Staten Island:

Wednesday and Friday
11am - 7pm
New patients, office visits and immunotherapy shots.

Phone: 718-816-8200

Brooklyn Heights:

Tuesday and Thursday
1pm - 7pm

Phone: 718-624-6495

Bay Ridge:

Mon, Tue and Thu
1:30pm - 7pm

Phone: 718-748-7551


House Dust Allergy

Many people have symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes and sneezing from dust exposure related to common household chores such as vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting. House dust exposure can also trigger asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Dust allergy diagnosis

If you think you may have an allergy to any of the components of house dust, come in for an evaluation. To pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, we will ask detailed questions about your work and home environments, family medical history, frequency and severity of symptoms, exposure to pets and a variety of other questions. Sometimes the history will reveal obvious triggers, like someone who develops symptoms every time they are around a certain animal. More often though, the history may suggest triggers, but it may not be obvious in identifying the exact ones.

Sometimes the medical history may not suggest any triggers, yet allergy may be the cause. In this case, we will find out what you are allergic to by doing skin tests. Skin tests involve either pricking the skin or injecting into the skin with different allergens and observing for a reaction.

Dust allergy treatment

Once your allergy triggers have been identified, steps should be taken to avoid them. Research has confirmed that environmental control can be as effective as medications in reducing symptoms. Usually successful treatment requires environmental controls, prescription medications, and in many cases, immunotherapy (allergy shots) to bring the problems under control.

Why does house dust cause allergic reactions?

House dust is a mixture of many substances. Its content varies from home to home, depending on the type of furniture, building materials, presence of pets, moisture and other factors. A speck of dust may contain fabric fibers, human skin particles, animal dander, microscopic creatures called house dust mites, parts of cockroaches, mold spores, bacteria, food particles and other debris. Of these, animal dander, house dust mites and cockroaches are the most common culprits. A person may be allergic to one or more of these substances, and, if exposed to the dust, will have an allergic reaction.

What are house dust mites?

Tiny microscopic creatures called house dust mites are an important cause of allergic reactions to house dust. They belong to the family of eight-legged creatures called arachnids. This family also includes spiders, chiggers and ticks. Dust mites are hardy creatures that live well and multiply easily in warm, humid places.

As many as 10 percent of the general population and (in some regions) 90 percent of people with allergic asthma are sensitive to dust mites. Recent studies in the United States suggest that at least 45 percent of young people with asthma are allergic to dust mites.

Dust mite feces are just the right size to be inhaled. They are found in the highest concentrations in pillows, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They float into the air when anyone vacuums, walks on a carpet or disturbs bedding, but settle out of the air once the disturbance is over. A dust mite allergic patient who sleeps for eight hours every night spends one third of his life with his nose in direct contact with a pillow loaded with dust mite feces!

There may be many as 19,000 dust mites in one gram of dust, but usually between 100 to 500 mites live in each gram. (A gram is about the weight of 2 paper clips.) Egg-laying females can add 25 to 30 new mites to the population during their lifetime. Mites eat particles of skin and dander, so they thrive in places where there are people. Dust mites don't bite, and cannot spread diseases. They are harmful only to people who become allergic to them. While usual household insecticides have no effect on dust mites, there are ways that allergic people can reduce exposure to dust mites in the home.

Why is mold present in house dust?

Molds are commonly found in outdoor air, and they come in any time you open a door or window. Any house can develop a mold problem given the right conditions. You might not see it growing on the walls, but it may still be present in your home. Molds require two factors to grow indoors: (1) free moisture that can occur in the form of relative humidity above 50 percent, leakage from pipes or foundations, or any ongoing source of water; and (2) something to grow on. Molds particularly like to grow on wallboard, wood or fabrics, but will grow virtually any place if they are given a chance.

Molds spread by producing spores that can become airborne. These spores end up in house dust where they grow. Dust from mold-contaminated houses can cause allergy symptoms if a mold-sensitive person inhales it.

Does house dust contain cockroaches?

As unappealing as it seems, cockroach particles can be a component of dust. This is most common in older, multifamily housing and in the southern United States where complete extermination of cockroaches is very difficult. It is also present in many public buildings and schools, so exposure may still occur even if there are no roaches at home. Allergic individuals, particularly those with asthma, will tend to have increased symptoms when they go into such houses. Cockroaches require food and moisture to survive, so eliminating sources of each can help reduce exposure. In cockroach endemic areas, the services of a skilled professional exterminator will be required to keep cockroaches under control.

Is house dust allergy seasonal?

Yes. In the United States, dust mite populations tend to peak in July and August, and their allergen levels stay high through December. Mite allergen levels are lowest in late spring. Some dust mite-sensitive people report that their symptoms get worse during the winter. That's because mite fecal particles and pieces of dead mites, both of which trigger dust mite allergy, are still present. Mold levels tend to peak during the summer months depending on where you live since some tropical areas have molds year-round. There is also evidence that cockroaches have a seasonal pattern, peaking in the late summer.

Forced-air heating systems tend to blow dust particles into the air. As they dry out over time, even more of the particles become airborne. This does not account for the seasonal pattern, however, since air blows through the same ducts during the summer when air conditioning is used. People may have fewer symptoms from house-dust exposure during the summer because they spend more time outdoors.

For these reasons, the terms "seasonal allergy" and "perennial allergy" are being used less frequently. It is better to classify symptoms as "intermittent" or "persistent".

  
Why does house dust cause allergic reactions?

House dust is a mixture of many substances. Its content may vary from home to home, but the most common allergy triggers are:
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches
  • Fungi (Mold)    
  • Animals
Any of these allergens can cause a response in the immune system which results in the production of a special antibody (Immunoglobulin E or IgE). IgE brings about an allergic inflammatory response. Exposure to only small amounts of the offending allergen can cause allergy symptoms.