When children return to school in August or September, they may pick up any number of illnesses from their classmates or their school building. Dusty classrooms and hallways can trigger allergies and you may see that the signs and symptoms begin to emerge a few weeks after school begins. Here is what you need to know about dust allergies.
What are dust allergies?
Dust allergies can be caused by allergies specific to any one of the many components in the dust itself. They can include:
- Dust mites, the microscopic bugs that live indoors and seek warm places to live like skin, furniture, mattresses and pillows.
- Pollen from outside trees, flowers and grass that blows through windows or is tracked inside on shoes.
- Minute bugs and other insects in dust.
- Pet hair and other types of dander.
- Fur, feathers and other items that are shed from animals and tracked into the school.
- Mold: Children can be allergic to bits and pieces of mold that may be in the dust. (Mold is very dangerous if breathed in regularly and can be an allergy unto itself. If you believe there is mold in the school that your child attends it needs to be addressed and remedied immediately.)
Signs and symptoms of dust allergies
If your child has a dust allergy you will see him or her sneezing frequently when in the presence of dust. You may also witness other symptoms:
- A runny nose
- Itchy, red, watering eyes
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Shortness of breath or a feeling of tightness in the chest
- Generalized itching
- Worsening asthma
Tests for dust allergies
The most common tests for dust allergies are skin tests. The physician will gently prick your child’s skin with a tiny instrument that holds dust extract. If the skin reacts by turning red or swelling around the area that was pricked, it is considered a positive reaction and an indication that a dust allergy may be present. Blood tests can confirm the finding, as well.
Dust allergy treatments
There are several treatments for dust allergies. The most common is making changes to your child’s environment. While this may not be possible at school, you can make sure that the home environment is as dust-free as possible. You should also discuss your child’s allergy with your physician. Medications and/or allergy shots can help to reduce the symptoms of dust allergies.
Treatments for dust exposure at school
In older school buildings there may be little that can be done to reduce dust levels and your child’s exposure to it. If so, inform your physician of the situation and ask if there is medication or inhalers that may help to make your child more comfortable while at school. In the meantime, inform your child’s teacher of your child’s allergy. Ask if anything can be done to clean the classroom of dust. Discuss the allergy with the school principal and ask about the cleaning methods used after school each day.
Treatments for dust exposure at home
Fortunately, you can control dust levels in your own home. Depending upon the severity of your child’s allergy you can take the following steps to reduce dust:
- Cover mattresses and pillows with dust mite covers.
- Remove carpeting, especially in your child’s bedroom.
- If the air inside your home is humid, use a dehumidifier to reduce it.
- Keep pets out of your child’s bedroom to reduce the amount of pet dander.
- Hire a professional to clean all the heating and air conditioning vents in the home which can accumulate dust and blow it into the air. Ask them about a filter for your HVAC system that will reduce dust in the home’s air.
- Dust all surfaces in the home frequently.
Dust allergies are aggravating and can interfere with your child’s ability to focus and learn while in school. If your child is sneezing or coughing more since school began, you may want to consider whether or not a dust allergy is the culprit and seek your physician’s advice in addressing it.