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Occasionally I speak with friends about my dust mite allergy and this question always pops up, “How do you know if you have dust mites?”
The only sure way to know if you have dust mites is to purchase a test kit (link below). But take my word for it, you don’t need a test kit, you most certainly have them. According to the American Lung Association, dust mites exist in 4 out of 5 homes. That’s 80 percent!
Growing up, I had no idea what dust mites were or the symptoms they could cause. I did know, however, that I had plenty of dust inside my home in my room, in the carpet, and on our bookshelves. Once I was diagnosed with dust mite allergy, I began reading about them (check out these dust mite facts).
The scary truth is that the chances of having dust mites in your home is almost 100%, and since they are microscopic, you’ll never see evidence of them without a microscope.
Dust mites, also called bed mites, feed off dead human skin and to a lesser amount animal dander. We constantly shed skin, so our homes provide the perfect environment. Where there is dust, there are likely dust mites.
Dust mites aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They likely co-evolved beside humans because they clean up our waste.
But there’s a growing trend in the U.S. for allergy. Almost 20 million people in the U.S. are allergic or sensitive to dust mites and their feces.
Dust mites are a worrying problem and they can cause a variety of symptoms. Children often have allergy symptoms when they are young and if they are lucky, they will grow out of it (I never grew out of my allergies and still battle the symptoms).
Dust mite allergy affects people differently. Some people display subtle symptoms and go about their life oblivious to their allergy.
For others, the allergy makes it hard to get through the day. Below are common symptoms. I experienced a number of them (itchy eyes, nose, ears, sinus congestion, extreme fatigue).
- Sinus congestion
- Morning coughing
- Itchy eyes and ears
- Eczema rashes
These symptoms are numerous and can vary from person to person but if you’re experiencing a few of these symptoms, there’s a chance you have dust mite allergy. For me, my worst symptoms were sinus congestion, itchy eyes, eczema, and fatigue.
I literally couldn’t breathe out of my nose for 20 years, but I didn’t know any better and assumed it was “normal”.
Although fatigue seems like a strange symptom, I realized that because my nose was congested during sleeping, I wasn’t getting the deep sleep I needed. I’d sleep for 9 hours and wake up tired. It wasn’t until I realized I had a dust mite allergy did I understand dust mites.
Slowly but surely I made adjustments to reduce my dust mite exposure and I began sleeping better. I also started allergy shots which helped a lot (read about my allergy shot experience)
Practicing good bedroom cleanliness is important to reduce exposure for allergic and non-allergic individuals. Reducing dust mite exposure can also decrease the chances of your children becoming allergic.
Below, we’ll discuss the common places for dust mites, and what we can do to protect ourselves and our families.
How Do You Know If You Have Dust Mites:
Well, 84% Of Homes Have Them!
You Will Know If You Have Dust Mites If…
Dust mites have a few favorite spots in our homes. They prefer dark, warm, and moist areas. If you live in arid areas or at high altitude, you’ll likely have fewer dust mites than humid regions.
- If you live in a humid part of the U.S. (South, East, Mid West) you probably have dust mites
- If you have carpets you probably have dust mites
- If you have dogs in the house you probably have dust mites
- If you wake up all year with a stuffy nose and/or itchy eyes and itchy skin then you probably have dust mites
- If you have mattresses, pillows, and blankets without allergy covers you probably have dust mites
- If you let your dirty clothes sit on the floor for days without washing them you probably have dust mites
- If you often see dust in floating in the air it’s probably dust mites, dead dust mites, and their feces
Vents – a study in China found that low-quality air conditioning filters can actually spread dust mites and their feces throughout or homes.
Now You Know If You Have Dust Mites: What Can You Do About It?
Sure, you can purchase a test kit (pictured right) for dust mite detection, you can check out the test kit.
Action 1: Get Dust Mites Off the Floor
Dust mites enjoy carpets because of the warmth and protection carpets provide. As opposed to tile or wood flooring, carpets catch dirt. If you have a serious dust mite allergy you may want to consider getting rid of carpets and rugs, otherwise, frequent vacuuming is necessary – and not just any vacuum will do.
When searching for a dust mite vacuum, make sure it has a HEPA filter. HEPA filters catch ultra-fine particulates including dust mites and their feces. Dust Mite Solutions ranked the best HEPA vacuums to choose from!
To remove dust on hard flooring, use a mop or something that traps dust. One of the things I hate most are brooms! Well, brooms push dust around and stir it up into the air.
Dust mites and other allergens are so lightweight that they become airborne quickly. A simple sweeping with a broom can cause 1000’s of dust mite feces or pollen to enter their air. Once airborne they can stay suspended in the air for hours where we inhale and exhale.
The products I prefer to use on hard flooring are Swiffer products. Swiffer makes dusting on the floor easier with their Sweeper product (sweeper on amazon), they also have a hand-held duster that traps dust on blinds and shelving (duster on amazon).
Action 2: Take Precaution for Dust Mites in the Bedroom
If you know you have dust mites you’ll want to focus on the bedroom. Beds are the #1 spot for dust mites because they provide an endless supply of warmth, moisture, dead skin, and hiding places.
If you have an old mattress there is no need to get rid of it. Simply cover it with a dust mite proof cover (check out my ranking of the best mattress covers for dust mite).
Quality dust mite covers (not plastic) will trap the pests inside and also keep them out.
Many covers are plastic and will make you sweat. The best quality mattress, pillow, and comforter covers will be 100% cotton or microfiber that are tightly stitched to block dust mites and other allergens like cats and dogs.
Given the connection between the bed and dust mites, it’s essential to wash your sheets and blankets often. Not only often, but also wash them correctly, preferably with essential oils.
Washing often means weekly. This should reduce your shed skin (dust mite food) to a minimum and therefore reduce dust mite presence.
When you wash your sheets, ordinary washing won’t kill dust mite, or their larvae. Regular washing will help get rid of dust mite fecal matter. Allergists recommend washing sheets with very high temperatures (130 degrees Fahrenheit or 54 degree Celsius).
If hot water is an issue, you can simply add a few drops of essential oils to the wash. I prefer to use essential oils like eucalyptus which dust mites hate (read about dust mites and essential oils).
Essential oils are organic and will add a nice aroma to your sheets. Make sure you apply drops to the water, not directly onto the sheets.
Related: The Best Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent
Action 3: The Air in Your House
If you suffer from dust allergy symptoms, whether pets, pollen, mold, or dust mites, consider an air purifier for your entire home or a smaller unit for the bedroom.
Air purifiers with HEPA filters capture all allergens from the air and can totally clean air within a few hours. We reviewed the best air purifiers for people with allergy.
Most HVACs have an intake where air is sucked in, then circulated throughout the house. Many homeowners pay it no attention, however routine maintenance is essential to keeping your house dust mite free.
Filters should be changed every six months. Write the date on the filter when you change it to ensure you don’t forget.
Most filters are low quality and only keep large debris from entering the air duct. If you have allergies it is essential to purchase a high-value MPR (microparticle performance rating) filter.
Using a high-quality allergy filter is similar to using a whole house air purifier! Even when you don’t need AC or heating, just turn on the vent for a few hours while you’re at work and the allergy filter will clean up a lot of dust within your home. Filtrete is the industry leader in filters and offers high-grade allergen options.
Obviously, an allergy HVAC filter won’t replace dusting/cleaning, but I know you’ll see a reduction in dust around your home. I regret using the cheap filters for so long.
Related: The Best Allergy Filters for AC/Heating (HVAC)
How do you know if you have dust mites? Now you know!
Even though you likely have dust mites in your home, there are many ways to protect your family. For most people dust mites won’t be bothersome, nor will they cause health problems.
However, for a growing allergic population, dust mites can cause respiratory problems as well as skin rash, fatigue, and sinus problems.
I experienced rhinitis and couldn’t breathe out of my nose for years. I also experienced eczema that would develop after sitting on a dusty couch but I never knew it was dust mites because I couldn’t see them.
Frequent cleaning with a HEPA vacuum, as well as using bed covers and air conditioning filters, should ensure your family is well protected. The biggest improvement I had was with dust mite covers for the bed.
My eyes and nose were always itchy, but no longer! When I combined the mattress covers with a better quality HVAC filter and an air purifier, I noticed an improvement in my breathing.
I’ve only discussed how to minimize dust mite exposure in your home environment, however, if you think you have a serious dust mite allergy it’s wise to find an allergy specialist that can test you for a broad spectrum of aeroallergens.
I hope this helped answer your question – “How do you know if you have dust mites?”.