The immune systems of some people are programmed to overreact as soon as they come in contact with a particular substance. The body reacts to indicate that it does not accept that particular substance, and tries to get rid of the substance as soon as possible. These specific substances are called allergens and the reaction they evoke is called an allergy. These substances might be harmless to most people, but people allergic to them register these allergens as foreign bodies and their immune system reacts to fight these allergens off.
Dust allergy is the most common of all allergies. Statistics by the National Institutes of Health show that, more than 20 million Americans are allergic to dust.
A person allergic to dust will react to almost every allergen present in the atmosphere, like dust mites, cat or dog fur, mold, animal dander, pollen, etc. These allergens usually trigger symptoms of a dust allergy either immediately or, within a few hours of coming in contact with the patient.
Allergies are not developed instantly when you come in contact with the allergen for the very first time. The body first identifies the allergen and generates antibodies that will react to it. It then prepares the body to be sensitive to that particular allergen. This process of developing a predisposition against allergens is known as sensitization. The process of sensitization might be an instantaneous development or it may take years.
Mild Symptoms of Dust Allergy
If a person is allergic to dust, he/she will start sneezing as soon as the body registers the presence of a dust allergen. Sneezes due to a dust allergy are persistent, uncontrollable and uninterrupted. The patient suffers from long, continuous and severe bouts of sneezing. This is the body's way to get rid of the allergen that caused the dust allergy.
◆ Runny Nose/Congestion in the Nose
If a person is allergic to dust, he may experience inflammation of the membranes and tissue that line the inner passages of the nasal bone and the sinus cavity. The inflammation will either lead to congestion of the airway passage or a runny nose. Pressure on the sinus cavity can cause extreme pain in the head, eye, teeth or ears. Most of the time, a nasal congestion or a runny nose are the earliest symptoms of a dust allergy. Other symptoms might follow later.
Breathing in air that contains dust mites, pollen, mold, and other dust allergens will cause a person with a dust allergy to start coughing up instantly. The allergy cough itself might not be harmful, but it can lead to other severe symptoms like constant awakening from sleep, heavy, and disrupted breathing, and asthma attacks.
If you find a person scratching an itch endlessly, most of the time it indicates an allergic reaction. A person allergic to dust might develop an urge to itch or scratch in areas that are exposed to dust allergens. Depending on whether these allergens have been swallowed, or inhaled or touched or injected into a person's body, he/she might develop an itching sensation in the throat, nose, skin or the eyes.
◆ Irritation of Eyes/Watery Eyes
Reaction of the eyes to dust allergens is also known as 'allergic conjunctivitis'. It is characterized by inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the mucous membrane of the eyeball. The inflammation is an allergic reaction to dust and causes swelling, redness, watery discharge, pain, and extreme discomfort in the eyes.
◆ Sore Throat
This is a secondary symptom observed in patients allergic to dust. A sore throat is not a direct reaction to dust allergens and can be a result of constant coughing and sneezing. Uninterrupted bouts of sneezes and cough exert pressure on the throat, making it sore and swollen.
◆ Postnasal Drip
Another symptom of a dust allergy is postnasal drip. In this condition, there is excessive accumulation of mucus at the back of the throat. This gives a feeling of mucus dripping out from the back of the nose into the throat.
The medical term for hives is urticaria. Hives are defined as itchy skin eruptions with pale interiors and well-defined red margins. A person with dust allergy may develop hives when he/she comes in contact with dust allergens.
In some cases, extreme tiredness, headaches, and fatigue can be symptoms of an oncoming allergy episode. The person may find it hard to concentrate. The fatigue associated with dust allergy is usually of chronic nature.
Acute Symptoms of Dust Allergy
The patient's air passages can get blocked due to the allergens and he/she may experience difficulty while breathing. With every breath, a particular whistling sound is generated. This condition is known as wheezing. Wheezing is one of the most prominent symptoms of a dust allergy. The patient must immediately consult a doctor if he/she wheezes while breathing.
◆ Asthma Attacks
If a particular substance triggers an asthmatic attack, it means that substance is an allergen to the body. Patients who are diagnosed with asthma need to be extra careful about their breathing. Dust is the number one trigger for an asthma attack. Airborne dust allergens like dust mites, pollen, animal dander, etc., can bring about an allergic reaction which may trigger a life-threatening asthma attack.
Eczema is a disorder of the skin characterized by development of rashes, boils, blisters, flaky, patchy and rough skin, excessive bleeding, and inflammation of the skin tissues. In some cases, it is among the first signs that indicate a dust allergy.
◆ Heavy Breathing/Shortness of Breath
For a person who is allergic to dust, the inhalation of dust results in the blockage of airway passages which makes breathing difficult. Such an allergic bout is characterized by heavy breathing and gasping for air.
◆ Significant Chest Pain
The dust allergens are capable of causing inflammation of the chest tissues. This inflammation stimulates acute pain in the chest and the patient experiences tightness around the chest. This kind of a severe symptom should immediately be taken care of.
Some of the factors that will contribute to the chances of developing an allergy are asthma, other allergies that the person suffers from, age (children are at a higher risk), and family history of allergies.
Process of an Allergic Reaction
- As mentioned earlier, allergies do not develop the first time you come in contact with an allergen.
- The body must first be exposed to certain substances (allergens) of the atmosphere that will evoke the immune system to react.
- As soon as the allergen enters the body, the immune system generates specific antibodies.
- Antibodies are natural proteins generated by the body to fight against foreign bodies like harmful bacteria and viruses and prevent infections. There are five types of antibodies: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, IgM. The antibody generated during an allergic reaction is IgE.
- Though IgE is produced by everyone, it is produced in large quantities by people who are allergic.
- The antibodies, together with certain cells, release chemicals like histamine, into the bloodstream.
- Histamine causes wheezing if it is released by the lungs, itching sensations when released by the skin, and causes extreme drop in the blood pressure if released by the entire body; thus initiating an allergic reaction.
It is difficult to diagnose the cause of an allergy and treat it. However, the symptoms of an allergy can be controlled. If you suspect that you suffer from any of the above mentioned dust allergy symptoms, visit your doctor at once. Do not delay at all. The procedure involving allergy testing is uncomfortable and tedious, but once the cause is determined, proper precautionary measures help you stay almost allergy-free. If ignored, the underlying problem may become severe and force you to compromise on the ways of your life. On the other hand, if the cause of your allergy is found out, you can steer clear from it to avoid any future allergic bouts and continue to lead a healthy, normal life.