Dust Mite Bites: Symptoms and Treatments

Dust mites may not be a particularly well-known pest but make no mistake, they are just as irritating as any other form of household pest. 

Dust mites do not bite. In fact, they aren’t physically capable of biting us. Instead of mouths or pincers, they have openings that they use to scoop up their food. This means that unlike bed bugs, dust mites do not feed on human blood. Their main source of sustenance is actually our dead skin flakes.

What are dust mites?

A common household pest, dust mites are tiny, microscopic insect-like arthropods that feed off dust, bacteria, pollen, and human skin tissue. They pull moisture from the air and absorb it through their bodies. They can, therefore, be a very common presence in all areas of our homes. In fact, a mere few feet of space can sometimes hold up to several million of these critters. 

They are most heavily concentrated in places which contain discarded flakes of human skin tissue. Because of their minute size, however, they can go undetected for years and therefore are hard to get rid of. At up to only 0.5 millimeter in length, they are invisible to the naked eye and can only be observed by using a microscope. To make it even more difficult to spot them, some are translucent.

One of the few clear signs that dust mites leave is the effect their proximity has on some of us. Some individuals have an allergic reaction to these creatures, often taking the form of eczema flare-ups, while those who suffer from asthma can find their symptoms aggravated by these bugs. Any 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 prefer warm, humid environments to cold, dry ones, where they die easily. Though the males of the species have a short lifespan (a little over a month), the females can survive for up to three months and can lay up to 80 eggs during that time. Dust mites certainly are fast breeders!

Dust mite bites: Signs and symptoms

Even though dust mites can have an effect on us, it is not true to say that this is a result of their bites.

It is here where their contact with our physical bodies begins and ends. Due to the fact that our skin constantly sheds dead cells as it renews itself, we provide these creatures a steady supply of food. Actually, the only reason this myth of dust mite bites perseveres is that dust mites are often blamed for bites that are actually the work of bed bugs.

This is probably because, like bed bugs, dust mites are an elusive, invisible enemy. It is also because most people do not want to believe that their home contains bed bugs due to the association with uncleanliness that those insects possess.

As mentioned, dust mites do have an effect on some people. This effect, however, is an allergic reaction. The reaction is to bits and pieces of dead dust mites as well as their feces. It occurs when these particles are inhaled. They are an allergy like any other allergy and have been blamed for asthma development in children. Unlike seasonal allergies, symptoms of dust mite allergies persist throughout the year.

What are the main signs symptoms of 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, a stuffy nose, sneezing, cough, etc.
  • Eye irritation, including itchy, watery, or red eyes or swollen bags under the eyes
  • In some people, the upper pallet of their mouth, their throat, or the inside of their nose becomes very itchy
  • Asthma attacks
  • Eczema (skin rash)
  • For children, a common tell-tale indicator of an allergic reaction to dust mites is frequent nose-rubbing.

As you can see, dust mite allergies can be difficult to distinguish from a cold, the flu, or asthma or allergies caused by a different source. When it comes to bed bug bites, however, there is a clear difference: bed bug bites appear on your skin as raised red spots (often lined up in a row) and bear a slight resemblance to mosquito bites. Additionally, bed bug bites take a while to appear and it usually takes them at least a couple of weeks to fully heal.

dust mite bites pictures

phugunfire/Shutterstock.com

Dust mite allergies: Treatment

Prevention is the best form of treatment. The best way to treat mite allergies is to limit the amount of time you are exposed to them by taking measures to transform your house into a dust mite-free zone. These include:

  • Regular dusting (with a damp cloth) and vacuuming (with a HEPA filter). (Eliminate the dust, and you eliminate the dust mites!)
  • Regular washing of your bedding and other linen (at least once a week). Any linens that can’t be washed can be frozen to kill the mites.
  • Treating the home with benzyl benzoate or tannic acid. However, check with your allergist before using chemicals. They can exacerbate some allergies.

Some other methods to eliminate dust mites from your home are:

  • Encasing your mattress in a protective cover.
  • Dehumidifying (dust mites can’t survive at less than 50% humidity) and lowering the room temperature below the point where dust mites can survive and thrive. This is around 70ºF (21ºC).
  • Using synthetic fiber pillows rather than feather or foam.
  • Disposing of stuffed or feathered toys as they can also collect dust mites.
  • Replacing carpeting with hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring.

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

  • Antihistamines: An anti-itching medication that helps relieve the symptoms of itchy, irritable nose, mouth, eyes, etc.
  • Decongestants: This medication will help to clear up a clogged up nose, chest, and ears.

If you have severe symptoms, set up an appointment with an allergist so you can be tested and treated. They may prescribe stronger antihistamines or even corticosteroids. Immunotherapy is another option to treat allergies.

16 Comments

Jack vaccaro

I have two areas in my home that have I guess are dust mites, your article indicates that dust mites don’t bite I’m now confused. When I set at my computer desk witch sets on a carpet I get overcome with stinging bites and can’t see what is biting me there are no bite Mark’s. Just in that small area can move two feet from the desk and no more stings. The only other area that I get attacked with the biting sting is my bedroom chair moving a few feet away no more stings. I have tried many products that claim that their product will remove the dust mites plus many more. Can you give me any idea of what chemical or product I can try. Thank you so much

    Karen

    It sounds like you’re not dealing with dust mites, since, as the article states, dust mites don’t bite us and cause itching, rather dust mites cause allergy or cold-like symptoms. Have you considered the itching to be caused by anything other than pests? Often things like detergents, soaps and even certain types of fabrics and fibers can cause skin irritation that feels like bug bites.

Nicci

I have numerous bites from dust mites. I just came from my dermatologist (one of the best) and he assured me that they do bite.

    Karen

    I think your dermatologist might have meant the rash that some people get from dust mite feces since dust mites don’t have a mouth with teeth and therefore they are unable to bite you. The allergy people get from dust mites, however, can sometimes look like bug bites but in reality it’s just skin irritation.

    STEPHANIE

    Hi Nicci! Can u please share to me what did you take or do for ur skin irritation? Im also going through this condition.

DWuest

I have never experienced the knowledge with dust mites. If they leave feces behind what would it look like and is it noticeable

    Karen

    Dust mite feces are extremely small, about 0.01 to 0.04 millimeters in size, therefore they aren’t noticeable and you won’t be able to see them without a microscope.

    Jasmin

    I have dust mites allergy and have been dealing with pimple looking bumps do to it. Is lowering my self-esteem how can I get rid of those bumps on my body? Allergist is already treating me but bumps just won’t go away.

    Karen

    Unfortunately, this really does seem like something a doctor would be far more qualified to answer. However, if the bumps are caused by dust mite allergy, getting rid of the dust mites might help with the problem. As a matter of fact, we have written an article about this. You can check it out here.

Dee Townsend

I have dust mites, they don’t bite but I feel them on my skin like something is crawling on my skin. It’s very irritating, I wash my bedding once a week . I don’t really know what to do , I even use mattress coverings. And your right can’t see them , I just feel like something crawling on me.

    Karen

    Check out our article on how to get rid of dust mites where we listed everything there is to know on getting rid of these irritating pests.

Shelly

I have hairs in my mouth, I think this is from mites, it happens during the night,I can’t get rid of them. I am looking for a remedy.
Shelly

Can you help me?

    Karen

    I don’t think the hair in your mouth might be caused by dust mites. Could it be possible they might come from your pillow, etc?

    Kathy

    I had the feeling of hair in my mouth one night and I figured out it was too much salt intake. Try eliminating salt.

mia

For 59 yearsI’ve run a clean house. Have very few carpets.My floors shine. DraPes are dry cLeaned every six months, and now MY husband I are being eaten alive by either bedbugs or dust mites The day afterI had the exterminator for bed bugs we had MORE bites than ever. Once I saw a bug but it didn’t look like pics of bedbugs. And that’s it!!! We have been fighting this for four months …and we are nowhere. We’ve never had so much as an ant or a roach. Our legs and arms are disgusting to look at. Help!!!!! Would appreciate some advice. Thanks.

    InsectCop

    If it didn’t look like a bed bug, is it possible it was something else? Read this article, it might help you figuring out what exactly you’re dealing with.

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