Dust mites

If you have a dust mite allergy and you also have asthma, your allergy can trigger asthma symptoms

In our Annual Asthma Survey 64% told us dust triggered their asthma symptoms. 

People often say they're 'allergic to dust'. In fact, it's dust mites that are the problem.

These tiny creatures are too small to see. They live in the dust that builds up around homes in carpets, soft toys, bedding, cushions and furniture.

If you have a dust mite allergy you're allergic to a substance in the dust mite droppings. If you also have asthma, your dust allergy can trigger asthma symptoms.

"If your asthma is triggered by dust mites, the best way to reduce asthma symptoms is to look after your asthma and make sure it's well managed, as this reduces the likelihood of you reacting to the dust mite droppings when you come into contact with them - they are impossible to avoid." Dr Samantha Walker, Asthma UK's Research Director.

How do you know you're sensitive to dust mites?

You might notice these symptoms when you've been exposed to dust:

  • sneezing
  • itchy, runny or blocked nose
  • itchy eyes
  • wheezing
  • tight chest
  • shortness of breath
  • cough

Perhaps you get more symptoms like these when dust is disturbed - for example, when you're cleaning, moving furniture or making a bed. 

Or you might simply find your asthma symptoms are often worse indoors.

What's the best way to cut the risk from dust mites?

You can cut your risk of dust mites triggering asthma symptoms by taking your preventer medicine every day as prescribed, even when you feel well. If you do this your airways will be less inflamed, and less likely to react to any of your asthma triggers, including dust mites.

Use a written asthma action plan to help you work out if your symptoms are getting worse, and what to do if they are. And if you do notice symptoms getting worse, book an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse to talk about the best way to manage your asthma triggers.

"Talk to your GP or asthma nurse about any nasal symptoms you’re getting too. They may suggest you add in a steroid nasal spray," suggests Sonia Munde, our Head of Helpline. "This will calm any inflammation down in your nose and along with your preventer inhaler will help with symptoms in your airways too."

Does cleaning get rid of dust mites?

Maybe you've wondered if cleaning more often could make a difference to asthma symptoms. But there's very little evidence to say cleaning more than you normally do can make a useful difference to the number of dust mites in your home.

People with asthma sometimes tell us how they've tried to reduce the number of house dust mites in their homes, for example by:

  • regular vacuuming
  • airing rooms
  • freezing soft toys
  • 60-degree washes
  • choosing hard floors rather than carpets
  • using air filters and purifiers.

Some people say these methods have helped them or their children, but unfortunately, there’s no consistent evidence they work.

If you do want to try some of these things to see if they make a difference concentrate on rooms where you and your child spend the most time. And remember that you won't ever get rid of dust mites altogether.

Is it worth buying mite-proof covers?

A review of all the trials done to see if mite-proof covers for bedding can really make a difference showed no evidence of long-term beneficial effects.

If you do want to invest in covers, to see if they make a small difference to you or your child, remember that this alone won’t be enough to prevent asthma symptoms. Unfortunately, no one method is going to be a miracle cure against dust mites.

An all-round approach is essential. This means, including good asthma management and avoiding other triggers like tobacco smoke.

Talk to your GP or asthma nurse about the best ways to do this.

What about ionisers? 

Asthma UK does not recommend ionisers. Ionisers give out electrostatic charges to clean the air but there's no evidence that they improve asthma symptoms.

Asthma UK doesn't recommend using an ioniser because some research shows that they increase night time cough in children.

If you're worried about asthma symptoms speak to one of our asthma nurses by calling the Helpline on 0300 222 5800, 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri. 

Last updated March 2018

Next review due March 2020

Asthma action plans keep all your personal triggers and medicines tips in one place. Download one now to fill in with your doctor or nurse.