Struggling with dust allergies? We asked a Houston allergy expert what you can do to prevent them.

Dust mite (Pixabay)

HOUSTON – With pollen levels reading low at the moment, you may be confused as to why you’re still experiencing allergy symptoms.

We spoke to Dr. David B. Engler MD, a board-certified allergist and immunologist in Houston, who told us that heat and humidity can cause dust allergies to worsen because of microscopic creatures that live on the dust particles known as “dust mites.” They thrive indoors when the air is hot and humid. It’s not the creatures themselves that cause allergies, but rather, the fecal matter they produce.

When we asked what people can do to avoid dust mites, Dr. Engler noted that houses with wall to wall carpeting are the worst culprits for housing the creatures. Pillowcases and bedsheets, additionally, can trap these little critters in their fibers and cause symptoms when you’re trying to sleep. Dr. Engler advised washing your sheets and pillowcases once a week with hot water, ideally “at 130 degrees,” which will kill any dust mites that may be lurking in your linens.

Investing in an indoor humidity gauge and making sure that humidity levels in your house are below 50 percent will also help to create an inhospitable environment for them. If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to avoid dust mites altogether, you can purchase dust mite impermeable pillowcases at Bed, Bath & Beyond or

Dr. Engler also shared ways to treat any allergy symptoms if they arise. “Runny, itchy, and sneezy” symptoms will be best alleviated by antihistamine medication, while “stuffy, pressure, and headache” symptoms require decongestants. The best way to soothe all symptoms, however, is to use “over the counter” nasal steroids such as Flonase. He said that using these will not only help to alleviate symptoms at present, but also prevent future ones.

Dr. Engler said that the most reliable websites for checking local allergy levels are any that are AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology) approved. He said that this website is the best if you’re looking for levels in Houston.