It’s something people don’t like to think about, but it’s a fact that dust mites are all around us. These mites are microscopic relatives of spiders and ticks who live off of skin cells that we shed. It is almost impossible to eradicate them, and even the cleanest home has dust mites. Though dust mites do not bite us or cause rashes, they are a common cause of year-round allergy symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. People with dust mite allergy have a persistently itchy nose even when not physically around dusty objects.
A recent study has shown that a new way of treating dust mite allergy is effective and safe. What do you need to know about this treatment, called sublingual immunotherapy?
Dust mite allergy and management
The first-line management of dust mite allergy is always to manage the environment. Beyond cleaning (wiping surfaces, washing linens), encasing any upholstery that cannot be washed will reduce the impact of dust mites, which like to burrow into soft cushions and mattresses. Zippered, allergen-resistant encasements for pillows, mattresses, and box springs can be purchased and are an effective measure in the fight against these microscopic mites. Over-the-counter allergy medications such as steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can also be helpful.
For decades, when these measures have failed, we have used allergy shots, also called subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), to treat dust mite allergy. This is an effective but burdensome treatment, which involves weekly shots for approximately six to eight months, and then monthly shots for approximately three to five years. The shots must be given in a doctor’s office, where a physician is present, because of the risk of allergic reactions. This is an inconvenience during normal times, but even more so during the pandemic.