Allergies to dust mites usually produce one or more of the symptoms characteristic of most other airborne allergies: rhinitis, asthma, conjunctivitis, urticaria, andeczema. How the symptoms are expressed, and the degree of their severity, differs from person to person and from time to time. When dust is disturbed in the course of vacuuming and cleaning, more dust miteallergens become airborne and symptoms can be at their worst. Dust mite mattress covers do provide relief at bedtime.
Rhinitis is the medical term for upper respiratory inflammation. This results in a runny nose, sneezing, stuffy nose, and often clogged sinuses. Dust mite allergens certainly elicit such symptoms in persons sensitized to the allergens, usually within minutes of exposure. That “early response” may be followed by a “late phase response” four to eight hours later characterized by fatigue, irritability, general malaise, and perhaps even impaired judgment.
Asthma refers to inflammation of the lower respiratory system (bronchial tubes and lungs). Tightness of the chest, shortness of breath, and wheezing can be symptoms of asthma. Dust mite allergens are one potential cause of the onset of asthma, and can trigger asthma “attacks” that can persist for days or weeks given continued exposure to dust mite allergens or any other allergens a person is reactive to.
Conjunctivitis is the medical term describing irritated, red, itchy and watery eyes resulting from exposure to allergens, usually in tandem with rhinitis. Dust mite allergens can penetrate the mucous membrane of the eye to cause conjunctivitis, according to a clinical paper published in 2001.
Urticaria, commonly known as “hives,” refers to inflammation of the skin manifested by the appearance of many raised, red, itchy welts (“wheals” in medical terminology). A study published in 2001 demonstrated a strong relationship between sensitivity to dust mite allergens and chronic urticaria. The results showed that over half (64%) of the study subjects with chronic urticaria also showed sensitivity to dust mite allergens.
Eczema (“atopic dermatitis”) is frequently expressed in acute flare-ups whereby the skin becomes intensely red, itchy, and often with weeping wounds. Between flare-ups the skin may show rough, dry patches. A family history of asthma and rhinitis often indicates the potential to develop eczema, especially in infants and children. Eczema can be triggered by a variety of stimuli, not just allergens. Even changes in the temperature and weather can affect the expression of eczema. The condition is probably the result of several factors conspiring together, including genetics. Whether dust mite allergens cause eczema is still being debated, but exposure to dust mites seems to at least hinder the healing process of those with the condition.