Dust mites and asthma

Find out how you can lower the risk of dust mites affecting your asthma.

What are dust mites?

Dust mites are small insect-like pests that you can’t see. We all have dust mites in our homes.  

Dust mites are a common asthma trigger. In our recent Asthma + Lung UK survey, just over half of people who responded told us that dust mites triggered their asthma. If you're triggered by dust mites, you might get allergy symptoms, such as:

  • sneezing
  • a runny nose
  • watery eyes. 

A dust mite allergy can also make your asthma symptoms worse and cause an asthma attack. This is why it’s important to manage a dust mite allergy.

Managing a dust mite allergy

Speak to your GP or asthma nurse if you think you’re triggered by dust mites. They may be able to offer you tests to see if you’re allergic.  

It’s important to see your GP or asthma nurse as your symptoms could be caused by other asthma triggers, like pollen or mould.

If you’re allergic to dust mites, your GP or asthma nurse will speak to you about things that could help. This might include: 

Manage your asthma

Alongside any other treatments, it's important to manage your asthma well

  • Take your preventer medicines every day as prescribed, even if you feel well. 
  • Use an asthma action plan, this will help you know what to do if dust triggers your symptoms or you have an asthma attack.
  • Always keep your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you, so you can deal with any symptoms quickly. 
  • Watch our short videos to check if you’re taking your inhalers properly. 

How can I reduce dust mites where I live?

It’s unclear if reducing dust mites can improve your asthma symptoms. There is some evidence it can help alongside other treatments. The only way to know if it will work for you is to try it out.

It’s impossible to get rid of dust mites completely, but there are things you can do to lower the number of dust mites where you live. 

Dust mites like warm, humid, and damp places. They like to live in bedding, carpets and soft furnishings, like blankets and pillows. So, try to focus on reducing dust mites where you sleep and in your living areas first because this is where there are the most dust mites.  

There are some free and low-cost things you can try: 

  • Get rid of any soft furnishings that you do not need, for example cushions, rugs and throws. This reduces the amount of places dust mites can live.
  • Clean your surfaces with a damp cloth at least once a week. Using a damp cloth will help stop dust from getting in your mouth and nose.
  • Lower the humidity where you live by keeping it well-aired. If you can, open your windows regularly, use an extractor fan in your bathroom and kitchen, and avoid drying your washing inside.
  • Try to wash your bedding and soft furnishings every week. A 60°C wash will kill dust mites. 
  • Vacuum regularly. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can trap more house dust mites than other vacuum cleaners.

If you’re able to, you could also: 

  • Avoid using second-hand mattresses.
  • Use allergen-proof barriers on mattresses and pillows.
  • Get rid of your carpets. If you rent, see if your landlord would consider getting rid of your carpets.  You could replace them with wood, vinyl, or laminate flooring, which is easier to clean.

Read more about improving your indoor air quality

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