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House Dust and Allergy

People who are sensitive to house dust suffer from a form of allergic rhinitis which can cause identical symptoms to those of a pollen allergy. Fortunately, the symptoms usually subside within half an hour once the person has removed himself from the house environment. The normal activities of making beds, dusting, vacuuming, beating mats, etc. tend to bring on the running nose, hay fever and other symptoms which indicate that an allergenic dust has been released into the surrounding air. A sensitive person may find that when he wakes in the morning he has a blocked nose and itchy eyes. In a dusty house he may even wake during the night, wheezing and short of breath. Housewives may have symptoms throughout the day because of constant exposure.

House dust is a composition of cotton, wool fibres, kapok fibres, moulds, human and animal hair, danders (skin flakes), food particles, insect fragments and a variety of substances brought in from outside the house. Although all these materials are to varying degrees, allergenic, the main problem is a living mite - a microscopic, tick-like creature whose main diet is human and animal dander. There are a number of different types of mites; some live in mattresses, whilst others prefer old upholstered furniture. Sensitivity to house dust, therefore, is mainly a sensitivity to the house mite. Treatment of house dust allergy involves removal of the mite and tests to ascertain a course of desensitisation therapy.

Obviously, environmental control is the key to resolving house dust/mite allergy and much can be done to minimize its existence by careful and regular cleaning. In the bedroom, particularly, vacuuming should be done daily and the bed vacuumed at least weekly. Regular exposure of both bed and bedding to sunlight will further retard growth and numbers of the mite. Pets should be excluded from the bedroom and if possible from the rest of the house, as their dander will greatly increase house mite population. Throughout the house regular cleaning is essential. In chronic cases carpets should be replaced by a hard surface with scatter rugs that are aired and beaten daily. Curtains should be of cotton or nylon and washed regularly.

Often, irritation of the nasal mucous membranes has been caused by reaction to an inhaled chemical or an ingested food or chemical. This in turn creates the right climate for a more serious reaction to house dust than might otherwise have occurred. Avoidance of other allergenic substances will help considerably in overcoming house dust sensitivity.
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