According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, dust mites are the single most common cause of household allergies…provoking sneezing, runny or stuffy noses, and itchy or watery eyes. Most people with this allergy aren’t allergic to dust particles, but to tiny animals called dust mites. Sometimes called “bed mites” (but not to be confused with bed bugs), dust mites thrive in humid places and live in carpeting, mattresses, pillows and upholstered furniture during their average 19 day lifespan. Childhood asthma is often attributed to dust mites.
Aside from the often-prescribed antihistamines, corticosteroids and decongestants, what else is available for dust mite allergy sufferers?
Leukotriene Modifiers - This drug class blocks specific immune system responses. Singulair is the most commonly prescribed leukotriene modifier. When an allergic reaction in the body is triggered, it releases leukotrienes and in turn, the leukotrienes can cause airway inflammation/constriction, increased mucus production and wheezing. Leukotriene modifiers serve to prevent the release of the discomfort-causing leukotrienes.
Allergen Immunotherapy – Through repeated exposure, the body can be trained to become less reactive to specific allergens. Board certified allergists conduct a skin allergen test and use those results to mix custom allergen solutions. Once or twice per week, patients receive injections containing those allergens. Over time, the body builds up allergen-specific antibodies further inhibiting future reactions.
Nasal Irrigation – Neti pots or squeeze bottles can be used to “rinse” out the nasal passages. While nasal irrigation doesn’t prevent dust mite allergies, it does remove allergens and should consequently inhibit inflammatory reactions. Patients should use a saline solution and contaminant-free water.
HDM-SPIRE – Still in clinical trials, HDM-SPIRE intends to bridge the gap of repeated exposure without the side effects that often occur with immunotherapy. While HDM-SPIRE will require professional administration, the expected course length is estimated to be significantly less than traditional immunotherapy.
MT-06 – In the same vein as immunotherapy, MT-06 is a tablet taken orally and is designed to reduce incidences of dust-mite induced allergic reactions. The tablet is taken once daily and is showing statistical significance in the march towards patient-administered immunotherapy. MT-06 is currently being tested in Europe.
Vaccine – A not-yet-named vaccine against dust mites is in the works at the University of Iowa. The vaccine directs the body to suppress allergic responses when triggered by dust mites. The vaccine includes the use of a booster that signals the immune system to respond aggressively to dust mite triggers.
Exposure to dust mites is unavoidable and science is progressing quickly to give patients relief from this pervasive allergen. In the meantime, sufferers can employ simple measures such as encasing pillows and mattresses in impermeable covers, washing all bedding at least once per week in hot water (>140 degrees Fahrenheit) and eliminating carpet in favor of fabric-free flooring.