Allergy to pests

Prune mites can cause severe rashes

Fig. 1. 2. Prune mites are considered – rightly or wrongly – to be the cause of a skin disease that makes the skin itch. A disease you can get by handling mite-infested prunes and other dried fruit.

Even though a person can be or become allergic to any insect acting as pests in food, it is only a small number of insect species that actually matters in relations to allergies. Those are the species that a person often comes into contact with, and their closest relatives with whom they share allergens. Allergies to food pests are almost exclusively tied to the dust particles that are inhaled when handling food. Allergic reactions include snoozing, watery eyes and sometimes even asthma. Allergic reactions appear immediately after coming into contact with dust from foods and are typically the result of remains of mites and sometimes also granary weevils or moths.

Heavy goods such as hay, straw, rape and animal feed potentially give off large amounts of dust from mites. If predisposed to allergies, one should avoid working with these goods. Many people suffer from allergic reactions to house dust mites and will therefore also react to any small amount of mites in dusty foods. The house dust mites that cause allergic reactions do not live in food, but they share the same allergens with the mites that do. It is those shared allergens that people react to.

As far as we know today, there is no particular allergen-risk by eating or drinking food containing pests. Allergic reactions to food are not always caused by the food, but can also be a reaction to the particles that occur when food is digested.

Skin disorder can occur in relation to contact allergies. An example of this is people, who work with prunes or cheeses that contain mites, getting rashes. Those rashes are said to be caused by mites, but it has never actually been proved. Many beetle larvae have barbed hairs. The hairs break easily and find its way to human skin where it can cause allergic reactions and inflammation.

Table of allergic reactions towards the flour mite

Fig. 1. 1. Most people do not get skin reactions when allergy tested with extracts of house dust mites and flour mites. Those who do, react either to one of the two mite species or to both of them. In this figure, each dot represent a person. The number of people who react to both types of mites is remarkable. (Korsgaard, Dahl & Hallas).