Patient information on House Dust Mite Allergy
Who is this information for?
This information is for children and adults with dust mite allergy.
What are house dust mites?
Dust mites are a microscopic type of insect that lives in bedding, sofas, curtains, carpets or any
Dust mites do not bite and do not cause harm to humans, other than by triggering allergies.
Mites absorb humidity from the atmosphere (i.e. they do not drink), and feed on organic matter
(including shed human and animal skin).
They require sufficient humidity and nests to live in (which are not visible to the naked eye).
What is house dust mite allergy?
An allergy to dust mites may result in a condition called allergic rhinitis (refer to Allergic
Rhinitis patient information sheet).
Patients with asthma may find their asthma is exacerbated as a result of a dust mite allergy.
Symptoms are usually persistent and present throughout the year.
What treatment options are available to manage dust mite allergy?
Treatment options available to manage allergic rhinitis include:
- Aeroallergen avoidance / minimisation
- Medications prescribed by a doctor or an ENT specialist
- Allergen specific immunotherapy
What are the aeroallergen avoidance strategies to manage dust mite allergy?
- Encase pillows, mattresses, doonas, blankets, and furniture in mite-impermeable protective
coverings to reduce dust mite infiltration.
- Tightly woven fabrics with a pore size of ≤ 6 microns are very effective at controlling the
passage of mite.
- Remove or reduce curtains (especially horizontal blinds) and soft furnishings in bedrooms
- Replace carpet with linoleum or floor boards which can be wiped clean
- Replace fabric covered seating with leather or vinyl
- Remove soft toys from the bedroom
- Do not allow pets in the bedroom
- Washing bedding every 1-2 weeks at 55-60°C to kill dust mites
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible
- Dampen dust when dusting or cleaning surfaces
- Dust mites do not have natural protection against sunlight, so exposing mattresses, rugs and
carpet to sunlight for more than 3 hours can kill mites
- Indoor humidity levels should be kept between 30-50% (inexpensive humidity monitors can be
purchased at most hardware stores)
- Humidifiers make the problem worse and are not recommended.
- N.B. Despite the above advice, studies are yet to show that physical or chemical
cleaning methods reduce dust mite levels to a degree that improves symptoms.
What medications are available to manage dust mite allergy?
- Antihistamines (tablets/nasal spray): effective in managing histamine-related symptoms such as
itching, watery nose/eyes and sneezing. This medication is not helpful for nasal blockage.
- Nasal steroid spray/drops: often used as first line management in children aged over 2 and
adults, mainly to treat nasal congestion or blockage.
- Nasal irrigation: washing out the nasal cavity has been shown to reduce the amount of
allergens in the nose (refer to Nasal Irrigation patient information sheet).
Is allergen specific immunotherapy available for dust mite allergy?
Allergen specific immunotherapy is available for dust mite allergy in severe cases.
It involves exposure to a small amount of the allergen in order to induce tolerance.
Specific immunotherapy is the only treatment which modifies the immune response to allergens
rather than just treating the symptoms. A typical treatment may require monthly injections over
3-5 years or giving the allergen sublingually (under the tongue) on a daily basis for 2-3 years.
Immunotherapy is usually only considered in older children and adults when symptoms are not
well controlled with other measures.
Concerns or questions?
You can contact your ENT Specialist at the Melbourne ENT Group (MEG):
Assessment by Orthodontist, dentist of Oral Maxillo-facial Surgeon is also recommended.
Your GP is also the best contact for ongoing care and concerns.