Dust mites are extremely tiny bugs that cannot be seen with your bare eyes. They feed off skin cells shed by people and can survive in all climates and altitude, although they tend to thrive better in warm and humid environments like Singapore. At home, dust mites are commonly found in upholstered furniture, such as sofas and beddings, and carpets.
Dust mite allergy is the allergic reaction to these tiny organisms, particularly their waste products. By keeping your home clean, you may be able to gain some control of your allergy. In addition to maintaining your home, medications and/or other treatments may be necessary to alleviate the symptoms and allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mounts an inappropriate response to a usually harmless substance (allergen). In its response, the body produces an antibody known as immunoglobulin E (lgE) to protect the body against foreign substances. Prolonged or regular exposure to the allergen can cause chronic inflammation associated with asthma.
In the case of dust mite allergy, the immune system reacts when you inhale dust mites, particularly the waste particles of dust mites.
The intensity of the symptoms or reactions would depend on the severity of the allergy. If you have a mild dust mite allergy, you may experience a runny nose, sneezing, and water eyes. If you have a chronic dust mite allergy, on the other hand, you may experience persistent sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, facial pressure, skin rash, or severe asthma attacks.
It is estimated that 9 out of 100 people have a dust mite allergy. Even if you are not born with the allergy, there’s a 13% chance that you might develop it.
What makes the Singapore population more susceptible is our tropical climate, in which dust mites thrive.
Besides the climate, you are also more likely to have a dust mite allergy as a child or young adult, or if several family members already have the same allergy.
There are two main testing methods in Singapore: Skin Prick Test, and blood test. The purpose of testing is to identify the allergen(s) and the testing method will be selected based on the symptoms you present.
There was two main ways to test for allergies and identify the allergens:
The Skin Prick Test is a simple yet accurate way of identifying an allergy – specifically, allergies to dust mites, mold, pet dander, pollen, and foods. Allergens are introduced into your skin through small sterile needles and any reaction, such as raised red bumps or swelling, is observed and later interpreted by your doctor. It takes just 30 minutes for the test results.
The RAST Blood Test tests for specific lgE antibodies produced in response to specific allergens but the range of allergens it is able to test for is much wider than a Skin Prick Test. As with any other blood test, results to the RAST blood test would take between 1 to 2 weeks.
In managing allergies, some medications, such as antihistamines, decongestions, and corticosteroids, may be useful to alleviate allergic symptoms. Besides medication, you may also consider Allergy Immunotherapy.
Allergy Immunotherapy is a preventive treatment for certain types of allergies. It is administered by introducing an increasing dose of allergic substances into your body via oral, sublingual, or injection shots, subtly allowing your body to become acclimatised and desensitised towards the allergen. As a result, your bodily reactions to those allergens become more subdued.
Allergen Immunotherapy has been proven particularly effective against dust mites, animal allergens (namely dogs and cats), and dust mites.
Besides treatment, the best way to manage your dust mite allergy starts at home. Although it is impossible to eradicate dust mites from your home, you can reduce their number by keeping your home as clean as possible. Some methods include: