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We’re exposed to dust everyday. Dust is ubiquitous – it comes with the environment we live in. Our exposure comes from working outside at a construction site or simply by taking a walk outside. Being indoors doesn’t necessarily protect us from dust either as house dust can be a allergy-related health risk.
As a child I never thought about dust. Don’t get me wrong, I always noticed dust everywhere, on my clothes and in my room, but I didn’t think about the harm it may or may not be causing. I didn’t even know where dust came from. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with allergies did I begin to explore my exposure to dust and think about treatment options.
In this article we’ll look at a few different ways you can be exposed to dust, and the treatment available. Specifically we’ll discuss:
Outdoor Dust Exposure and Treatment
Outdoor dust is wide-ranging. It can come from many different sources, including:
Fire – smoke and ash
Organic matter (leaves, dead insects etc)
Depending on where you live or work your exposure to dust will vary. For example, if you work at a construction site dust exposure might come primarily from soil and sawdust and if you play baseball you’ll likely have dust exposure from soil and grass pollen.
As children our immune system develops and recognizes harmful and non-harmful dust. Ideally, our immune system shouldn’t react to dust unless its something extremely harmful like chemical pesticides. If we’re overwhelmed with harmless dust (pollen, dirt) our bodies might react negatively.
There are a few treatment options we recommend for outdoor dust exposure:
Hot shower or bath
Soothing tea for throat
Depending on the severity of dust exposure, begin with a warm bath or shower. The condensation from the warm water will help loosen up dust that has gone into airways like the nose and lungs. Blowing the nose and coughing up dust will help treat the problem if its acute.
Dust also has a tendency to get into our ears and eyes. While bathing allow water to rinse the ears. Doctors suggest not using cotton swabs in the ear because they can push dust further in the ear canal and remove wax that is valuable for protecting the ear. Non-steroid eye drops are also an option if your eyes are irritated.
Nasal rinses are another option for people with dust exposure. A nasal rinse uses salt water to drain the sinuses. A Neti-Pot might be a great option for people working daily in dusty environments.
Lastly, consider a herbal tea of your choice to sooth the throat and help your body relax!
Outdoor Dust Prevention
For future preventative measures, consider using a mask that filters out dust and protects the lungs. If outdoor dust is causing allergy-like symptoms an over-the-counter medicine like Allegra is a good option (I take Allegra everyday and it helps reduce my reactions to dust).
Indoor Dust Exposure and Treatment
Exposure to indoor dust is quite different than outdoor dust. Indoor dust usually has less soil and pollution dust, however it has other potentially harmful types of dust. These include:
Human skin and hair (dead/shed)
Dust mites and their feces
It’s surprising to most people that the majority of indoor dust comes from humans! How so you ask? Humans shed skin constantly (as well as hair). Our shed skin isn’t something that is noticeable…until it becomes dust on our floors, couches, and bookshelves. To make matters worse, our shed skin becomes food for another dust producer, the dust mite.
Until I was diagnosed with dust mite allergy in 2013, I had no idea what dust mites were. One reason people aren’t aware of dust mites is because we can’t see them. Yes, we must use a microscope to see dust mites!
They are translucent in color and are all over our homes, eating the dust we produce, yet most of us will go our whole lives without knowing anything about them.
There are increasing health problems associated with the dust mite. Over 20 million American experience dust mite allergy symptoms and the allergy is growing rapidly. Dust mites can cause:
Fatigue (poor sleep)
Itchy skin and rashes
The disease affects people differently and if left untreated, it can make people miserable, similar to my experience.
There are some ways to manage the dust in the house and reduce its effect on you.
(1) The best air purifiers can work wonders to reduce dust and air pollution. There are many brands on the market – just make sure it has a HEPA filter that captures the smallest particulates from the air.
(2) The single best thing for dust protection in the house is dust mite proof covers for your mattress, pillow, and blankets. It may seem strange but mattresses and pillows are dust-making machines. Using covers prevents any dust or dust mites from going in or out of the mattress/pillow and as a result, reduces the amount of dust in the home (and your contact with it). If you have allergies or sensitivities to dust mites, these covers are perfect. They’ve worked great as a dust exposure treatment for me!
(3) Similar to air purifiers, allergy HVAC filters are a good investment for whole house dust control. My family always purchased the cheapest HVAC filters. After I was diagnosed with allergies, we began purchasing Filtrete Allergy Filters that were slightly more expensive. I was skeptical at first, but after seeing the color of the filter (dark grey) I knew it did a better job of capturing dirt. We wrote an article about the best HVAC allergy filters and did a Filtrete comparison!
(4) Anti-allergen laundry detergent and essential oils. These helped reduced dust mites by killing them. Mites hate the smell of essential oils – and these oils actually kill them naturally. Read our blog post that discusses the best essential oils for dust mites!
(5) HEPA Vacuums are high-quality vacuums that have special filters. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particular Arrestance. This means it has an ultra-fine filter to capture the smallest particulates from the air; specifically aeroallergens like dust mites, pollen, and mold. We wrote a review for the best HEPA vacuums for dust mites and pet allergies!
(6) Flooring isn’t an easy fix for homeowners because it is expensive. However, carpets are extremely hard to clean and have a tendency to attract and hold onto dust. Vacuums have a hard time getting dust out of the deeper layers of a carpet.
Allergists recommend that people who have dust mite allergy symptoms remove carpeting and install hard floors that are easier to clean. Dust mites also have a difficult time surviving on hard floors because they lack warmth, moisture, and hiding places.
Dust Exposure Conclusion
For dust exposure treatment its important to distinguish where the dust originates. Outside dust can come from a variety of sources and if the dust load is high it can cause vision and respiratory problems. Once exposed to dust, make sure you rinse and wash the orifices of the head.
Eye drops, gentle rinsing with warm water, and Neti-pots can help get rid of dust. For future prevention, consider a mask that protects breathing through your nose and mouth.
For indoor dust, it’s important to understand where it comes from. Most people don’t know indoor dust is primarily made up of human skin. Taking steps to clean the home using air purifiers, allergy HVAC filters, HEPA vacuums, and mattress and pillow dust mite proof covers, are ways to minimize the effects of dust and dust mites.
Thanks for reading another blog post on dust exposure treatment. If you need more information on dust mites and allergy symptoms, pay our blog a visit at dustmitesolutions.com