Ugh, all those things that bite in the middle of the night.
You might not want to know about them at all, but when you start seeing these pests, it will be good to know what they are, where they come from, and most importantly, how to get rid of them.
Well, never fear. This article will review common pests like bed bugs, fleas, ticks, scabies, carpet beetles and lice, to give you the down-low on what exactly is causing those annoying bites.
In this post we'll cover:
- About Bed Bugs
- About Fleas
- About Ticks
- About Scabies
- About Carpet Beetles
- About Lice
- About Dust Mites
- What Causes Dust Mites?
- Dust Mites Allergy Signs & Symptoms
- How to Treat Dust Mite Allergy
- How to Get Rid of Dust Mites
- Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs
- Dust Mites vs Lice
- Dust Mites vs Scabies
About Bed Bugs
If you are getting bites on your abdomen in the middle of the night, it’s likely you have bed bugs.
You will probably see the bites before you see the bugs, so it can be difficult to determine whether you have an infestation.
However, when examining your sheets, here are some things to look for.
- The bugs themselves: Bed bugs are small, and they have oval brownish bodies that swell up after they feed.
- Bloodstains on the sheets: This can be caused by the draw of blood from the body, or the intense itching of the scabs.
- Bedbug excrement: This appears as dark or rusty spots on the sheets or mattress
- Eggshells or shed skins: Bed bugs lay hundreds of eggs that may be as small as a speck of dust. The eggshells are easier to spot. The bugs also shed their skins often.
- An offensive odor: This comes from the bug’s scent glands
What Brings Bed Bugs?
A bed bug infestation can occur in bedrooms that aren’t very clean or have a lot of clutter.
However, they can also come in through other sources.
For instance, if you go on vacation to a place with an infestation, they may crawl into your luggage and get into your home, no matter how clean it is.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
There are several things you can do to get rid of bed bugs including the following:
- Clean all items near the bed and put them through a hot dryer cycle.
- Use a stiff brush to get rid of eggs in the mattress seams.
- Vacuum the bed and the surrounding area. Then wrap the vacuum in plastic and leave it in a garbage bag outdoors.
- Encase the mattress and box springs in a sealed plastic cover. Leave it on for over a year; that’s how long a bed bug can live.
- Repair cracks in the plaster where bed bugs can hide.
- Get rid of clutter around the bed.
While all of these steps are great for limiting and preventing infestations, the only way to be sure you get them all is to call in an exterminator.
The exterminator will use chemicals that are not safe for humans to use to kill the bed bugs.
Fleas are tiny bugs that grow in pet’s hair and feast on their flesh.
They are about 1/8” long and reddish brown in color.
They are difficult to spot so you may not find them on your pet, but if your pet is scratching excessively, this may be a sign that he has fleas. You also may spot the fecal matter before you see the fleas themselves.
What Brings Fleas?
Fleas are commonly caught from other animals when your pet is outside, but they are also good jumpers so it is easy for them to get into your home from outside.
They are most common during hot weather.
How do you Get Rid of Fleas?
Getting rid of fleas is a two-part process.
First, you will want to shampoo your pet with a flea shampoo. It will be easy to kill the fleas, but killing the eggs will be more difficult.
Make sure to go through the fur thoroughly with a fine-tooth comb after shampooing. You may even have to repeat the process.
You will also have to make sure the fleas aren’t lingering in your house.
Therefore, you will want to vacuum the house with a powerful vacuum making sure to get all upholstery, bedding and any areas you think fleas might hide.
You may want to follow up with a steam cleaner. All bedding should be washed as well.
Follow up by spraying a flea killing spray around the house.
Ticks are small blood sucking bugs that belong to the spider family.
They are typically brown or reddish brown and they can be as small as a pin head or as large as an eraser. They like to feast on pets and humans.
It’s pretty easy to determine if you were bitten by a tick because after they bite, they attach to your skin.
Tick bites are generally harmless and may do no more than itch and swell.
In some cases, however, they can cause an allergic reaction, or they can be carriers are harmful diseases.
The good news about ticks is they do not live indoors, so you won’t have to worry about an infestation.
How to Get Rid of a Tick
There are steps you should take if you were bitten, to minimize the chances that the bite will bring on a health condition.
These are as follows:
- Get as close to your skin’s surface as you can and remove the tick with tweezers or a tick removal tool.
- Pull the tick straight out doing your best to remove the entire body from your skin. If any is left, go back and remove the remnants.
- Clean the area with soap and water.
- Put the tick in rubbing alcohol to make sure it’s dead. Then put it in a sealed bag or container.
- Take it to your doctor to see if any follow up treatment is necessary.
Scabies are not bugs, but rather the infestation that occurs when mites called scarcoptes scabiei infest the outer layer of the skin.
This starts off as an angry rash that may be mistaken for other conditions. You may also see track-like borrows that occur when the female travels under the skin to lay eggs.
The mites are attracted to the arm and hand area as well as the breast and torso.
They may also live in the head, palms, soles, neck and face of very young children. They are very small and look like black dots to the human eye.
Although scabies is very annoying, it is usually not threatening to health. However, scabs on the rashes can open which can lead to an infection.
What Brings Scabies?
Scabies spreads through skin to skin contact. You can get them through shared items.
You may also get them from family members and sexual partners.
How Do You Get Rid of Scabies?
The only way to get rid of scabies is with prescription medication.
Your doctor may give you a pill or cream which will cure scabies in about three days.
Close family members should also take the medication even if they are not showing symptoms.
Scabies can also live on other surfaces for up to three days. Therefore, it’s advisable to wash any sheets or clothing the infected person used in hot water.
About Carpet Beetles
Carpet beetles are small bugs, usually 1 to 4 mm. in size. They are oval-shaped and have a black, white and yellow coloration.
Larvae are baby carpet beetles that are light brown or black and covered in dense, barbed hairs. They are slightly larger than adult beetles, about 2.3 cm in length.
Carpet beetles do not bite humans, but the babies feed on carpeting and other fabric materials. They may cause damage to those materials which will appear as isolated holes.
What Brings Carpet Beetles?
Carpet beetles are attracted to loose, easily consumed food particles.
They like to feed on lint, dust, hairballs, dead insects and damaged furniture.
They may fly in from the inside or they may come in if you bring something in from the outside that is infested with them.
If you keep your house clean of the things that attract them, you will probably be safe.
How Do You Get Rid of Carpet Beetles?
There are many things you can do to get rid of carpet beetles, including vacuuming, carpet steaming, using insecticide and cleaning bedding.
However, it will be difficult to completely exterminate them on your own. Calling in pest control will be your best move.
You gotta love it when your child comes home from school with a note that he or she has lice.
Lice are tiny wingless pests that feed on human blood.
They can be white, dark gray or black. They are usually found around the ears or at the nape of their neck.
Although lice are visible to the human eye, they can be difficult to see because they are very small and crawl quickly.
You may see the eggs before you see the bugs. These appear as yellowish-white dots that will be close to the scalp where it’s nice and warm.
The eggs may look like dandruff, but unlike dandruff, they will stick to hair instead of shaking off easily.
Lice are not life-threatening, but they can be annoying, causing intense itching on the scalp and neck.
What Brings Lice?
Lice are caught through person to person contact.
If you are near someone who has lice, the bugs may crawl from their head on to yours. You can also get lice from sharing items such as towels and hats.
How do You Get Rid of Lice?
Fortunately, there are several shampoos on the market that get rid of lice. Each product has different directions recommended for lice elimination.
You may have to leave the product on your head for several minutes and follow up by combing through the hair to make sure you get rid of the eggs.
The lice are easy to kill but the eggs tend to stay on hair where they can hatch and start another infestation.
Most shampoos also come with a spray that you can spray around the house to kill any bugs that may be crawling on furniture or clothing.
It is also advisable to wash any bedding or clothing in hot water to make sure the bugs are gone.
Bed bugs, fleas, ticks, scabies, carpet beetles, lice, oh my.
These are all things that can keep us awake at night, especially if we itch or think we feel something crawling on our skin.
But now that you know how to identify these pests and how to get rid of them, you will be more prepared for when they come crawling.
Don’t forget the drapes when doing a deep house clean. Read here How to Dust Drapes | Deep, Dry and Steam Cleaning Tips.
Rest assured, this article will take you through the various causes and symptoms of dust mites, as well as tips and tricks on how to get rid of and prevent them.
We will also have a look at how dust mites compare to other critters, more specifically bedbugs, lice, and scabies.
About Dust Mites
Unlike most critters, dust mites are not parasitic insects. This means they don’t bite, sting, or burrow themselves into your skin.
The irritant substance they create comes from their body fragments and fecal pellets. This harmful allergen causes a range of reactions, from coughing and asthma to an itchy rash.
Dust mites can live in several areas of your home and are found all over the world. Roughly 80% of homes in the US have detectable levels of dust mite allergen in at least one area.
What Causes Dust Mites?
Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments and tend to make their homes in places where dead skin cells accumulate.
They feed on these cells as well as house dust and absorb water from moisture in the air.
This makes bedding, curtains, carpeting, and upholstered furniture their ideal home in most houses. However, they can also be found in toys and stuffed animals.
The dust itself can often contain the feces and decayed bodies of dust mites, and it is these fragments that cause dust mite allergy.
Infestations can therefore be common if an area or household item isn’t cleaned or dusted both properly and regularly.
Dust Mites Allergy Signs & Symptoms
Dust mites are one of the most common triggers of allergy and asthma. These allergic reactions often range in symptoms and severity.
Symptoms may peak during the summer but can be experienced year-round. Having a family history of allergies can also make you develop a sensitivity to dust mites.
Below are some of the most common signs of dust mite allergy.
- Runny or blocked nose
- Itchy or sore throat
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Red, itchy skin rash
Long-term exposure to dust mites can also trigger more serious conditions, such as asthma and chronic sinusitis.
You may notice wheezing and chest pain as a result, and symptoms can be worse at night when lying down. Using extra pillows to lay down at an elevated angle may help slightly.
How to Treat Dust Mite Allergy
The best way to treat your allergies is to exterminate the source. However, depending on the severity of your symptoms, you might need more immediate relief.
The following treatments are some of the most common for dust-mite allergy, though it can be worth consulting with your doctor first.
- Antihistamines: These work by blocking the natural histamine your body produces when encountering an allergen, and can easily be purchased over-the-counter.
- Decongestants: Decongestants break up the mucus in your sinuses, and work especially well if your allergies cause a stuffy nose, postnasal drip, or sinus infections.
- Prescription allergy medications: These can include steroid nasal sprays and various drugs that tackle symptoms.
- Immunotherapy allergy shots: Injecting a small amount of a specific allergen into your system can help you build immunity over time. These are administered weekly over a longer period of time and are best for more severe allergies.
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites
Though it can be difficult to get rid of dust mites completely, taking the steps below to remove as many as possible from your home can help reduce and prevent allergic reactions.
- Frequent vacuuming, dusting, mopping, and washing can all treat dust mites.
- Pay extra attention to small spaces or hidden crevices where they might accumulate.
- Wash all bedding weekly in hot water.
- Deep-clean all carpets and rugs as often as possible.
- Use good-quality wet cloths like Swiffer when cleaning in order to trap dust properly.
- Zippered mattress and pillow covers can stop dust mites from entering your bedding.
- Dust mites are repulsed by the smell of Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, and Rosemary. Take a few drops of one or more of these oils and mix with water in a spray bottle, then lightly spray areas and allow them to air-dry.
- Avoid pesticides. Natural remedies like the ones suggested above are much better.
- Keep the humidity in your home low.
- Air purifiers and allergen-capturing filters can also help by reducing the concentration of dust mites and fecal matter in the air.
Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs
The main difference between bedbugs and dust mites is that bedbugs are parasitic insects, meaning they bite humans and feed off their blood.
Bedbugs are also larger than dust mites. They have brownish oval bodies that can be seen with the naked eye, and live in bedding, carpets, and curtains.
Though your bites can be quite telling, you can also check your sheets for other signs of an infestation such as bloodstains, bedbug excrement, or eggshells.
Frequent cleaning and vacuuming of your bed and the surrounding area will help limit infestation.
However, you could also call a specialist exterminator to ensure you get them all.
Dust Mites vs Lice
Unlike dust mites, lice are parasites that feed on human blood. They can be white, black, or grey and are typically found behind the ears or back of the neck.
The nits (lice eggs) are found on the scalp and appear as yellowy-white dots.
Lice are spread through person-to-person contact and cause intense itching, particularly around the scalp and neck.
The good news is there are many readily available shampoos that can treat lice. Each comes with its own instruction.
Dust Mites vs Scabies
Scabies refers to a very itchy skin condition, which is caused by an infestation of tiny mites that burrow into your skin.
They are small in size, resembling black dots, and are typically attracted to the hand, arm, breast, and torso regions.
Scabies is caught through skin-to-skin contact. Unlike dust mites and most other critters, the only way to treat scabies is through prescribed medication.
Read about more creepy-crawlies in your home here: Bed bugs: what are they and how to get rid of them.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.