Dust Mites: The Dirty Asthma Trigger

by John Bottrell Health Professional

Among the most common asthma triggers are tiny little critters called dust mites that live amid the dust in your home.
They are seemingly everywhere all at once, although they are too small to be seen by the naked eye.
If you have allergies and asthma, they can make your life miserable, although with a bit of wisdom you can learn to control them.

Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments where people and animals live. They feed off flakes of skin that fall off of us.
They are ugly little critters that are related to spiders. In fact, they look like creepy little spiders.

They live on bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains. At any one time there can be hundreds or even thousands of these critters on any one item.

While creepy in appearance, dust mites are completely harmless to about 90 percent of people.
The rest of us, the other 10 percent, develop
an abnormal response to them called an allergic response.
This is an abnormal reaction that results in sniffling, sneezing, watery eyes, and shortness of breath.

The best way to learn if you have a dust mite allergy is to be vigilant.
If you have trouble breathing every time you're exposed to dust in your home, chances are you have a dust mite allergy.
Another method is to work with your doctor. They might recommend allergy testing to prove you have a dust mite allergy.

The good thing about both asthma and allergies is that, while there is no cure, they can both be controlled.
The initial step should involve efforts to avoid them.

Many people find it helpful to cover mattresses and box springs with dust-proof covers, wash bedding at least once a week, keep humidity below 50% in your home, avoid stuffed animals and toys that cannot be washed, use a damp rag or mop to remove dust to prevent it from getting into the air, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

It's a good idea to avoid clutter, such as stacks of books and stuff that may collect dust. It's also a good idea to replace carpet with tile, wood or linoleum.

If these options don't work, your doctor might recommend medicinal treatment, such as over-the-counter Claritin or prescription Singulair.
These medicines will help block the allergic response.
Your doctor also may recommend allergy shots to make your immune system less responsive to dust mites.

Of course, it's always a good idea to make sure you take any asthma controller medicine your doctor may have prescribed.
This will help keep your lungs strong and ready to fend off any asthma trigger.

Dust mites are kind of a tricky asthma trigger, because no matter what you do they are still going to be around you to some extent. However, by working with your doctor, you should be able to control this common asthma trigger so you can live a normal life with asthma.


  1. "Dust Mites," National Institute of of environmental Health Sciences," niehs.nih.gov, accessed 2/13/14

  2. "Dust Mites and Dust," American Lung Association, lung.org, accessed 2/13/14

  3. "Dust Mite Allergy Definition," mayoclinic.com, accessed 2/13/14

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).