Dust mites are not a particularly well-known insect, but make no mistake: they are just as irritating and destructive as any other form of household pest. In this post, we explore the signs of dust mite bites, and how to effectively treat them. Read on to find out more.

What are dust mites?

A common household pest, dust mites are tiny, microscopic insects that feed off dust, moisture – and human skin tissue. They are thus a very common presence in all areas of our homes; in fact, a few feet of space can sometimes hold up to several million of these critters. They are most heavily concentrated in places containing dead flakes of our skin tissue, ie our bedding. Because of their minute size, however, they can go undetected for years at a stretch. You see, due to their microscopic dimensions (less than 0.3 millimeters in length), they are invisible to the naked eye, and can only be observed using x10 magnifying glass. On top of that, their bodies are translucent, ie clear.

One of the few clear signs or traces left by dust mites leave is the effect their proximity has on us. Some individuals have allergic reactions to creatures, these often take the form of eczema break-outs; whilst those who suffer from asthma find their symptoms are often aggravated by these bugs. Such symptoms tend to get worse after vacuuming or sweeping, as this stirs up the mites and their fecal matter, making them more likely to be inhaled in the air you breathe.

Dust mites are most heavily concentrated in places containing dead skin tissue from our skin: ie, our bedding materials. They much prefer warm, humid environments to cold, dry ones, where they die easily. Though the males of the species have a short lifespan (only 9 to 19 days), the females can survive for up to two months, and lay up to 100 eggs during that time – dust mites are certainly fast breeders.

Dust mite bites: signs and symptoms

Although dust mites do produce an effect on us, it is not quite true to say that this is a result of their ‘bites’. Dust mites don’t bite us! For unlike bed bugs, dust mites do not feed on human blood: it is those dead, peeling-off flakes of skin tissue alone that are of interest to them. That is where their contact with our physical bodies begins and ends. (Because our skin constantly sheds dead cells, we provide a steady food supply for these creatures).

Actually, the only reason this myth of dust mite ‘bites’ perseveres is because dust mites are often blamed for those bites that are the work of bed bugs – probably because, like bed bugs, dust mites are an elusive, invisible enemy; and also because most people do not want to believe that their home contains bed bugs, due to the associations with uncleanliness that these insects possess.

As mentioned, dust mites DO have an effect on certain categories of people; however this is more akin to an allergic reaction – not to the dust mites themselves, either, but to their fecal matter; and it occurs when these particles are inhaled, not when the dust mites bite us. And it is only certain categories of people – mostly those who are either very young or very old – who exhibit such reactions.

What are the main signs and dust mites bites symptoms of what we might as well call ‘dust mite allergies’? The answer is that it differs from individual to individual. Some of the most common reactions are:

  • Cold or flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, blocked nose, sneezing, chesty cough, and the like
  • Irritation in the eyes. Some peoples’ eye becomes watery, others become red and bloodshot. Other people still come to have bags under the eyes, as if they have been crying.
  • In some people, the upper pallet of their mouth becomes very itchy, or the throat or inside of the nose does
  • In children, a common, tell-tale indicator of an allergic reaction to dust mites is frequent nose-rubbing

As can be seen, dust mite bites are often difficult to distinguish from cold, asthma, or allergies that have a different source. When it comes to bed bug bites, however, there is a clear difference: beg bug bites appear on your skin as red spots (often lined up in a row), bearing somewhat of a resemblance mosquito bites; they take a while to appear, and it usually takes them at least a couple of weeks to fully heal.

Dust mite bites: treatment

Prevention is the best form of treatment, and the best way to ‘treat’ mite bites (allergies) is to limit the quantity of time you are exposed to them by taking measures to transform your house into a dust mite-free zone. These include:

  • regular dusting and vacuuming (eliminate the dust, and you eliminate the dust mites!);
  • regular washing of your bedding and other linen (at least once weekly); cleaning your carpet;
  • smoking OUTDOORS only (if you combine dirt, dust and cigarette smoke, then you are creating a veritable breeding ground for dust mites);
  • spraying your home with certain chemical sprays.

Some other methods of eliminating dust mites from your home are:

  • encasing your mattress in a protective cover;
  • dehumidifying and lowering the temperature of the room below the point where dust mites can survive and thrive (this will be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit; using synthetic fiber pillows instead of feather or foam ones;
  • disposing of stuffed and feathered toys, as these also collect dust mites.

Of course, if your home is already infested by dust mites, and you have started exhibiting signs of an allergic reaction to them, then you will have to treat the symptoms. If you want to get some relief, try these over-the-counter medications:

  • Antihistamines: anti-itching medication, helps relieve symptoms of itchy, irritable nose, mouth, eyes etc
  • Decongestants: these drugs help to clear clogged up nose, chest, and ears