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Understanding and the Control of Dust Mites

Author: Mary Morris, MD, ABIM

Dust mites, everyone has them in their home and it is not the sign of poor housekeeping. But what are dust mites? In this two part series we’ll take a look at dust mites, define the creepy and crawly, the allergic symptoms, sublingual immunotherapy treatment and help you take steps to control dust mite allergy and the dust mites in your home.

The dust mite is an eight legged creature that can only be seen with help from a microscope. They are tiny and irritating yet they do not bite or provide an immediate danger to you or your family, rather they are one of the most common allergens around.

They love to live where the humidity is higher; where it is warm and where there is plenty of food for them to eat (they eat shed human and animal skin cells). The perfect places for dust mite life in your home would be wherever you live most often: your living room, family room, and bedrooms. These areas provide all the necessary things for them to live comfortably. With a life cycle of about 20 to 70 days, these areas provide a warm and humid environment with human and pet skin cells in abundance. Life is good if you are a dust mite. So what makes dust mites antigens? With a short life cycle and rapid reproduction, their disintegrated dead bodies and feces pile up and wreak havoc with those who are allergic to them.

Dust mite allergy symptoms are numerous and sometimes debilitating. An allergy to dust mites means the symptoms revolve around an inflammation of the mucus membranes. Here is a list of the classic dust mite allergy symptoms:

If you believe that you may fall into the dust mite allergic group, an appointment with your allergist will help define your allergies. A thorough history and physical along with either blood or skin testing will identify your specific allergy triggers and lead to a plan of treatment.

Treatment can be standard sublingual immunotherapy allergy drops or if your physician identifies you as a candidate for preseasonal or rush therapy, that type of sublingual immunotherapy or allergy drops will start 6 to 8 weeks prior to the heating season. Drop therapy is in conjunction with the clean-up and control of the creepy crawly dust mite which we will cover in part 2 of our series on Dust Mites in two weeks.


  1. Treating Conditions: Asthma. Allergy Associates of La Crosse.
  2. House Dust Allergy. America College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.


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