Someone who is allergic to “dust” is in fact allergic to one or more substances that occur in dust. The content of dust varies considerably depending on the situation in which it accumulates. Dust in grain storage facilities, factories, mines, bakeries, and construction sites can all present hazards to our respiratory systems, and occupational ailments due to dust are common. House dust can produce a variety of allergens, but dust mites, cockroaches, and cat dander far exceed all others in terms of severity and occurrence. Special dust mite mattress covers bring relief to allergy sufferers.
Dust mites are found globally, but are not at all abundant in drier climates and at higher elevations. Consequently, the regions where dust mite allergies are most common and severe are in humid areas such as the southeast United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and England. Other factors that impact dust mite allergies are the construction of homes, and how much time people spend inside them.
Dust mite allergies far exceed other indoor allergens in severity for two reasons: they exist independent of human lifestyle and socio-economic class; and the allergens produced by dust mites have been linked conclusively to the development of asthma and the aggravation of symptoms in people who already have asthma. Cockroach allergens exceed dust mite allergens in slums, ghettos, tenements, and other crowded, substandard housing conditions. Cat dander allergens are the most potent indoor allergens, yet cause relatively weak reactions, often limited to a stuffy nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Energy conservation strategies in the 1970s led to improvements in insulation, sealed windows, and other developments that reduced air circulation and ventilation in many cases. This allowed humidity to increase, if even ever so slightly, making the indoor environment more hospitable to dust mites. People have also been spending more and more time indoors, increasing their exposure to indoor allergens of all kinds.
Certain substances secreted in the body of dust mites act as allergens when they become airborne, stimulating a hypersensitive immune response in some people, but not everyone. So, allergies in general are due to our own personal immune system going into overdrive and becoming our own worst enemy. The allergic response is a defensive reaction all out of proportion to the actual threat. Your body is going nuclear on what are basically harmless particles.
Dust mite droppings called “fecal pellets” are the primary source of dust mite allergens. No, seriously. When the tiny turds become airborne they are easily inhaled, causing a person to sneeze, itch, or worse. Dust mite allergens are one of the leading causes of asthma.