Monday, 24 December 2012

Dust Mites - Do They Bite?

House dust mites, the type which you can find inside your mattresses are small arthropods, which are part of the same class of arachnid as spiders and scorpions. Dust mites are off-white and are extremely difficult to see without a magnifier. They can be found within mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, carpets, soft toys, sofas, curtains, etc. A mattress containing these little mites can have anywhere between 100,000 to 10 million inhabiting it.

So if you are experiencing itchiness at home, this could be the reason why.

Do Dust Mites Bite?

Dust mites mainly feed on dead human skin and dander. As dead skin is the favoured food of the dust mite the most ideal place for them to live is in your bed, blankets, mattresses, bed sheets and towels. A normal person can shed 1.5grams of dead skin flakes in a day.

The dust mite then chews and breaks down their food with their jaws and saliva, then just like animals the food is moved down the gut with wave like motions until it is fully digested and then moved through the anus and dispelled in the form of a pellet. One particular enzyme which is present in the faeces can evoke an immune response by humans which is what we sometimes mistake as a bite. Dust mites do not bite. But they do carry an enzyme allergen in their faeces which can affect us.

What are the symptoms of a dust mite allergy?

Dust mite allergic reactions are similar to those of a bite by a mosquito or midge flies. When enzymes released by the dust mite comes into contact with the skin of a human, the person’s immune system considers it to be a harmful intruder, bacteria or virus, and releases antibodies to attempt to neutralise the threat.

Other than causing skin irritation and itchiness, dust mites can also lead to several other allergic reactions such as asthma, frequent sneezing, runny nose, itching inside the nose and throat, cough, watery, swollen, red eyes, etc. Prolonged exposure to dust mites by people who are sensitive to them can give rise to asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. Luckily enough not everyone is allergic to dust mites, there are plenty of people who display absolutely no symptoms at all that they have ever been in contact with dust mites.

How to prevent a dust mite allergic reaction

In order to get rid of dust mites you must also find a way to detect whether the place is contaminated or not.

Detection is the first step towards controlling and preventing reactions.

There’s several companies who claim to have dust mite detection kits that are able to tell you if you have a mild or severe case of dust mites in your house, however, there’s no reviews to back up these claims, so we are unable to guarantee the effectiveness of these kits.

A more awkward method of detection is to collect a sample of dust in water and examining it under a microscope x10 magnification. Both methods though, leave much to be desired, the only way you can control the population is by keeping your house cool, dry and as clean as possible.

There are some simple precautions you can follow to avoid dust mite allergies from flaring up:

1. Firstly, wash all bedding, bed covers, pillow covers, blankets, even your curtains, at least once a month with hot water (do this more often if you believe you already have an infestation.)

2. Replacing feather filled pillows with synthetic ones, memory foam and latex ones are a particularly good option.

3. Dust mites grow vigorously in humid and moist conditions. Humid conditions can be controlled with air conditioning and dehumidifiers.

Dust Mite Treatment

Dust mites can survive in any kind of climate, but places with higher than average humidity offer greater comfort to breeding mites.

If controlling the problem is still not helping there are a number of treatments to help you deal with the allergic reaction from dust mites.

Allergy creams, creams made for bites, nettles and similar stings can help soothe the initial itch and stinging sensation and calm down angry irritated skin.

Antihistamines can also help the allergic reaction to dust mites, Citirizine in particular, can help.

Do not scratch or pick at the irritation as this can worsen the reaction and even infect the sore with other bacteria. If the bite like formations are severe and don’t seem to be going away with the above methods then see your GP.

So, As you have learnt, Dust mites don’t really bite, the bite like reaction you get from them is actually from their faeces, I'm sure that makes you feel a whole load better.

Dust mites are not predators or parasites, they are scavengers, living off dead skin cells and dander.
Remember humidity, dust and warmth propagate their breeding, so take all relevant precautions by keeping your place clean dry and relatively cool, and by washing your fabrics on a regular basis!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks for the post. I read it in its entirety and I would like to say that you did a good job, especially with handling the grammar of your article. Like you, I also blog and I did a recent post on dust mites but my article was written at a different angle. I chose to focus on how dust mites affect those with asthma and how homeowners can implement small but effective measures to minimize their contact with dust mites within the home.

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  5. I am certain this is my issue.....applying tea tree oil to the affected areas helps take the itch & burn away.

  6. I am certain this is my issue.....applying tea tree oil to the affected areas helps take the itch & burn away.

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