and reduce histamines, the chemicals your body produce that cause swells, runny nose, itches, and rashes.
- Decongestant: Decongestants are used to relieve sinus or nasal congestion. They decrease inflammation and swelling in the nose and airways by narrowing the blood vessels there.
- Corticosteroid: Corticosteroids come in nasal sprays, creams and ointments, or tablets to take orally. Nasal spray corticosteroids are used to control inflammation and nasal allergies. Creams and ointments are used to stop the spread of rashes. The tablets are used when the allergic reactions are severe.
- Epinephrine: Also known as Adrenaline, Epinephrine shots are used to relieve severe and life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) quickly.
One word of caution: While you can buy those medicines listed above without prescription, it’s best to talk to your doctor first before you take any.
Take only what your doctor prescribes and do not try to combine medications without consulting. Some medicines have serious side effects. Combining different allergy medications may have an adverse effect on your well-being.
Dust Allergy Preventions
Preventing allergic reactions is even more important than treating them. In most cases, it’s a lot cheaper too once you take the medical bills into account. To reduce the chance of getting dust allergy reactions, you can do the followings:
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting. Yes, we know walking on carpets is comfy, but carpets are essentially dust traps. Go with hardwood or tile flooring.
- Keep curtains and drapes to a minimum. Frosted window films provide great privacy protection and they aren’t dust magnet. Incorporate small cut-outs so you can still see what’s on the other side. Tall planters and gallery glass work well too.
- Use microfiber cloth instead of a feather duster or cotton cloth when dusting. A microfiber cloth has superior cleaning properties. It will trap dust particles between its fibers instead of pushing the dust around.
- Vacuum regularly. If you or your family members suffer from asthma or allergy, we recommend vacuuming over sweeping. Sweeping will kick plenty of dust around. Wear a facemask while vacuuming if you’re really sensitive.
- Be sure to vacuum your bed every time you change the sheets. Yes, the bed. You’re spending eight hours a day on it, so it better be dust-free.
- Deep clean all carpets at least once every six months. Sometimes regular vacuuming just can’t get rid of allergens already stuck deep in the carpets. Since deep cleaning carpets can be tedious, just hire professional services to do it for you.
- Keep air purifiers running 24/7. Most purifiers have an auto mode. You can leave them on and they will adjust their cleaning settings based on how bad the air quality is. Make sure the purifier uses true High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter which can trap 99.97% of airborne allergens.
- Keep a small purifier next to your pets’ cages. It will trap allergens before they have the chance to go airborne and travel across the room.
- Consider using a dehumidifier and keep the humidity level below 50%. Dust mites cannot thrive in dry places.
- Clean fan blades. Fan blades covered by dust will blow allergens all over the place every time you turn the fan on. If possible, switch to bladeless fan such as Dyson Pure Link. It’s a HEPA air purifier that works well as a fan too.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity level below 50%. Mold and dust mites strive in humid condition. Keeping the humidity level in check will ensure those two won’t have a chance to grow.
- Find water leaks and fix them. Cockroaches and mold love damp places. Fixing the leaks will also deny the roaches of water sources. Roaches can survive over a month without food but no more than a week without water.
- Clean your kitchen thoroughly and ensure no food spills left unchecked to prevent cockroaches from consuming them. Underneath the fridge, stove, dishwasher, and kitchen sink, where it’s usually damp and plenty of leftovers are available, are ideal places for cockroaches to hang out. Be sure to clean those spots well.
- Wear a facemask when you go outside. Don’t go with a simple cotton handkerchief. Go with a surgical mask or inexpensive 3M facemask as they are far superior in trapping dust.
- Bathe, brush, and trim your pets regularly.
- Ensure your home is well-insulated. This is especially important with old houses. Good insulation will keep outdoor dust out.