Many people are allergic to dust mites – more specifically, the allergens that originate in their droppings, which contain substances that can trigger symptoms like itching, sneezing, and coughing.1,2
For most of us, dust mite allergy symptoms come and go, especially if the dust mite problem is taken care of with professional pest control services.
But for people with asthma, dust mite allergens can trigger major immune system responses that result in much more severe symptoms, such as chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing.3
And even after you reduce or remove your exposure to these allergens, the damage caused by inflammation linked to the asthmatic immune system response can result in harm to the very genetic material in the lungs themselves.4
And for the millions of people who suffer from asthma, this genetic damage of inflammation from dust mite exposure can cause lifelong health issues, which starts from worsening asthma symptoms and can gradually turn into more severe respiratory conditions.
A groundbreaking study on dust mites and asthma
A 2016 study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology first broke the news about just how harmful dust mite allergens can be to people with asthma.5
Using samples of lung tissue from people with asthma, researchers in the study exposed the samples to allergens from dust mites and looked at the following variables:
- breaks in the DNA strands of lung tissue
- the activity of DNA repair proteins in response to allergens
- the increased presence of lung cell death (apoptosis) that makes way for the production of new cells
- the effect of dust mite allergens on tissue in the lungs called bronchial epithelial cells, which are responsible for many immune system responses in the lungs when exposed to allergy triggers6
The researchers found that exposure to dust mite allergens caused inflammatory proteins called cytokines to work even harder than usual, which can cause long-term tissue damage.
And dust mite allergens also caused the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the lungs – ROS, also known as free radicals, are unstable molecules that can move around your tissues and result in systemic inflammation and DNA damage throughout the body.
Over time, inflammation in your lungs associated with asthma can lead to the development of cancer cells as well as other conditions like diabetes, cognitive decline, and premature aging.7
Dust mite allergens aren’t just a nuisance if you have asthma. They can be a real threat to your health – not only do they make asthma worse, they can also pave the way for many other much more severe conditions.
And an earlier 2014 study found these sorts of processes happening beyond the lungs – damage from ROS from exposure to dust mite allergens in people with asthma can be found in circulating blood throughout your body.8
But it’s not all doom and gloom – in response to inflammation, your lung tissues ramp up their DNA repair processes, including the process known as apoptosis, or programmed cell death.
Along with other mechanisms for fixing DNA damage, such as breaking the strands of DNA to help ensure the production of new DNA, apoptosis helps your body fix the damage caused by the asthmatic response of dust mite allergens.9
How do I protect myself from dust mite allergies if I have asthma?
Over time, constant exposure to dust mite allergens can overpower your body’s ability to repair your tissues from damage from inflammation.
So the first step in protecting yourself is removing the source of dust mites altogether. There are a few ways you can do this, both by reducing the chances dust mites have to breed in your home and by stopping them from getting into your home ever again:
- Keep your indoor humidity lower than 55%. Dust mites love moisture, so a dryer environment can help keep them from reproducing.
- Minimize carpeting throughout your home, as dust mites thrive in Remove carpeting from the bedroom, if possible.
- Don’t let your pets spend too much time in your bedroom, where they can track in dust mites and their eggs.
- Replace your mattress and pillows at least once every eight years or more if you have severe dust mite allergies and use dust mite-resistant casing for your bedding.
Use a high-efficiency dust mite air purifier. The HealthPro Plus helps remove 99.5% of particles down to 0.003 microns, designed to capture not only particulate matter from dust mite droppings but also gases and odors that can cause respiratory irritation and asthma attacks. The Perfect 16 whole-house air purifier can also help purify the air using your HVAC system if you have a dust mite issue throughout your home.