Self Test for Allergies (Dust Mite)
Your doctor may suspect a dust mite allergy based on your symptoms and your answers to questions about your home.
To confirm that you are allergic to something in the air, your doctor may use a lighted instrument to look at the condition of the lining of your nose. If you are allergic to something that is carried through the air, the lining of your nostrils will swell and may appear pale or bluish.
Your doctor may suspect a dust mite allergy if your symptoms worsen when lying down or while cleaning when dust mite allergens would be temporarily in the air. If you have a pet, it can be more difficult to determine the cause of the allergy, especially if your pet sleeps in your room.
1. Allergy skin test. Your doctor may suggest an allergy skin test to determine what you are allergic to. You may be referred to an allergy specialist (allergist) for this test.
In this test, small amounts of purified allergen extracts, including an extract for dust mites, are pricked into the surface of the skin. This is usually done on the forearm, but can also be done on the upper back.
Your doctor or nurse watches your skin for signs of allergic reactions after 15 minutes. If you are allergic to dust mites, you will develop an itchy red bump where the dust mite extract was punctured on your skin. The most common side effects of these skin tests are itching and redness. These side effects generally go away within 30 minutes.
2. Allergy blood test. Some people cannot have a skin test because they have a skin condition or are taking a medicine that can affect the results. Alternatively, your doctor may order a blood test that looks for specific antibodies that cause allergies to several common allergens, including dust mites. This test can also indicate how sensitive you are to an allergen.
The first treatment to control a dust mite allergy is to avoid dust mites as much as possible. When you minimize your exposure to dust mites, you can expect fewer or less severe allergic reactions. However, it is impossible to completely eliminate dust mites from your environment. You may also need medicine to control symptoms.
Your doctor may direct you to take one of the following medications to improve nasal allergy symptoms:
- Antihistamines reduce the production of an immune system chemical that is active in an allergic reaction. These medications relieve itching, sneezing, and a runny nose. There are over-the-counter antihistamine tablets, such as fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy), loratadine (Alavert, Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and others, as well as antihistamine syrups for children. Prescription antihistamines taken as a nasal spray include azelastine (Astelin, Astepro) and olopatadine (Patanase).
- Corticosteroids given as a nasal spray can reduce inflammation and control symptoms of hay fever. These medications include fluticasone propionate (Flonase Allergy Relief), mometasone furoate (Nasonex), triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24HR), ciclesonide (Omnaris), and others. Nasal corticosteroids provide a low dose of the drug and have a much lower risk of side effects compared to oral corticosteroids.
- Decongestants can help shrink inflamed tissues in the nasal passages and make it easier to breathe through the nose. Some over-the-counter allergy pills combine an antihistamine with a decongestant. Oral decongestants can increase blood pressure and should not be taken if you have severe high blood pressure, glaucoma, or cardiovascular disease. In men with an enlarged prostate, the drug can make the condition worse. Talk to your doctor about whether you can safely take a decongestant. Over-the-counter decongestants taken as a nasal spray can briefly reduce allergy symptoms. However, if you use a decongestant spray for more than three days in a row, it can actually make your nasal congestion worse.
- Leukotriene modifiers block the action of certain chemicals in the immune system. Your doctor may prescribe the leukotriene modifier montelukast (Singulair), which comes as a tablet. Possible side effects of montelukast include upper respiratory infection, headache, and fever.
Lifestyle and home remedies.
Avoiding exposure to dust mites is the best strategy for controlling a dust mite allergy. While you can’t completely eliminate dust mites from your home, you can significantly reduce their numbers. That’s how:
1. Use allergen-proof bed covers. Keep your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen-blocking covers. Made of tightly-woven fabric, these covers prevent dust mites from colonizing or escaping from the mattress or pillows. Cover the bed bases with allergen-proof covers.
2. Wash bedding weekly. Wash all sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and bed covers in hot water at a minimum temperature of 130 F (54.4 C) to kill dust mites and remove allergens. If the bedding cannot be washed in hot water, place it in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at a temperature above 130 F (54.4 C) to kill the mites. Then wash and dry the bedding to remove allergens. Freezing non-washable items for 24 hours can also kill dust mites, but this will not eliminate allergens.
3. Keep the humidity low. Keep relative humidity below 50% in your home. A dehumidifier or air conditioner can help keep humidity down, and a hygrometer (available at hardware stores) can measure humidity levels.
4. Choose to bed wisely. Avoid quilts that trap dust easily and are difficult to clean frequently.
5. Buy washable stuffed toys. Wash them often in hot water and dry them well. Also, keep stuffed toys out of beds.
6. Dust. Use a damp or oiled mop or rag instead of dry materials to clean up the dust. This prevents the dust from being blown into the air and settling again.
7. Vacuum regularly. Vacuuming carpets and upholstered furniture removes surface dust, but vacuuming is not effective at removing most dust mites and dust mite allergens. Use a vacuum cleaner with a double-layer microfilter bag or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to help reduce household dust emissions from the vacuum cleaner. If your allergies are severe, stay away from the area being vacuumed while someone else does the work. Wait about two hours before returning to the vacuumed room.
8. Cut the clutter. If it collects dust, it also collects dust mites. Remove knickknacks, table decorations, books, magazines, and newspapers from your bedroom.
9. Remove carpets and other habitats from dust mites. Carpets provide a comfortable habitat for dust mites. This is especially true if the carpet is on concrete, which locks in moisture easily and provides a moist environment for mites. If possible, replace wall-to-wall bedroom carpet with tile, wood, linoleum, or vinyl flooring. Consider replacing other dust-collecting furniture in bedrooms, such as upholstered furniture, non-washable curtains, and horizontal blinds.
10. Install a high-efficiency media filter in your furnace and air conditioning unit. Look for a filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 11 or 12 and leave the fan on to create a whole-house air filter. Make sure to change the filter every three months.