Dust and Dust Mites
For people with asthma, some of the biggest triggers can be found at home. Dust and dust mites are common allergens found in your bed, couches and carpets.
The allergic signs and symptoms you have from dust and dust mites may be different from someone else. You may only have itchy, watery eyes and another person may have both itchy eyes and a blocked nose.
You may also have more than one allergy.
If you think you might have allergies, ask your doctor about having an allergy test. Click here to learn more about asthma and allergies.
To manage asthma and allergies, work with your doctor. Most people will need:
- Reliever medicine.
- Preventer medicine.
- A written Asthma Action Plan.
- An allergy or hay fever treatment plan.
- Regular asthma reviews.
- To reduce contact with triggers.
The more you know about your triggers, the better you will be able to avoid and manage them! If you would like to speak with an Asthma Educator about your asthma, contact us below.
Dust is a common air pollutant both inside and outside. Dust can be made up of many types of small particles such as:
- Tiny bits of soil, sand or rock.
- Tiny organisms like mould.
- Plant material.
- Dead skin flakes (main part of indoor dust).
- Dander (dead skin flakes shed by animals).
Dust particles vary in size. Some are big enough that you can see them. These might get trapped in the nose and mouth when you breathe them in. Or you might breathe them out or swallow them without knowing.
Very small dust particles can be invisible and are more likely to get trapped deep in your lungs.
These very small pieces of dust can irritate your lungs and trigger breathing problems like coughing or sneezing.
They can also trigger asthma as an allergic reaction. Whether you have this type of response or not depends on:
- what is in the dust and
- what you are allergic to.
Dust is measured under ‘particulate matter’ on air quality ratings. Click here to learn more about checking the air quality in your state.
The house dust mite gets its name from where it likes to live – household dust. The skin flakes in indoor dust are the main food that dust mites eat.
Dust mites are tiny insects that are hard to see with your eyes. They are less than half a millimetre in length, with an oval-shaped body and no wings. They can live for around 2 months or so, depending on the conditions.
Unlike other common household bugs (fleas, for example), dust mites don’t bite. It is the protein found in dust mite’s droppings that some people are allergic to.
If you are allergic to dust mites, try to reduce your exposure to them. This will limit how much they can impact your asthma.
Where do dust mites live?
Dust mites are more common in coastal areas. They like to hide in warm, humid and dark places such as:
- Mattresses and bed linen.
- Upholstered furniture.
- Shag-pile or long-fibred carpets.
- Soft toys.
How can I get rid of dust mites and dust mite droppings in my home?
It is impossible to completely get rid of dust mites – but you can try to reduce their numbers. Regular cleaning is recommended, but this can stir up the allergens and irritants in the air. If possible, find someone without asthma and dust mite allergies to do these jobs.
Some ways to kill dust mites and clean their droppings are:
- Wash sheets, pillow cases and other bedding weekly in hot water (above 60 degrees Celsius).
- Remove sheepskin or woollen underlays and any other sheepskin products.
- Use synthetic rather than feather pillows and doonas. These can tolerate regular washing.
- Think about covering mattresses, pillows and quilts with dust mite resistant covers. The covers must be washed every 2 months.
- Some health funds may provide a rebate for these items.
- Remove carpets, rugs and mats where you can. Bare boards and tiled floors are better as they can be damp mopped. Carpets can contain large amounts of dust mites which cannot be completely removed by vacuuming.
- Vacuum weekly, including the seams of your mattress and your soft furniture. Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
These measures are effective only when done in combination and regularly.
High amounts of dust outside, swept up by wind are common in areas of dry land. Drought can increase the chance of airborne dust and dust storms, especially in summer.
Most dust in a dust storm tends to be big enough that it can’t get down to your lungs. However, some people with asthma may find their symptoms are triggered during a dust storm. This could be via an allergic response, or just from the irritation in their lungs.
Things you can do to protect yourself during a dust storm:
- Avoid outdoor activity. If you must go outside, spend as little time outside as possible.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a mask or damp cloth to reduce exposure to dust particles. A P2 or P3 mask should block even the finest particles if fitted correctly over the nose and mouth.
- Avoid vigorous exercise.
- Stay indoors, with windows and doors closed.
- Stay in air-conditioned premises, if possible.
- If you are in a car, reduce the amount of dust entering your car by switching the air intake to ‘recirculate’.
- Take your asthma medicines as directed.
- If asthma symptoms occur, follow your Asthma Action Plan or start Asthma First Aid.
The longer you’re exposed to dust, the greater chance for symptoms. Children and the elderly are most at risk of breathing difficulties. Symptoms can linger for days after the dust storm so stay alert to your loved ones breathing in the days that follow.