Breakfast in Bed, Anyone?

What do beds and pancakes have in common?

Nothin' says lovin' like dust mites from from the... frying pan? Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Kalavinka

A: Romantic interlude

B: Snuggly Sunday treat

C: Wonderfully considerate partner

D: Potentially lethal mites

Answer:  All of the above

If you’re lucky in love, you get some romance along with your hot pancakes, propped up on your comfy mattress and fluffy pillows.

If you’re not so lucky, you suck in a lungful of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus from your comforter and slug down a syrup-coated helping of its wheat-loving cousin, Dermatophagoides farina. And if your immune system is easily triggered, this relaxed repast can turn into a choking, wheezing trip to the hospital.

The tiny (300 micron), translucent house dust mite frequently haunts human beds, thoughtfully cleaning up mold, fungi, bacteria, pollen, your dead skin cells, and maybe that other white sock you lost a couple months ago.

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus - a species of house dust mite. Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Giles San Martin

Because of their tiny size and adaptive nature, these guys traveled with us from our damp, dark caveman homes to our modern hang outs and creature comforts:  beds, blankets, sofas, rugs, and cuddly stuffed animals.

For most of us, house dust mites cause no problem. They’re so tiny we can’t see them. They don’t sting or bite. And even if 100 were creeping up your leg – which they will probably do tonight – you would never know.

But unfortunately, they can seriously bug people with atopy. It’s not the mite per se, but its numerous droppings that cause issues among the allergic.  Inside those tiny poo balls are bits of undigested food and the digestive enzymes meant to break them down. All it takes is a breath of air – or a dip in pancake batter – for the “stuff” to melt away,  activating these enzymes.

Inhalation reactions start when the molecules come into contact with lung epithelium. Scavenger cells get the inflammatory process up and running, aggravating asthma and other allergic reactions, like atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and otitis media.

Pancake syndrome is a variation of the inhalation reaction. Whenever cooks use mite-infested flour, there is potential for danger. The medical literature contains case reports and series of both children and adults who experienced an anaphylactic reaction after eating mite-infested wheat-flour based foods. The reactions varied from mild to lethal.

In all cases, the flour used was replete with dust mites of several species – and full of the cell-destroying Der enzyme, cysteine protease. Among its many talents: direct damage to airway epithelium; destruction of the body’s epithelial tissue damage defense system; disruption of intercellular junctions; and of course, stimulating those pesky proinflammatory mediators.

Infested flour is more likely to be found in temperate, humid areas, and in poorly stored wheat flour or flour-based mixes – or products that have been opened for a long period and never used. In 2009, the World Allergy Organization published a dust mite oral anaphylaxis paper, suggesting that all grain flours be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

So the next time a half-empty box of pancake mix gets you in the mood for some snuggly breakfast in bed – try switching to eggs. – Michele G. Sullivan

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3 Comments

Filed under Allergy and Immunology, Blognosis, Dermatology, Family Medicine, Gastroenterology, Hospital and Critical Care Medicine, IMNG, Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine, Internal Medicine News, Pediatrics, Primary care, The Mole, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Breakfast in Bed, Anyone?

  1. jh19

    Hi, We do some work with a company that may have a solution that helps people in this situation. About a third of our lives are spent in bed and beds are a haven for dust mites because of the warm and humid environment that allows them to dine on human skin flakes. Dust mite excreta are loaded with allergens that cause the negative allergy symptoms. The Asthma Society of Canada and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America have approved many products as being “certified asthma and allergy friendly”. This includes SmartSilk bedding products. They have been proven to kill dust mites by removing the heat and moisture dust mites need to survive. The product really helped my daughter. Check out the SmartSilk website.

  2. Kim

    Get a kirby vac. It goes 12-15 in. into your mattress and sucks those suckers out!

  3. Tamie Dembroski

    What is actually allergy rhinitis? Allergy rhinitis is an allergic disease, which is caused by the sensitinogen that reacting on the mucous membranes in the nasal cavity. It consists two types that are perennial and seasonal allergic rhinitis. Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs throughout the year; whereas, seasonal allergic rhinitis usually occurs during the blossoming or flowering season. In this season, plants start to release their pollen for breeding purpose. Pollen is one of the sensitinogens to the allergic rhinitis. Clinical features of allergic rhinitis are; itching in the nose, sneezing, watery nasal discharge and nasal obstruction..

    The latest article straight from our own website
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