It’s World Allergy Week this week (13-19 June), and the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) is encouraging people to be aware of their winter allergy triggers.
"One in eight adults and one in seven children in New Zealand have asthma, and up to 80% of this asthma is associated with an allergy," says ARFNZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding. "It is important for people with allergy-triggered asthma to understand their triggers and minimize them as much as possible."
One of the most common allergens is in the faecal waste produced by dust mites. During a dust mite's life cycle of 65-100 days, it will produce around 2,000 faecal pellets. The protein in these pellets is what causes the allergic response.
"Dust mites are everywhere, and we all have them in our homes in soft furniture, carpets, mattresses, and pillows", says Letitia. "They are microscopic, and their faeces get into the air easily and can provoke a strong allergic response when inhaled, which can trigger asthma in some people. When the weather’s cold, we tend to spend more time cosying up at home with windows and doors closed, meaning we're coming into more contact than usual with this trigger."
Signs that you might have an allergy to dust mites include sneezing, runny nose and itchy or watery eyes when you are vacuuming or dusting or when you enter a dusty room. However, for a person with asthma it may also cause wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing.
"If you suspect dust mite waste is exacerbating your asthma, you can ask your doctor for a skin prick test which can help indicate the likelihood of dust mites as a trigger," says ARFNZ Research and Education Manager Joanna Turner. "It’s important to try to identify the allergen affecting your asthma, so you can avoid or minimise exposure to it. If you have a dust mite allergy, using a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filter, and covering your mattress, duvet inner and pillows with mite-resistant cases can help."
To improve asthma and allergies, ARFNZ suggests that all Kiwis should do what they can to reduce triggers in their living environments. This includes:
Ensuring your home is dry, well ventilated and warm
Keeping mould and dust to a minimum
Keeping pets outside of bedrooms.
For more information on allergies and asthma, visit asthmafoundation.org.nz
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