House Dust

House dust allergy is common even in clean homes. House dust is a major cause of year-round runny or stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes and sneezing for allergy sufferers. Dust can also make people with asthma experience wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

House dust is considered the worst offender of all the indoor environmental asthma triggers because it is a mixture of many substances. Its content varies from home to home, depending on the type of furniture, building materials, presence of pets, moisture and other factors. A speck of dust may contain fabric fibers, human skin particles, animal dander, microscopic creatures called dust mites, bacteria, parts of cockroaches, mold spores, food particles and other debris. A person may be allergic to one or more of these substances, and, if exposed to the dust, will have an allergic reaction.

Having a dust allergy is not necessarily a sign of a dirty house. Keep in mind, however, a dirty house can make a house dust allergy problem worse. Normal housekeeping procedures may not be enough to get rid of house dust and the resultant allergy symptoms. This is because many of the substances in dust cannot be removed by normal cleaning procedures. For example, no matter how vigorously you dust or vacuum, you will not reduce the number of dust mites present deep within carpeting, pillows and mattresses. Vigorous cleaning methods can put more dust into the air making symptoms worse.

In the United States, mold levels tend to peak during the summer months depending on where you live, since some tropical areas have molds year-round. There is also evidence that cockroaches have a seasonal pattern, peaking in the late summer. Dust mite populations tend to peak in July and August, and their allergen levels stay high through December. Mite allergen levels are lowest in late spring. Some dust mite-sensitive people report their symptoms worsen during the winter. That’s because mite fecal particles and pieces of dead mites, both of which trigger dust mite allergy, are still present.

Forced-air heating tends to blow dust particles into the air. As the system drys out over the winter or times of low humidity, even more particles become airborne. Fewer symptoms occur during the summer possibly because the system becomes less dry due to humidity keeping much of the house dust in the system from becoming airborne. However, during the summer or in areas of high humidity, the collection of house dust in the system can build up to the point where it greatly effects the efficiency of the ventilation system to cool and circulate air in the home, resulting in high energy bills and increasing the possibility of your system breaking down.

If you think you may have an allergy to house dust, consult an allergist-immunologist.