Does Your Child Suffer from a Hidden Dust Allergy?

Do you suspect dust is causing your child’s allergy symptoms? Dust allergies are common – but they are difficult to diagnose and often go unnoticed. This is a shame, as relieving this type of allergy can greatly improve a child’s quality of life.

In this article, I’ll take you through the signs and symptoms of a dust allergy in children. I’ve also listed some tips for relieving symptoms.

What Causes a Dust Allergy in Children? (Hint: It’s Not Dust)

Before I go any further though, it’s important to define what a dust allergy actually is. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an allergy to dust. It’s an allergy dust mites. These tiny critters love humid and warm locations, and feed off dead human skin cells. When people talk about a dust allergy, it’s actually the waste and dead body parts of mites causing the problem.

Scarily, the average human sheds enough skin each day to feed over one million mites! A home also doesn’t need to appear dirty or untidy for dust mites to thrive. While dust mites themselves are harmless, they can cause problems if your child is allergic or suffers from asthma.

Identifying Symptoms of a Dust Allergy

A dust allergy is the most common cause of year-round allergy symptoms. If your child’s symptoms seem to be related to the season, they probably aren’t caused by dust mites. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Blocked or stuffy nose
  • Regular sneezing that’s often worse in the morning
  • Dry and itchy throat
  • Red and itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Trouble sleeping

If your child has asthma, dust mites can also trigger an attack. Symptoms are likely to include wheezing, breathing difficulties and chest tightness.

Another common sign of a dust allergy is if your child’s symptoms get worse after vacuuming. This can happen because allergens are stirred up into the air, where they can stay suspended for up to eight hours.

It’s important to point out that dust mites aren’t the only source of year-round allergies. Mould and pet dander can cause similar symptoms. It’s also not uncommon for children to have multiple allergies.

While most people identify a dust allergy in their children from symptoms alone, your child’s doctor can test for the condition. The most common type is a skin prick test. This involves using a small amount of a potential allergen to trigger a controlled reaction. If your child doesn’t like needles (who can blame them!) a blood test might be an option.

How to Relieve a Dust Allergy in Children

So you’re certain your child’s allergy is being caused by dust mites – what next?

The first step is to talk about your child’s allergy with your doctor. He or she may recommend treatment ideas for managing your child’s symptoms.

Aside from medication, the most important thing is to reduce your child’s exposure to dust mites. While it’s impossible to get rid of them entirely, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the amount in your home.

  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum. Vacuums with poor-quality filters stir up allergens into the air. That’s why a high-quality filter is important. HEPA filters are the “gold standard” when it comes to filters and can prevent allergens escaping into the room.
  • Use a Dehumidifier. Dust mites thrive in environments with high relative humidity, but they die if humidity falls below 50%. While this won’t stop allergic reactions instantly, as the dead mite’s body parts remain, it can reduce symptoms in the long run. On a side note, don’t place an aquarium in your child’s bedroom, as this can increase humidity.
  • Remove Carpets in Your Child’s Bedroom. This tip might sound drastic, but is a great way to reduce reactions that can disturb your child’s sleep. Hard floors are much easier to clean and also don’t trap allergens. As all parents know, it can be difficult to get young children to sleep at the best of times. So anything you can do to improve sleep quality is great for you and your child!
  • Buy Allergen-Proof Bed Covers. Another way to reduce night-time allergic reactions is to get allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers. These covers and all other bedding should be washed regularly at a high heat to kill mites. Don’t forget about soft toys too – these also need to be washed.
  • Vacuum All Upholstery and Carpets Every 3 Days. If you only vacuum carpets and furniture once a week, you’re giving dust mites plenty of time to breed. Instead, try to vacuum all surfaces at least twice per week. I recommend using a bagged vacuum for this, to prevent allergens escaping when you empty it. A bagless cordless vacuum with high-quality filtration and hygienic emptying system, such as the Dyson V8, can be useful for quick daily cleans though.
  • Regularly Clean Non-Carpeted Surfaces. While carpets are the most common trap for allergens, dust mite waste and body parts can also settle on surfaces such as picture frames and window ledges. Wipe these regularly with a damp cloth to prevent allergens spreading around the home.

If you’ve tried these methods and your child still suffers with a dust allergy, you may want to buy an air purifier. I only recommend this as a last resort though, as allergens are usually trapped in carpets or upholstery rather than floating in the air. As with your vacuum, make sure the purifier has a HEPA filter.

Summary and Final Thoughts

A child with a dust allergy can be a distressing problem for parents. The symptoms are easily confused for a common cold at first, but are often continuous and don’t change with the season. If your child suffers from constant sneezing, runny noses or red eyes, it might be caused by a dust mite allergy.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to relieve this type of allergy. You can’t get rid of all dust mites, but removing carpets, vacuuming with a HEPA filter and buying allergen-proof bed covers can reduce symptoms. For severe allergies or those that don’t improve using the methods in this article, a doctor may prescribe medication to relieve symptoms.

Does your child suffer from any allergy? Do you have any other tips for relieving symptoms? Let me know in the comments!

featured image credit: depositphotos.com

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James Hall

James is a writer and home technology expert currently living in Scotland. When away from the computer, he loves hiking and wild camping in the highlands.

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