House Dust Allergy in children
People spend a lot of time indoors and are exposed to various indoor allergens.
One of these allergens is house dust mites. If your child is allergic to dust mites, they may experience a number of unpleasant symptoms.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce their exposure to dust mites and to treat any symptoms they have.
What are dust mites?
House dust mites are tiny insects — only visible through a microscope. Dust mites live in bedding and soft furnishings, carpeting and upholstered furniture, and mattresses and pillows.
They are very common and won’t cause any harm unless a person has allergic reactions to them.
What causes a dust mite allergy?
Just like any other allergy, dust mite allergy is caused by the overreaction of the immune system to an allergen.
Unlike bed bugs, dust mites do not bite or puncture the skin. Dust mites are also not allergens themselves.
If your child has a dust mite allergy, it is in fact the droppings they excrete that your child is allergic to.
It’s thought that around 1 in 20 young children will have allergic antibodies against house dust mite allergens, but not all will have symptoms.
Dust mite allergy symptoms in children
Children suffering from a house dust mite allergy often look and feel like they have a cold that never goes away and will have dark circles under the eyes, called ‘allergic shiners’, due to mucus and congestion in the upper airways.
Uncomfortable symptoms can also lead to poor-quality sleep, so you may also notice that your child is tired and irritable when they wake up.
Symptoms to keep an eye out for that suggest your child had a dust mite allergy include:
- A runny nose or blocked nose
- An itchy throat, mouth and nose
- Itchy eyes, red eyes or watery eyes
- Headaches and blocked sinuses
- Clearing their throat, snorting and having a sensation of mucus going down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
- Sneezing and coughing
- Frequently rubbing their nose upwards (this can lead to a crease on the nose)
- Eczema flare-ups
- Wheezing and trouble breathing when sleeping
- Asthma attacks
If your child has a dust mite allergy, they will usually have symptoms all year round, with them becoming worse in the winter. This is because house dust mites are more prolific in colder months, especially in damp, older homes with wall to wall carpets and older bedding.
Managing a house dust allergy
It’s important to get your child the treatment they need for a dust mite allergy. Left untreated, symptoms can worsen and bring on other more serious conditions such as asthma or sinusitis.
The first step in treating dust allergy is to limit your child’s exposure to them. There are ways you can reduce the number of dust mites in your home include:
- Vacuuming and dusting your home at least once a week will help remove dust mite allergens.
- Purchasing special small-pore filter bags for your vacuum cleaner or using a vacuum with a High Efficiency Particulate Air Heap Filter (HEPA) will help trap the mites.
- Use a damp cloth when dusting to avoid dust mite particles being spread into the air.
- Use bedding made of synthetic materials throughout your house and avoid feather or down cushions, pillows, and duvets.
- Change and wash bedsheets and soft toys once a week in hot water and tumble dry them on a hot setting.
- If stuffed toys cannot be put in the washing machine, seal them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for at least 5 hours to kill dust mites then handwash in cool water.
- Cover mattresses, pillows and sofas with mite-proof covers.
- Wash floor rugs weekly in hot water.
- Wash bedroom curtains and dust blinds regularly.
- Get rid of clutter and store your child’s books in a room other than their bedroom or playroom to prevent dust from settling and collecting.
- Avoid using a humidifier, especially in your child’s bedroom.
- Keep the humidity level in the house below 50% using an air conditioner or a dehumidifier. Clean any air conditioning unit filters and drain and clean dehumidifiers regularly.
- If possible, get rid of any carpeting, especially in your child’s room, replacing it with hard flooring.
- Consider replacing any upholstered furniture, non-washable curtains and horizontal blinds that collect lots of dust and are difficult to clean.
Treating dust allergy
As it is impossible to completely eliminate dust mites from your home to avoid allergy triggers, so allergy medications may also be necessary. Treatments that may help your child include:
- Over-the-counter and prescribed antihistamines
- Decongestants (short term only)
- Saline nasal sprays
- Steroid nasal sprays / nasal corticosteroids
- Desensitisation (immunotherapy)
Treating allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes)
Allergic shiners result from swollen blood vessels caused by allergies. Treatment for allergic shiners, often resembling a black eye, revolves around addressing the symptoms of allergic reactions, especially in cases of allergic rhinitis.
To alleviate this discoloration and puffiness, applying a cold compress can help constrict blood vessels and help reduce the appearance of the dark circles under the eyes. Identifying and managing your allergy triggers is essential for preventing allergic shiners from recurring, ensuring your eyes look and feel their best.
How Children’s Allergy Doctors can help
At Children’s Allergy Doctors, we provide skin prick and blood testing to provide a comprehensive allergy diagnosis. If your child is found to have a dust mite allergy, we can provide you with the latest evidence on how to effectively reduce mite levels in your home and prescribe simple but effective treatments for your child’s symptoms.
House dust mite desensitisation has been a major development in the management of house dust mite-related rhinitis, reducing allergic symptoms and medications required by diverting the immune system’s allergic response towards tolerance.
The main benefit of these treatments is that the patient’s symptoms improve — not just during the treatment but potentially for several years after the treatment has stopped and may also help prevent asthma.
We offer a simple desensitisation treatment of drops or a tablet under the tongue over three years, which has very few side effects.
If you’d like to find out more about this treatment and how it can benefit your child, contact us today to book a consultation.