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Dust mites contribute to tough allergy season

Wednesday - 6/25/2014, 9:40am  ET

allergy medications (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Over-the-counter allergy medications can help control symptoms when perennial allergies strike. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

How air conditioning can help control allergies

Dr. Rachel Schreiber, allergist at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, shares tips to control perennial allergies.

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WASHINGTON -- It's the time of year when allergy season is making many people miserable -- and one of the culprits may be a parasite lurking in your home.

Dr. Rachel Schreiber, an allergist at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, says pollen counts are down in the D.C. area, but that hasn't improved some people's allergy symptoms. The reason could be perennial allergies, which are triggered by things that are present year-round.

One example is dust mites, which are parasites that eat skin cells people shed, and they thrive in warm, humid environments.

The microscopic bugs commonly live in dust around the house and cause sneezing and runny noses. Some people experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"They are year-round allergens so that could be accounting for symptoms this time of year," Schreiber says.

Schreiber says the parasites are present in all homes and can be found in mattresses, pillows, carpeting and other places. Dust mites are not harmful, but can be a pain if you're allergic to them.

Unfortunately, dust mites are tough to get rid of, Schreiber says. She advises running the air conditioning and cleaning its filters to get rid of any dust.

The Mayo Clinic suggests purchasing allergen-proof covers for mattresses, pillows and other upholstery to eliminate dust mite exposure. Also, washing bedding weekly, eliminating clutter, keeping humidity low and vaccumming often can help reduce the symptoms.

To control symptoms, Schreiber says over-the-counter allergy medications such as Claritin, Allergra and Zyrtec can do the trick.

"A lot of times, we prescribe the same kind of medications that we would give for pollen allergies -- we give those same kinds of medication for dust mite allergies," she says.

If you're feeling the wrath of the dust mites, you may not cope any better when it comes to other year-round allergens.

"If you have an allergy to one substance, you are probably more likely to have an allergy to another," Schreiber says.

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