WHAT IS HOUSE DUST?
Many pets (and people) suffer from allergies to the components of “house dust”. The main culprits here in the north are the microscopic house dust mites and molds.
Cockroaches factor into the mix farther south. House dust is made of
microscopic house dust mites (alive and dead) and their tiny fecal
pellets of half digested food, flakes of skin from you and your pets,
bacteria, viruses, and fungi as well as non-organic debris.
Within a short time after construction, all enclosed dwellings have
some house dust, no matter how often or how well you clean. In fact,
the act of cleaning may actually stir up this dust and increase allergy
House dust mites are related to spiders and scorpions. Our two main house dust players are Dermatophagoides farinae and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus.
House dust mites are the most common allergens in dogs, cats, and
people! They feed on skin flakes, bacteria, viruses, and fungal
spores. Interestingly, they thrive especially in mattresses, the older
the better, with a particular taste for those contaminated with dried
semen. Pillows, carpets, and upholstered furniture are also favorites.
House dust mites love plush! In comparison, skin cells shed on hard,
dry surfaces become too dry to attract these mites. House dust mites
actually prefer to dine upon the shed skin cells of individuals who
themselves have allergic skin disease or skin cells from older people
because of lower lipid (fat) levels in their cells.
Temperature and humidity are very important to house dust mites. They
need adequate moisture in their tissues to function. Additionally, skin
flakes are not a balanced diet for them and they require the fungal
spores to provide minerals and vitamins. Fungi thrive in warm and humid
conditions. Consequently, house dust mites love temperatures
consistently between 70 and 90 degrees with high humidity.
Molds may also be allergens in some individuals. Without allergy
testing, it is difficult to determine their exact roles in the symptoms
of a particular patient. Are they a great food source for mites or are
they causing allergic reactions themselves? Molds are not always
visible in your house. In addition to adequate moisture, molds also
require a nutrient substance on which to grow. Wallboard, damp wood,
fabrics, leather, paper products, and the sponge at your kitchen sink
are great. They can also grow on concrete or the dirt on windows or
window frames. Other sources are food products, particularly vegetables,
fruits, and breads. Molds produce microscopic spores that spread
through the house on air currents.
SYMPTOMS OF HOUSE DUST ALLERGIES
House dust mites and molds cause differing symptoms with varying
intensities in different victims. In allergic individuals, exposure to
even a small amount of an allergen can cause production of a type of
antibody, Immunogloulin E (IgE). This IgE starts the allergic
inflammatory response that results in any combination of the following:
Sneezing, discharge from eyes or nose, coughing, difficulty in breathing Excessive grooming Scratching/licking/chewing of paws, armpits, groin, rectal area (Light-colored fur may turn brownish from saliva staining.) Scratching ears, shaking head, reddened ears that may even feel warmer than normal Moist dermatitis (hot spots)—sudden rapidly expanding wet sores that cause uncontrollable itching and ultimately are overtaken by bacterial infection Minimize carpeted areas and fabric-upholstered furniture Clean thoroughly and frequently with central vac or vacuum with HEPA filter (and consider using a HEPA filter air cleaning system in the room where the allergy prone pet sleeps or spends a lot of time). Remove allergy patient from the environment while you are cleaning and for several hours afterwards while dust settles. Open windows if weather is appropriate (and pollen count, smog concentrations are low). Do not smoke indoors because tobacco smoke often worsens allergy symptoms and second hand smoke is much denser at the height of your pet’s nose than it is at your own. Wash scatter rugs, cloth toys, and human and pet bedding often, preferably in hot water, weekly. (Tea tree oil or benzyl benzoate may be somewhat effective in cold water.) Use allergen-blocking mattress and pillow covers Equip a forced air furnace or air conditioning unit with a high efficiency media filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Leave the fan on when not heating or cooling so that it continuously filters the air. Have heating and AC units inspected every 6 months. To prevent problems with mold, Use a dehumidifier when humidity surpasses 50 percent. Avoid vaporizers and humidifiers Use vent fans to remove moisture from bathrooms and kitchens Repair any water leaks See the following sites to further address mold:http://www.epa.gov/mold