Dust mite 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 house 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 — that live in bedding and soft furnishings in the home. Dust mites are very common, and can be found in most household mattresses, carpets and upholstered furniture.
Dust mites won’t cause any harm unless a person is allergic 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 house dust mite allergy, but not all will have symptoms.
Symptoms of a house mite dust allergy in children
Children with house dust mite allergy often look and feel like they have a cold that never goes away and will have dark circles under their eyes (called ‘allergic shiners’) due to mucous 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 or blocked nose
- An itchy throat, mouth and nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Headaches and blocked sinuses
- Clearing their throat, snorting and having a sensation of mucous going down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
- Sneezing and coughing
- Frequently rubbing their nose upwards
- 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 older carpets and bedding.
Treating and managing a house mite 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.
The first step in treating dust mite allergy is to limit your child’s exposure to them. Ways you can reduce the number of dust mites in your home include:
- Vacuuming and dusting your home at least once a week. Purchasing special small-pore filter bags for your vacuum or using a vacuum with a HEPA filter 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 weekly on a hot wash and dry them on a hot setting
- If stuffed toys cannot be washed, seal them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for at least 5 hours to kill dust mites
- 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 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
As it is impossible to completely eliminate dust mites from the home, medical treatments 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
- Desensitisation (immunotherapy)
How Children’s Allergy Doctors can help
At Children’s Allergy Doctors, we provide skin prick and blood testing to diagnose a dust mite allergy. 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.
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