As the ultimate opponent to a clean and spotless home, critters and pests are a headache we all have to deal with from time to time.
Of these pests, dust mites are one of the most common.
While they don’t leave bites on your skin, they can trigger both asthma and other allergies that vary in severity.
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.
In this post we'll cover:
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.