Insect Allergies

Dust Mite Allergy

Dust mites are approximately 0.3 mm in length, too small to be seen with the naked eye. They are eight-legged and sightless, and live on skin scales and other debris. Mites excrete partially digested food and digestive enzymes as a fecal particle, which release allergens very rapidly. Most patients allergic to dust mites are actually allergic to the dust mite feces. The mite fecal pellets are similar to pollen grains in three major ways:

  1. The fecal particles size
  2. The quantity of allergen carried
  3. The rate of proteins release

By being so similar to pollen grains, they are just the right size to cause allergies.

Dust mites become a part of our environment and lifestyle because of their natural adaptations. Since they are entirely dependent on ambient humidity for hydration, and they are unable to search for environmental water-supplies, they tend to live in places that "store" water. This may include carpets, sofas, mattresses and clothing. As humidity falls, mites withdraw from the surface and migrate to where there is more humidity; e.g., deeper in the mattress. Even in very dry conditions it may take months for mites to die and for their allergen levels to fall.

Avoid and protecting yourself and your family from dust mite allergies can be summarized as one important rule - Keep dust mites away from coming in contact with you!

The role of Dust Mites in Atopic Dermatitis: A Preliminary Report (Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America 1997; 17:431-441.) Get Acrobat Reader

Venom Allegies / Allergy to Stinging Insects

When a person is stung by a bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket or fire ants, the insect injects venom into its victim. This venom can cause severe life threatening reactions in certain people who are allergic to it. In a typically normal reaction the sting site will be painful, reddened, may swell and itch, but this will last only few hours. Enlarged local reactions might be seen with a painful swelling of several inches surrounding the area of the sting. This reaction might last for days. In a severe allergic reaction the person might feel dizzy, nauseated and weak. Stomach cramps and diarrhea may occur. Generalized hives and itching, wheezing and difficulty breathing, and potentially an anaphylactic reaction with a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness which may lead to death if no immediate medical care is provided. There is clear evidence that venom immunotherapy in the majority of patients is protective for any future life threatening reactions. Patients with known allergic sensitivities to insect venom should be evaluated by the allergist and placed on protective desensitization therapy.

Cockroach Allergy

Roaches, especially the German Cockroach, are a very common pest in crowded cities worldwide. Recent studies have shown exposure to roach droppings as a major risk factor for the development of allergies and asthma in the inner-city. Avoidance consists of roach baits and traps, extermination and cleanliness. This includes, not leaving food out in open containers, washing dishes after each meal, and keeping cupboards free of food debris. Unfortunately, one can’t encourage cleanliness in their neighbors!

Patients who are not responsive can be treated with medications and allergy immunization.

The Role of Cockroach Allergy and Exposure to Cockroach Allergen in Causing Morbidity Among Inner-City Children with Asthma (N Engl J Med 1997; 336:1356-63.) Get Acrobat Reader