Do Dust Mites Make You Itch?
Do the millions of little creatures living in your bed crawl all over you in the night making you itchy?
People who have a dust mite allergy, myself included, will exhibit respiratory irritation, a skin rash or both when exposure to the allergen occurs.
What Is An Itch?
The medical terminology for itching is pruritus. Something that is itchy is pruritic.
The The National Center for Biotechnology Information describes Pruritus as:
a common complaint with many aetiologies. It is defined as a sensation that drives the urge to scratch.
While pruritus is a nuisance, itching serves as an important sensory and self-protective mechanism. It can alert us to harmful external agents.
An itch involves the activation of the pruriceptors of specialized nerve cells called C-fibers. These C-fibers convey the itching sensation.
When stimulated the C-fibers carry signals along the nerve to the spinal cord and on to the brain, where they generate a scratching or rubbing reflex response.
People also experience psychosomatic itchiness. Thinking about parasites or dust mites on the skin or in their environment can cause a physical itching sensation.
Dust Mite Rash
If like me you have a skin condition, or two, your sensitivity to dust mite dander may cause a “flare up” or exacerbate any skin irritation you may already be experiencing.
Upon exposure you will experience an itchy sensation and a reddening of the skin in the area that came into contact with the allergen.
This is due to your bodies immune response when your skin comes into direct contact with dust mites, their droppings or their shed exoskeletons.
Antigens cause the body’s allergic response. The dust mite allergen, is a type of antigen.
There are antigens in dust mites, their droppings and their shed exoskeletons. Once these antigens get under the skin of someone with an allergy, the antigens cause mast cells to react.
Mast cells are cells with an important role in many inflammatory settings including defence to parasitic infection and in allergic reactions.
Mast cells are located in the boundary between tissues and the external environment, for example, in the respiratory epithelium (a type of tissue found lining the respiratory tract) in the skin and around blood vessels.
Mast cells are key players in the inflammatory response.
The increase in the number of mast cells,and the enhanced secretion at sites of inflammation, can accelerate the elimination of the cause of tissue injury or, paradoxically, may lead to a chronic inflammatory response.
The mast cells release histamine which leads to leakage of fluid from capillaries, in turn causing the itchy red bumps, you may be familiar with, along with reddening of the skin.
A rash you are experiencing if you don’t have a dust mite allergy can be caused by a great many things including but not limited to:
- A change of laundry products
- A change of beauty products
- Dry skin
- Atopic dermatitis
- Toxins on the skin (Contact Dermatitis)
- Other parasites such as bed bugs.
- Changes in the weather/ climate
Dust mite rash treatment
If you have a skin condition or a rash from dust mites it is important you limit exposure to the allergen and keep the environment around you as free of dust and dirt as possible.
This, at least in my case, makes a big difference to the number and severity of “flare up’s” I have.
There are over-the-counter and prescription medications available that can help relieve the symptoms of a house dust mite rash:
Antihistamines, such as Allegra or Claritin, can help prevent or reduce itching by stopping histamine affecting the cells in your body.
Take antihistamines before you come into contact with the substance you’re allergic to. Or, if taken after contact, they can reduce the severity of symptoms.
Application of an emollient. Emollients applied directly to the skin reduce water loss and cover it with a protective film.
There are many creams, lotions and ointments to choose from so it is best to seek advice from an allergist, immunologist, pharmacist or doctor to find what is best suited to you.
Corticosteroids may be prescribed, depending on the severity of your condition and come in two forms: tablets and topical (a cream or ointment).
Corticosteroids mimic the effects of hormones your body produces naturally. When used in doses that exceed your body’s natural levels, corticosteroids suppress inflammation.
Parasites That Cause Skin Irritation
If you don’t have a skin condition or suffer from an immune response to dust mite dander your itching may be caused by some other creatures, parasites.
Parasites can cause skin irritations and may be the source of the itching. Examples of common parasites are:
- Head lice
- Crabs (pubic lice)
- Fleas, scabies
Parasites cause skin irritation by biting or burrowing into the skin.
These actions by the parasites trigger an immune response causing an itching sensation due to the damage they have caused to the skin.
Can Dust Mites Make You Itch?
Having that horrible itching sensation that won’t go away is something I am unfortunately very familiar with. Rest assured though that you can at least rule out the interesting/ horrible little creatures that are dust mites if you don’t have an allergy to them.
For those of us who do have an allergy there are many ointments, creams, lotions and drugs available that can sooth our dust mite rash and help to protect skin.
It is advisable to speak to a doctor or allergy/ skin specialist before using any products you find to ensure you are using the best treatments for your individual needs.
A medical professional will be able to advise of the best products to use and may prescribe products not available “over the counter” depending on the severity of your condition.