Cleaning in the New Year: Dust Allergies

By Julia Bauer
Woman dusting

If you find yourself with a stuffy nose and watery eyes, your seasonal pollen allergies may not be to blame. Dust may be the true culprit. But don’t fret – there are ways to find relief.

What is dust, really?

Dust is made up of microscopic particles of different substances, such as bacteria, pollen, ash, dirt, sand, skin cells and more. However, this collection of tiny particles is both “heavy enough to see and light enough to be carried by the wind,” according to National Geographic.

Dust may also contain dust mites, which are tiny bugs that make dust their home, according to Mayo Clinic. They are related to ticks and spiders but are too small to be seen by the human eye. They eat the skin cells we shed and love humid environments. Dust mites are drawn to areas like bedding, carpet and upholstered furniture.

The dangers of dust

Dust mites can cause allergies because they can inflame your nasal passage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms may include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy nose and coughing.

Allergic reactions like this happen when a foreign substance – like dust mites – enters your immune system. Your immune system begins producing antibodies to protect you from getting sick, and an inflammatory response occurs in your nose or lungs.

Dust mites may also cause asthma through prolonged inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If this is the case, you may experience trouble breathing, whistling or wheezing when exhaling and chest pain.

Dust mite allergies affect about 20 million Americans, and about 84% of American households have house dust mites, according to the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information.

In addition to health issues, dust may also pose danger to your home. Dust can be flammable, according to Firefighter Insider. Because the particles are so light and can cover a large surface area, it can easily be heated enough to catch fire.

How to get rid of dust

Is dusting really enough? If you’re using a feather duster, it might not be. Feather dusters tend to spread dust around rather than collect it. Wiping surfaces with a damp cloth is a better alternative. Beyond dusting, air filters can help filter out airborne dust before it settles on your surfaces.

Additionally, since dust mites tend to live in bedding, changing your sheets and pillowcases often will help reduce dust allergies. Washing your bedding once a week will not only get rid of dust mites, but it will also provide you with a cozier sleeping environment!

Also, taking steps to prevent outdoor substances from coming inside your home can reduce dust. Wiping your feet on a door mat and keeping your windows closed will help reduce dirt and bacteria from contributing to the dust in your home.

Here’s what doctors say

Symptoms of dust allergies, like sneezing and a stuffy nose, are easily confused with the common cold. However, if these symptoms continue for over a week, it might be an allergy rather than a cold, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If your symptoms persist or get more severe and start to resemble asthma symptoms, call your doctor. Seeing an allergist and getting a skin test testing for reactions from allergens may also help you figure out if dust is causing your allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Taking time to remove this pesky allergen from your home will make all the difference.

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