Why are we allergic to dust mites? Demystifying the myths.

When specialists diagnose dust mite allergy in the allergy clinic, we are often faced with a variety of patient reactions. Most of them already know that dust mites are "ugly little bugs you can't see but they exist," and they are particularly concerned about how to live with them without having allergy symptoms.

Allergology is a relatively young science, which sometimes leads to some misinformation from society about these diseases. This article aims to debunk the myths about dust mite allergy.

Dust mites

Myths or false beliefs in the population:

1. Dust mite allergy is not dangerous and you just have to get used to living with it. The reality is that dust mite allergy can affect health in different ways, altering the quality of life of those who suffer from it. As part of these alterations, significant reactions can occur, such as severe asthma episodes that are difficult to control. This is an allergy that must be taken seriously.

2. Although I am allergic to dust mites, I can keep pets in my home without any problems. On the contrary, it is better not to have furry or feathered animals in the home of a person allergic to dust mites, because they feed on human and animal remains (scales, hair, etc.), which means that the more people and animals in the home, the higher the dust mite population.

3. Street dust and dust from construction sites also cause dust mite allergy. For dust mites to survive, they need special living conditions: no sun and no dryness. The temperature must be around 22°C and the humidity must be very high (around 70%). They prefer dark, closed and humid places, so they only survive inside houses with these conditions. There are no dust mites in street dust, sand dust or construction dust. This type of dust can produce respiratory symptoms because of its direct irritant effect, but not through the immune system, as in the case of dust mite allergy.

4. Dust mite allergy predominates in the fall and spring. Because we need moist environments, we always say that fall and spring are the worst seasons because they are the wettest and rainiest; but the truth is that a person with dust mite allergy can get sick at any season of the year if the necessary environmental conditions are present. A rainy winter will be worse than a dry fall. A poorly ventilated room, a room with pets or a room with humidity problems will be a permanent nest of dust mites. In addition, although the number of dust mites fluctuates throughout the year, the allergenic particles they produce can remain in the environment for a long time, so the symptoms are often perennial.

5. Pollen allergy in the spring causes more respiratory problems than dust mite allergy. This is not true. The reality is that sensitization to dust mites is more important for the development of asthma than sensitization to pollens. Pollens predominate at very specific times of the year and only outdoors, so the length of time we breathe them is shorter than that of house dust. In some parts of our country, dust mite sensitization affects more than 30% of the population and 90% of asthmatics.

6. Environmental prevention rules can prevent dust mite allergy. Dust mites are common in our homes and their presence is impossible to eliminate completely despite the strictest standards of cleanliness. Studies show that preventive measures can have a beneficial effect on the onset and severity of asthma, but they do not appear to be very helpful in delaying or preventing the onset of dust mite sensitization in a previously non-allergic person.

7. Allergies are not curable. Many people think that once an allergy has developed, it cannot be cured, so they assume that they will have to endure its attacks chronically throughout their lives. Fortunately, this is not the case today, as allergists have effective treatments to control symptoms, prevent the disease from progressing and even reduce existing sensitization, such as immunotherapy or allergy vaccines. Vaccines are the only treatment capable of altering the course of allergic disease and have a high success rate if the patient and the vaccine to be administered are well chosen. This is why it is very important that they are prescribed by a specialist physician.

There is a prevailing reality: In allergic diseases, the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the greater the chance of success and the lower the risk of complications.