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An allergy is the body’s response to certain substances that it comes into the contact with. The immune system of a person with allergies views these substances as harmful and responds accordingly. It is this immune system response that causes classic allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, nasal stuffiness, extra mucus production, rashes, and hives.
Dust is one of the most common causes of allergies in people. In fact it has been estimated that 10% of the general population are afflicted with some sort of dust allergies. Household dust is composed of many things such as dead skin, pet hair, fabric, lint, parts of insects, and dust mites.
Dust mites are the cause of most dust allergies. The allergic reaction is actually caused by a protein found in the fecal matter of dust mites. Unlike other allergens, dust mite allergens do not remain in the air easily due to their heavy weight. Therefore most people are exposed to dust allergens through direct contact with pillows, bedding, or furniture.
Minimizing the effects of dust allergies takes some work but can be done. There are essentially two methods to do so. The first method involves reducing direct exposure to dust and dust mites. Since much of the exposure to dust is in the bedroom, the person with dust allergies should wash all bedding approximately once a week in hot water. The water should be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius) to kill dust mites and adequately remove their droppings.
Specially designed dust-proof covers should be placed over mattresses, box springs and pillows. These covers provide a barrier that dust mites and allergens are unable to penetrate. The individual who suffers from dust allergies should also use pillows filled with synthetic materials, such as polyester, instead of pillows with a natural filling, such as feathers.
Regular cleaning and maintenance of the home will also help to minimize dust allergies. It is recommended that carpets be vacuumed at least once or twice a week. If possible, a vacuum with a HEPA filter should be used. This will help prevent allergens from being spread through the use of the vacuum. If dust allergies are extreme, an individual may want to consider replacing some or all of the carpeting in the home with wood, tile, or vinyl flooring.
HEPA filters used in a home’s heating and air conditioning system can actually improve the indoor air quality of a home. HEPA filters are usually considerably more expensive than common disposable fiberglass filters. However to the allergy sufferer, the benefits may well be worth the additional expense. In addition, many HEPA filters are designed to be reusable, which may help to defray the higher costs. It should be noted however that not all HVAC systems are designed to work with HEPA filters. Those considering installing HEPA filters should review the owner’s manual of their HVAC system carefully.
The second method of minimizing the effects of dust allergies is to alter the body’s reaction to the allergens through the use of medications and medical treatments. It is recommended that those interested in allergy medication and treatments consult with their doctor or health care provider for more information.