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An allergy is a condition in which a person's body is hypersensitive to substance, causing the body to react in an uncomfortable manner after exposure to the substance. Dust can be defined as minute particles of dirt and matter that are light enough to be a fine powder. People who are allergic to dust may have symptoms such as runny noses, watery eyes, and sneezing.
The body is set up to defend itself against invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances, called antigens. The body produces antibodies to attack antigens. An antigen that can produce an allergic reaction is called an allergen. In this case dust is an allergen. People who are allergic to dust produce IeG antibodies to attack dust, leading to an allergic reaction.
Dust is not simply tiny pieces of dirt. The particles can include other matter, such as dust mites, dead dust mites, and dust mite fecal material. Dust mites, which are the most common trigger for indoor dust allergies, are part of the same family as spiders and chiggers. Mites live for about 30 days and produce waste products up to about 20 times a day. A female can lay eggs that result in 20 to 30 new mites during her lifetime.
Another bug that can make a person allergic to dust is the cockroach. Cockroaches do not have to be seen to be a problem. Their saliva, body parts, and secretions can lead to allergic reactions in some people.
Molds, such as aspergillus and penicillium, can grow both outdoors and indoors. Like cockroaches, these molds do not necessarily have to be visible in order to cause an allergic reaction to dust. Molds reproduce through spores, which are light enough to become airborne. These spores can then grow on the surfaces on which they land, producing more mold.
People can also be allergic to dust because of animals. Animals shed hair and skin particles as well as produce urine and saliva. Cats and dogs are the most common culprits in animal allergies. In fact, cat allergens, which can attach to clothing, are the most common reason that people are allergic to dust in schools. Not only cats and dogs can cause allergic reactions. Any warm-blooded mammal allergens in dust can lead allergic reactions, including allergens from guinea pigs, hamsters, and mice.
A physician can determine the exact cause of an allergy. The doctor may perform a physical exam as well as ask questions regarding the individual's medical history. In addition, the doctor may request a skin prick test or blood tests to pinpoint the cause of the allergic reactions.
A skin prick test is really the only definitive way to diagnose allergies to dust and to anything else, for that matter. Otherwise, how could you tell if it was dust or mold, for instance? And a faceful of dust will make anyone sneeze just from the mechanical reaction, so that is not indicative.
But you should ask whether the skin prick test is worthwhile. There are two main things you can do more effectively afterwards than before: get allergy shots (immunotherapy) and make lifestyle changes to avoid your allergen. For instance, if you *are* allergic to dust mites, you could make your bedroom a dust-free zone - but be warned, this is a *big* commitment. If your allergies are minor and just require the occasional dose of medication, you might decide that testing is not worthwhile.
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