Dust mites may not be 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 will explore the signs of dust mite bites and discuss how to treat them effectively. 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 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 at a time and therefore are hard to get rid of. At less than 0.3 millimeters in length, they are invisible to the naked eye and can only be observed by using a magnifying glass. To make it even more difficult to spot them, their bodies 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 (only 9 to 19 days), the females can survive for up to two months and can lay up to 100 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 quite true to say that this is a result of their “bites”. Dust mites do not bite us! This is because, unlike bed bugs, dust mites do not feed on human blood, rather it is those dead flakes of skin tissue that are of interest to them. 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 more akin to an allergic reaction. The reaction is not to the dust mites themselves, either, but rather to their fecal matter. It occurs when these particles are inhaled, not when the dust mites bite us. And only certain categories of people – mostly those who are either very young or very old – exhibit such reactions.
What are the main signs 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, a stuffy nose, sneezing, a chest cough, etc.
- Eye irritation. Some people’s eyes become watery while others become red and bloodshot. Yet others find themselves with bags under the eyes as if they had been crying.
- In some people, the upper pallet of their mouth, their throat, or the inside of their nose becomes very itchy.
- For children, a common tell-tale indicator of an allergic reaction to dust mites is frequent nose-rubbing.
As you can see, dust mite bites are often difficult to distinguish from cold, asthma, or allergies that come from a different source. When it comes to bed bug bites, however, there is a clear difference: bed bug bites appear on your skin as 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: Treatment
Prevention is the best form of treatment. The best way to treat “mite bites” 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 and vacuuming. (Eliminate the dust, and you eliminate the dust mites!)
- Regular washing of your bedding and other linen (at least once a week).
- Smoking OUTDOORS only. (If you combine dirt, dust, and cigarette smoke, you are creating a veritable breeding ground for dust mites.)
- Spraying your home with special chemical sprays.
Some other methods to eliminate dust mites from your home are:
- Encasing your mattress in a protective cover.
- Dehumidifying 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.
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.