Dust mite allergy is an allergy to a microscopic organism that lives in the
dust that is found in all dwellings and workplaces. Dust mites are perhaps
the most common cause of perennial allergic rhinitis. Dust mite allergy usually
produces symptoms similar to pollen allergy and also can produce symptoms of
What is house dust?
Rather than a single substance, so-called house dust is a varied mixture of
potentially allergenic materials. It may contain fibers from different types
of fabrics; cotton lint, feathers, and other stuffing materials; dander from
cats, dogs, and other animals; bacteria; mold and fungus spores (especially
in damp areas); food particles; bits of plants and insects; and other allergens
peculiar to an individual home.
House dust also contains microscopic mites. These mites, which live in bedding,
upholstered furniture, and carpets, thrive in summer and die in winter. In
a warm, humid house, however, they continue to thrive even in the coldest months.
The particles seen floating in a shaft of sunlight include dead dust mites
and their waste-products. These waste-products, which are proteins, actually
provoke the allergic reaction.
Waste products of cockroaches are also an important cause of allergy symptoms
from household allergens, particularly in some urban areas of the United States.
Created by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Illustration
copyright A.D.A.M., Inc.
Review Date: 5/16/2007
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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