Home Allergies: Dust Mites, Mold and Cockroaches

Dust mites, mold allergies and cockroach allergies can make your life miserable. In extreme cases, they can make homes unlivable and force people out of jobs. Fortunately, a number of strategies can minimize your exposure to these common allergies.

Dust Mites: An Ever Present Problem

No one really has an actual dust allergy: The true culprit is a tiny little eight-legged insect called adust mite. To call a dust mite tiny is understating the reality: Over 100,000 dust mites can live on one gram of dust. The dust mite subsists on skin flakes shed by humans. People with allergies to dust mites breathe in dead dust mites and their droppings, which contain allergenic proteins.

Avoiding dust mites is difficult: They live on humans, animals, in carpets, upholstered furniture and stuffed toys. They prefer dark, warm, humid places, so they can be found in great numbers in bedding, pillows, bed mattresses and box springs. Experts estimate that the average bed contains over one million dust mites. Dust mites are especially fond of areas were the humidity is over fifty percent for parts of the year.

Symptoms of an allergy to dust mites include hayfever symptoms and a chronic cough that lasts year-round. You can reduce your exposure to dust mites with these procedures:

  • Replace carpet with hard flooring (wood or linoleum).
  • Keep upholstered furniture to a minimum.
  • Wash bedding every week in hot water.
  • Keep pets out of the house (dust mites thrive on animal dander as well as human skin flakes).
  • Use shades instead of curtains or drapes.
  • Have someone else dust or vacuum. Dust with a damp cloth.
  • Use mattress, box spring and pillow covers to minimize contact with the mites.
  • Outfit your home with a good air filter to keep mite particles out of the air.

Mold Allergies

Mold allergies have been linked to a number of health concerns, including asthma, fatigue and chronic cough. Molds can be found almost anywhere, although they prefer dark, humid and warm locations. Bathroom condensation, leaky areas of the roof, plumbing leaks and water seepage in basements can all attract mold. You may also discover mold in some of the following, less obvious, locations:

  • foam pillows
  • washing machines
  • carpets
  • refrigerators
  • closets (where the mold may be transferred to clothing or bedding)
  • wood panels

Symptoms of a mold allergy vary. In addition to chronic cough, you might experience wheezing, skin rashes, nasal congestion, a sore throat, itchy eyes and shortness of breath.

Toxic Mold: Toxic mold produces substances called mycotoxins, chemicals that can cause seizures, skin rashes, respiratory difficulties, fatigue, coughing up blood, and even death. Toxic mold can harm anyone’s health, but is especially dangerous for people with mold allergies.

If you suspect toxic mold has entered your house or workplace, talk to your allergist. Have your house inspected for the deadly intruder. In extreme cases, toxic mold has spread throughout buildings so thoroughly that the buildings have had to be demolished.

Cockroaches and Allergies

The cockroach is an unwelcome guest anywhere. If you needed another reason to dislike the pests, consider this: Between 17 to 41 percent of Americans are allergic to cockroach allergens. People react to the feces of the cockroach, which can easily become airborne. The cockroach actually shares an allergen, tropomyosin, with dust mites.

Cockroaches prefer dark areas with plentiful food and water. For that reason, they can often be found lurking in kitchens, bathrooms, and often inside walls. They also favor areas behind dishwashers, refrigerators and water heaters. They reproduce prolifically, so elimination of the little beasts is a problem best left to professional exterminators. In order to keep your house free of roaches, consider taking some of the following precautions:

  • Seal all cracks in walls to prevent entry.
  • Wash dishes promptly, and clean up any spilled food immediately.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Seal garbage containers.
  • Keep plumbing in good repair.

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