Environmental Allergy

Winter Allergies & Dust Mites

woman watching over pet dog playing in the snow

Winter Allergies

Why is my nose still congested and why am I still sneezing when all pollen is gone?

If you have allergies, the answer is often an allergy to dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that typically live in warm, humid environments and feed mostly on flakes from human skin. In fact, the medical term for dust mites is Dermatophagoides, which means "consumer of skin." The allergenic component of the dust mite is primarily from digestive enzymes in the dust mite's feces, but the body of the dust mite can also contribute to allergic reactions.

Types of Dust Mites:

  • Dermatophagoides farinae - American house dust mite
  • Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus - European house dust mite
  • Blomia tropicalis - Found only in tropical regions

Clean Home

Allergy testing for dust mite allergy is most effectively done with skin testing in an allergist's office but it can also be done with blood testing. Once the allergy is confirmed, dust mite avoidance measures are often recommended such as:

  • Removal of carpet
  • Application of dust mite covers to pillows and mattresses
  • Reduction of humidity below 50%

Unfortunately, the life cycle of a dust mite is around 75 days and it produces thousands of fecal particles, so eradication of dust mite allergen from a home is virtually impossible.

Medication for the treatment of dust mite allergy includes antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and leukotriene modifiers. Inhaled and topical steroids may be helpful as well since dust mite allergy can trigger asthma and eczema in addition to allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis. Of note, people with significant dust mite allergy can also develop an allergy to shellfish. Dust mites belong to the phylum of anthropods that have tropomysins which are proteins that are essential for muscle movement. In people who are allergic to the tropomysins of dust mites, the immune system recognizes the tropomysins of shellfish as an allergen as well and thus the shellfish allergy can develop as a consequence of the dust mite allergy.

Besides dust mite avoidance and allergy medication, allergy shots for dust mites can be an extremely effective tool in treating people with dust mite allergy. Given the fact that dust mite allergy can lead to exacerbations of allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and sinusitis, one should seriously consider allergy shots for dust mites for any of these medical conditions.

For further information consult with your local Allergy Partners physician who can help explain to you why your allergies are bothering you even long after pollen season is over.

Allergy Partners

Evaluation & Treatment of:
Allergic Rhinitis Asthma | Food Allergies | Eczema
Hives | Sinus Problems | Stinging Insect Allergies
Immune Deficiencies | Chronic Cough | Drug Allergies Recurrent Infections | Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Dr. Drapkin, a native of Boston, MA, received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University in New York. He then attended Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where he earned his M.D. Dr. Drapkin then moved to Chicago, his wife's home town, where he completed a three year residency in internal medicine and an additional two year fellowship in allergy and immunology at Rush University.

Click here to view the Winter Allergies Poster.