Dust mites are becoming a larger problem in the U.S.A. due to the increasing prevalence of allergies. Although they’ve been co-evolving with people for a long time and serve a valuable purpose, they can cause problems for humans. Some of these problems include asthma, rashes, and poor sleep.
In this article, we will answer some of the most common questions regarding dust mites and answers. I’ll even share my personal experience with dust mite allergy and provide some options for relief.
If you’ve recently be diagnosed with dust mite allergy or have children who are allergic, take some time to read this article and be sure to check out my other blogposts on being allergy tested, allergy shots, eczema, as well as products that helped me improve my quality of life.
What Are Dust Mites and Where do Dust Mites Come From
Dust mites are an arachnid. There are 2 main types of dust mites called the American dust mite (Dermatophagoides farinae) and European dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus). Converse to their scientific names, dust mites are ubiquitous around the world and are commonly found in homes, living alongside their food source, humans.
As with most species, living organisms coevolve together and dust mites likely coevolved with humans, eating our waste as we shed skin. Don’t worry, dust mites don’t actually eat humans, and you will never feel them nibbling on you.
They do however they eat on our waste, dead skin. Although we may not notice it, we shed skin continuously throughout the day. Our tiny dead skin cells make up a significant percentage of dust around our house. The dust we produce feeds dust mites.
Do Dust Mites Bite
Many people contact us and think they have dust mite bites. Sometimes these people have felt bites inside their beds but can’t determine what the cause was.
If you think you have dust mite bites or think you see dust mites, then read this article – they are likely bed bugs. The article will help you differentiate between dust mites and bed bugs since they are commonly confused with one another.
They also exhibit different symptoms on humans (bite vs. rash). Unless you have allergies, dust mites are relatively harmless. Bed bugs, on the other hand, are a big problem in and around the home and should be taken care of immediately.
How Big are Dust Mites and How Long Do They Live
Dust mites are at most .5 mm long and immature dust mites are even smaller. Their bodies are translucent which makes them even harder to identify.
The average life cycle for a male house dust mite is 10-19 days and a female can live significantly longer (up to 70 days). One female dust mite can lay up to 100 eggs during her lifetime.
Can You See Dust Mites (Are dust mites visible to the human eye)
It’s virtually impossible to see dust mites with the naked eye Dust mites can be identified under a microscope and can be found in dust around the home – think dust in the corners of your bedroom floor.
If you see something in your room that resembles a dust mite. There are a few things you can do to problems solve.
- If you can see it, it can’t be a dust mite
- Does it jump – it could be a flea (especially if it is alone and you keep pets in the house). If you have pets in the house you should also check your pet. Look on the belly and in the folds of the arm (for dogs and cats).
- Is it near the bed? Do you or your children get bites (like a mosquito) when sleeping? It could be a bed bug. Where there is one bed bug there are usually plenty. Check the corners of the mattress where they hide. Bed bugs are nocturnal and don’t like light and the suck blood. If you see bed bugs you can take your mattress out in the hot sun for a day or two and thoroughly clean the house. Bed bugs are difficult to kill and spread quickly.
What do Dust Mites Look Like: Pictures of Dust Mites
The following pictures are of dust mites under a microscope. We also included a youtube video that shows live dust mites – be warned, its creepy.
As mentioned earlier, dust mite are part of the arachnid family so they have 8 legs. They are oval shaped and translucent in color.
Am I Allergic to My Pillow?
We’ve heard a lot of people ask “am I allergic to my pillow”. This may seem like a strange question but I remember asking myself the same question before I knew I had dust mite allergy.
I thought it might be the filling in the pillow like cotton or feathers.
At that time I didn’t even know dust mites existed. Beds are the most common place to find dust mites – that’s right, you’re not sleeping alone! Dust mites like beds because:
- They are warm from body heat and blankets,
- Provide shelter (hiding places),
- Get moisture from human sweat
- Have an endless supply of food, our dead skin.
In fact, dust mites love our blankets, pillows and mattresses. Research has shown that a 2-year old pillow can be up to 20% of dust mites and their feces.
If you are allergic to dust mites, pillows can be a huge problem because we are breathing in dust mites for 8 hours each night!
Once I changed my pillow and started using a dust mite cover I noticed an immediate difference in the quality of sleep I was getting and less symptoms when I woke up.
Can Dust Mites Cause Itching?
Absolutely. In fact, I’ve been allergic to dust mites most of my life but didn’t know it. I experienced itchy skin, rashes, and eczema – learn about dust mites and eczema here.
The problematic areas of the body for itching are the face because it rests against pillows (a common place dust mites live). The eyes, nose, ears, and lips can be itchy in the mornings. Other places on the body you might experience itching are the stomach, bottom, back, and arms.
As a general rule, if you have dust mite allergy and you’re in contact with the allergen you could develop a rash. Remember, dust mites don’t bite, but the proteins in their body and feces can cause our skin to react when we’re in contact with them. See below for more info on symptoms.
Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms?
Dust mite allergy symptoms can vary depending on the person. In some people there will be very minor symptoms that are hardly recognizable. In others, there might be many symptoms including asthma and can cause severe problems. The most common symptoms are:
- Itchy skin
- Itchy eyes, nose, ears, mouth
- Post-nasal drip
- Learn more about dust mite allergy symptoms here!
In my experience, I had a chronically stuffy nose and itchy eyelids. I also had eczema around my mouth and behind my ears.
But the worst of my symptoms was fatigue. I was always exhausted even when I slept for 8 hours.
For so long I had no idea that I had dust mite allergy even though I woke up every morning with a foggy mind and tired body. Once I visited an allergist and was diagnosed with dust mite allergy, I immediately covered my pillows, blankets, and mattresses with dust mite proof covers and I felt a difference!
Interestingly humans aren’t allergic to the dust mite itself. Instead, we’re allergic to a protein found in their bodies and waste. Dust mite feces actually causes much more problems for humans that the mite itself.
How to Kill Dust Mites?
Killing dust mites seems like an easy task. If food and moisture are taken away, then they’ll die. Dust mite food, however, is difficult to get rid of. After all, we can’t stop shedding skin.
Maintaining cleanliness will help with dust mite populations inside the home. Routine washing of sheets and vacuuming multiple times per week will do a good job of reducing the dust mite population.
Getting rid of moisture is also challenging. Dust mites actually absorb their moisture needs from the air – this is the reason dust mite populations are more prevalent in humid regions of the U.S. and less of a problem in arid dry regions of the U.S.
For allergic individuals, the use of dehumidifiers in the summer can dramatically help fight allergy symptoms.
Reducing the carpeted area in the home can further reduce dust mite populations. Dust mites like carpets for their hiding places and warmth.
Wood or tile flooring make less space for dust mites to hide and makes cleaning an easier task for the homeowner.
You can also use sprays to kill dust mite on the spot. We only recommend organic sprays because we don’t like chemicals in our homes and where we sleep.
Are Dust Mites Contagious (can they be spread easily)?
Dust mites are extremely common and they don’t use people to spread to other homes. Most homes have dust mites – in my opinion we’re meant to have them because they recycle our waste (dead skin).
Dust mites aren’t like lice or bed bugs who use people to reach new hosts (lice transported on the head, and bed bugs use clothes and backpacks).
If you live in a very dry region of the country or at high elevation there’s a chance you don’t have dust mites. Because they absorb moisture through their bodies they prefer humid regions of the country and don’t reproduce as quickly in a desert or high elevation environment.
Can Dust Mites Live In Clothes?
Yep, but if you wash your clothes weekly they shouldn’t be a problem. Dust mites don’t like disturbance however if your clothes have been left in the closet for months without being washed they might create a home.
For people with dust mite allergy it’s wise you routinely wash clothes. When you do so, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil (or your favorite essential oil) to the detergent. Essential oils have strong natural aromas that dust mites don’t like. Essential oils will also help kill larvae.
Can Dust Mites Live In Memory Foam?
Dust mites can live anywhere where there is warmth, moisture, and a place to hide. This is what makes beds and carpets a great place to live.
Memory foam isn’t your typical mattress however it can still be a hiding place for dust mites. Dust mites don’t have mattress preferences and they can even hide under a sheet or in a blanket. And as long as there is food nearby (dead skin and pet dander), dust mites should be able to find a place to hide.
This is why dust mite proof mattress covers, pillow encasings, and duvet covers are important for people with dust mite allergy. The covers can prevent dust mites and their feces from entering or exiting the mattress, pillow, or blanket.
Can Dust Mites Live In Your Hair?
This is one of the most interesting questions we’ve received. Hypothetically, yes dust mites could live in your hair but don’t worry you don’t have to worry about dust mites in your hair.
Our hair is washed and dries out. It’s subject to the sun, wind, and rain. Dust mites prefer stable conditions that are consistent and the environment is always changing on your head.
They will eat your dandruff once it falls out of your hair, but they won’t make your head a permanent home. They are much happier living in your pillow and carpet.
If I Put Toys In The Freezer Will It Kill Dust Mites?
Yes, the freezer works great to kill dust mites. However, it’s important to know that “living” dust mites aren’t what you are allergic to. It’s the protein in the dust mite and in its feces.
Freezing stuffed animals and other toys is s great start to reduce dust mites, but you’ll also need to wash the toys after freezing. As I mentioned above, consider washing toys with essential oils to ensure you get rid of dust mites and their larvae.
Can Dust Mites Kill You?
Unless you have severe asthma caused by dust mites the chances of dust mites killing you is slim-to-none. Dust mites can induce asthma in many children and adults – and asthma is not something to take lightly.
If you experience contact dermatitis or other allergy symptoms, dust mites won’t kill you but they could impact you in other ways. Dust mite allergy can dramatically decrease the quality of life. For example:
- If your allergy affects sleep you could constantly feel fatigue
- If dust mites affect your skin there could be impacts on your social life and confidence
- If dust mites affect your ability to exercise it could negatively affect your health
The example I mentioned above might seem like minor issues, however, these are things I experienced and I became depressed. The lesson I learned is that dust mites won’t kill you but they could affect your life in a way that makes you depressed.
Don’t take dust mites or depression lightly!
How To Control Dust Mites (Dust Mite Products)
There are various dust mite products on the market. From my personal experience, they do help with dust mite allergy and reduce symptoms. I use the following products for my dust mite allergy and can recommend them to other people.
- Dust mite covers
- Mattress covers
- Pillow cover
- Comforter cover
- Dust mite vacuum with a HEPA filter
- Allergy HVAC Filters by Filtrete
- Dust mite laundry detergent
- Dust mite spray
I especially recommend the Filtrete filters and bed covers. For air conditioners, most people purchase the cheapest filters for their house. To be honest, the cheap filters won’t to much to filter dust mites, their feces, and other allergens such as pollen, mold, and animal dander.
Filtrete offers allergen quality filters – some so strong they can even filter out odors from your home. Because dust mites and feces are so lightweight, they can be suspended in the air for hours.
Have you ever seen dust glimmering from the morning sun? – some of that is bound to be dust mites and feces. Using a high quality filter will clean your indoor air and help you breathe better.
And because we spend so much time in bed, using covers on our mattresses, blankets, and pillows are a no-brainer. There are quality, breathable covers on the market from Mission Allergy and Allersoft – so nice you won’t even know they are there and they will keep your blankets, pillows, and mattress looking new!
In this article we looked at over 18 questions people ask about dust mite. Some are silly questions, but others are important to know if you have dust mite allergy or have a child recently diagnosed with allergies.
Informing yourself about dust mites is the first step to solving your dust mite problem. Most people don’t need to worry about dust mites. In fact, they serve an important purpose.
However, if you or your family is allergic, make sure you implement strategies to rid your living area of dust mites. A few of my favorites are to get rid of carpets, use leather couches, and fully cover your mattress, pillow, and blanket with dust mite covers (if you use high quality dust mite covers you won’t even know they are there.
We hope you found this article useful. Be sure to check other articles on our blog that cover eczema, allergy testing and shots, supplements, and lifestyle tips to improve health. Thanks for reading!