Dust mites – what are they, are they dangerous? Effective treatments

You can’t see them but you can definitely feel their presence. If you find yourself waking up in the morning with a stuffy nose and headache everyday, then you might be living with house dust mites. And you are more likely to develop an allergic reaction to them.

So, what exactly are dust mites? And why does it freak out millions of people?

Introducing: Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny, eight-legged creatures that are about one-quarter to one-third of a millimetre in size. It is so tiny that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. These wingless creatures with oval-shaped body shape are actually related to ticks and spiders.

Adult female mites can lay up to 40 to 80 eggs singly or in small groups. After the nymphal stages, dust mites spend two to four months of their life eating dead skin from pets and humans while reproducing a new generation every three to four weeks. They don’t bite nor can you feel them crawl on your skin. However, they can easily move through the air such as when you sweep the floor or change the sheets, thanks to its tiny size and multiple legs.

Also, these creatures love and survive best in warmer temperatures and humid conditions with 55% to 75% humidity. In the United States, dust mites population are higher during July to August because of the warm weather.

Where can you find them?

Dust mites are everywhere. However, most of them live in human beds since they prefer a supply of skin flakes or animal dander in order to survive. In fact, an average mattress contains 100,000 to 10 million of these creatures. And a gram of dust which can be thriving in your pillows can house as many as 19,000 mites.

Aside from your bed and pillow, dust mites can be found in clothes, upholstered furniture, long-fibred carpets, drapes and curtains, and even on soft toys. Cars can also be a victim of dust mites where they can be found in the steering wheel and car seats. In other words, areas with soft, dark, warm and humid environments will always be their favourite.

Surprisingly, dust mites can also live on human hair and skin, especially in concentrated high populations. In fact, up to twenty-five dust mites can live in just one hair follicle, with 90% of them living in the hair and scalp. This can result to certain forms of acne or thinning and falling out of hair.

Also, dust mites feed on dog dander and create allergic reactions and asthma problems. Hence, regularly brushing your dog and cleaning the house can help eliminate allergens that are caused by your pets.

What about memory foam mattresses?

Memory foam mattresses claim that their mattresses are dust mite and allergen resistant. This not true. Memory foam mattresses are made of open-cell viscoelastic foam, which means the open cells pass air to adjoining cells when you lie down and slowly take in air as you stand up.

The truth is this structure is even prone to taking a large number of dust mites. Hence, there is no memory foam mattress that is free of dust mites and allergen. If you really want to protect your mattress and pillows against mites, then going for dust mite resistant casings are a better choice.

How will you know if there are dust mites in your home?

The first and most obvious sign is if you or any other person living with you has allergic reactions. However, a dust mite allergy can be difficult to diagnose because of similarity with fever or flu symptoms.

If you want the most accurate way to check dust mites, then you can call a professional and have them test your home. You can opt for this since the presence of dust mites can be confirmed microscopically but comes with a price. Otherwise, you can place a small amount of dust from your home on the surface water and examine it using a magnifier.

Are dust mites harmful to humans?

Generally, no. If you are not allergic to them, then you won’t even know that they exist. However, dust mites are often associated with respiratory and dermatological allergies. In fact, their skins and feces can cause allergic reaction which can range from mild to severe. If you are allergic to dust mites, you can experience any of the following:

  • Rash
  • Higher risk for asthma attacks
  • Coughing and congestion
  • Nasal congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Itching

Dust mites can be eliminated. Protect your mattresses and keep your house clean by vacuuming regularly can help a lot in getting rid of these pesky pests.