For those with allergies, the summer months are often challenging as extreme heat and humidity can worsen their symptoms. Dust allergies may also make it difficult to breathe and may trigger asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
It is important for individuals with allergies to be aware of what factors trigger their symptoms; one common cause is house dust mites. Dust mites are insects, not visible to the naked eye. They live in beddings, carpets, fabric furniture, old clothing and stuffed toys. They survive primarily on human dander. Dust mites are most commonly found in humid climates; their presence increases in locations that have humidity above 60%.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to dust mites include respiratory tract obstruction, runny nose, sneezing, difficulty breathing, nasal congestion, itching of the eyes and increased tear excretion. Symptoms vary from person to person and are determined by which area of the respiratory system is affected; whether it affects the upper respiratory tract, such as the nose or pharynx or the lower respiratory tract, such as the lungs.
To help manage dust allergies and limit exposure to dust mites, experts recommend minimising household humidity and cleaning air conditioner units twice a week. It is also important to keep air conditioner units switched on in order to maintain humidity levels below 50%.
Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) Allergy and Immunology Senior Consultant Dr Mehdi Adeli, Senior Consultant said that the most effective way to reduce seasonal allergies is to identify the triggering stimulants and to try to minimise exposure.
Using ‘mite-proof’ mattress and pillow covers and washing bed linens frequently with hot water is recommended. Dehumidifiers reduce humidity and removing carpets, dusty furniture and stuffed toys from bedrooms will also help limit exposure to dust mites. We also suggest keeping pets out of the bedroom, as well as limiting exposure to trees, grasses, flowers, weeds and other sources of pollen, in the case of allergies. Pollen counts are highest during the morning, so limiting exposure to the outdoors during the morning hours is a helpful precaution. It is also recommended to keep doors and windows closed as much as possible.’
Dr Adeli recommends those who experience dust allergies to choose holiday destinations where dust, mould, and pollen levels tend to be significantly lower, such as seaside locations. He also suggests taking allergy medications prior to travel and having the contact information for an allergy specialist at one’s vacation destination. He added that the allergy season can vary greatly between different locations, so being aware of pollen counts in the atmosphere, rain, wind and other environmental factors is an important part of managing symptoms.
While most allergies are not life threatening, they often cause discomfort and stress for many patients. According to Dr Adeli, the first step in managing an allergy is a proper diagnosis, which begins with talking to your doctor about your symptoms as well as your family and medical history. Studies have shown that if one parent has an allergic disease the chance of having a child with allergies will be around 25%; this percentage increases if both parents have an allergic disease.
Dr Adeli said that while there is no cure for allergies, there are several types of medication available which help treat symptoms. He recommends nasal steroids as a control medication and antihistamines to help control symptoms and reduce allergy complications such as asthma and bronchitis. Dr Adeli added that swimming is a great exercise for people with asthma and allergies but recommends that swimmers shower before leaving the pool as chlorine can trigger itching.
HMC’s Allergy and Immunology Awareness Programme (AIAP) is focused on educating the public about allergies and immunology and empowering patients and their families to increase patient satisfaction and confidence and reduce emergency room visits due to allergy-related illnesses. As part of ongoing efforts to increase public awareness and dispel cultural myths and misconceptions about immunodeficiency diseases and compromised immunities, the programme provides a number of online resources for patients, their families, and healthcare providers.