If you notice tiny white bugs crawling over your skin, you need to identify them immediately! Many little white bugs are mites (small arachnids with eight legs). Some mite species (like dust mites and mold mites) don’t bite but may cause allergic reactions. Other little white bugs are less benign and will live and feed on your body.
If you want to get rid of the bugs and prevent bites, you will first need to work out precisely what type of tiny white bugs you are dealing with.
Here you will get a complete list of tiny white bugs you can see on your skin:
1. Scabies mites
What are scabies mites?
Scabies mites are microscopic arachnids that burrow into the skin to lay their eggs. You may notice immature mites, like tiny white bugs, crawling on the skin surface. When the mites have matured, the life cycle will begin again unless you apply the appropriate treatment to get rid of them.
What causes scabies mites?
Scabies mites are transmitted by close contact with infected people or animals. They can burrow into your skin to lay eggs within 5 minutes of contact with exposed skin, so they are easily spread from one person to another.
Do scabies mites bite?
Scabies mites bite as they tunnel into the skin. This can cause a rash, severe itching, and tiny blisters to form on the skin. Scabies most frequently infests these body parts where there are folds in the skin, such as:
- between fingers,
- in the crooks of elbows and knees,
- the groin,
- the armpits,
- and under the breasts.
How to get rid of scabies mites on my skin?
A scabies infestation must be confirmed by a healthcare professional, who will take a skin scraping to check for the presence of mites. If you do have scabies, you will need to use a prescribed insecticide treatment to get rid of them. Commonly prescribed medications against scabies include:
- Permethrin cream
- Ivermectin oral medication
- Crotamiton cream
2. Dust mites
What are dust mites?
Dust mites (AKA house mites) are tiny arachnids prevalent in houses and are among the most common allergy triggers. Dust mites feed on dead and dry skin and live in areas where dead skin cells accumulate (such as bedding, carpeting, and furniture).
What causes dust mites?
Dust mites eat dead skin cells and will make their home anywhere there is a plentiful food source. As their name suggests, these mites live in dust and are more common in dusty houses. However, dust mites are so small that they are virtually impossible to see with the naked eye and often go undetected.
Do dust mites bite?
Dust mites don’t bite humans, but they can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks in some people. This is most likely to happen at night, as dust mites typically live in bedding and will have direct contact with your skin as you sleep.
Allergic reactions to dust mites cause symptoms such as:
- Sneezing or a runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, red, or runny eyes
- Intense itching in the throat, nose, or the roof of the mouth
- Facial pressure and pain
The symptoms of allergic attacks can often be relieved using over-the-counter medications. However, if your symptoms are severe, you should visit a doctor to confirm their cause through allergy skin testing and blood tests.
How to get rid of dust mites on my skin?
Dust mites don’t bite people, but their allergens can cause a red, itchy skin rash. You can use over-the-counter medications (such as antihistamines and decongestants) to treat your allergy symptoms. However, to get rid of dust mites, you will have to deep-clean your house.
It can be impossible to eliminate dust mites from your house, but reducing their numbers can spare you from future allergy attacks. To do this, you will need to:
- Dust and vacuum everywhere
- Wash all bedding and pillowcases (including pet bedding)
- Thoroughly clean your carpets
- Clean all furniture upholstery
- Wash all blinds and curtains
- Wash all toys and stuffed animals
3. Body lice
What are body lice?
Body lice are tiny, blood-sucking insects that live on human skin. Unlike head lice (which infest the scalp) and pubic lice (which live in pubic hair), body lice can bite any part of your body.
These flattened, wingless insects are usually grayish-or brown. Their eggs (also known as nits) are small, white, and oval-shaped.
What causes body lice?
Body lice live on human skin and in the clothing and bedding of infected people. They are easily spread by direct contact with an infested person or their belongings and are most commonly associated with crowded or unhygienic living conditions.
Do body lice bite?
Body lice bite humans because they feed on our blood and will usually target areas with soft skin (like the armpits or waistline). The bites of body lice typically cause itching and skin irritation and can be identified by:
- A red dot that swells to form a small lump
- Skin inflammation
- Severe itching and skin irritation
How to get rid of body lice on my skin?
If you have body lice, you may be able to clear the infestation and treatment yourself using over-the-counter medications and home remedies. To kill body lice, you will have to wash all your clothes and bedding on high heat to exterminate the bugs and eggs. Alternatively, you can apply heat with an iron. If you do use an iron, pay extra attention to the seams of clothes and bedding, as these are harborage spots for body lice.
If you have a severe body lice infestation, you may need to make a doctor’s appointment. They may prescribe an insecticide treatment to kill the lice or recommend medications to soothe the itch of bites.
To prevent a body lice infestation, wash your body and clothes regularly with soapy water, and avoid close contact with infected people. You should also inspect the seams of second-hand clothing for body lice before bringing it indoors. If there is even a chance that new clothing or bedding may have body lice living in it, wash it on high heat immediately.
4. Mold mites (AKA Grain mites)
What are mold mites?
Mold mites (or grain mites) are tiny white bugs with hairy bodies that live in mold. Mold mites eat mold (as their name suggests), though they also feed on fungi, yeast, and high-protein food molecules. They are common pests in food warehouses, so they are also known as grain mites.
What causes mold mites?
As mold mites eat mold and fungi, they love damp places and are most likely to infest houses with high moisture and humidity levels. They are common in greenhouses and may also invade stores of flour, grains, cereals, etc. Mold mites are very common, but they usually go unnoticed unless they are present in huge numbers.
Do mold mites bite?
Mold mites don’t bite, and they don’t present any real threat to humans. However, they can cause allergic reactions in some people, which are triggered either by the hairs of the mold mites or the mold spores on their bodies.
If you see tiny white bugs crawling on your body and have bumpy, irritated patches of skin, you may have mold mites.
How to get rid of mold mites on my skin?
Mold mites are so tiny that they can barely be seen with the naked eye, though they may be visible under a magnifying glass. You can get rid of mold mites on your skin by showering with soapy water, but removing them from your house may be more difficult.
Mold mites are very common and may be impossible to eliminate completely. Fortunately, you can significantly reduce their numbers by making your home less attractive.
First, clean away all mold in your house by spraying soapy water onto affected areas and scrubbing the spores with hot water. If the mold situation is significant, call a professional cleaner to do this – they will be able to kill all the spores and use products to prevent future mold formation.
Next, make your home less mold-friendly by reducing moisture levels and humidity. You can reduce humidity by placing dehumidifiers in problem areas or increasing ventilation in mold-prone rooms (such as the kitchen and bathroom).
Finally, wash all your clothes and bedding on high heat to kill bugs and eggs. If you have mold mites on your skin, shower thoroughly with hot water and soap before wearing fresh clothes.
5. Bird and rodent mites
What are bird and rodent mites?
Rodent and bird mites are tiny gray or white bugs that infest birds, rats, and mice but will also bite humans if their old host dies. Bird and rodent mites are most common in places with many birds (including chickens and pigeons) or rats and mice.
What causes rodent and bird mites?
You are most likely to encounter bird and rodent mites if you have contact with infected animals. Though both types of bugs prefer the blood of their respective hosts, they will feed on humans if they need to. However, they are unlikely to live on human bodies; bird mites typically live near bird nests, while rodent mites prefer warm places around rodent nests.
Do rodent and bird mites bite?
Bird and rat mites will bite humans if their usual hosts are not available. Though they don’t like to live on human hosts, their bites may be very itchy or even painful and may cause a rash to develop on the skin.
How to get rid of bird and rodent mites on my skin?
If you have bite marks on your body and think that rodent or bird mites are the culprits, you will need to wash all your clothes and shower carefully with soapy water to remove the bugs. In addition, you can reduce itching using warm water, Epsom salt, or other over-the-counter remedies.
The next step is to work out where the mites are coming from. They may be your first indication of a rodent infestation, or if you keep birds, they could be living in your chicken coop. If you cannot identify the source of the bites or think other insects may cause them, call pest control for a professional assessment of your property.
Frequently asked questions
Can these tiny white bugs burrow into your skin?
Scabies mites are little white bugs that can indeed burrow into your skin. Scabies can tunnel into the epidermis within 5 minutes of crawling onto exposed skin and will lay their eggs in these skin burrows.
Other little white bugs (like body lice) will bite you, but this is because they feed off your blood – they won’t burrow into your skin.
Other bugs, like dust mites and grain mites (or mold mites), don’t bite at all, but they can cause allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis in some people.
Can you feel mites crawling on your skin?
Mites are very tiny bugs, and you won’t necessarily feel them crawling on your skin. Body lice are a little bigger and more noticeable, though most people are unlikely to feel them crawling over their skin.
People often report being able to feel bed bugs walking over their skin surface, though these are much larger than mites (around the size of an apple seed).
Which bugs bite at night?
If you wake up covered in bites, but you have never seen tiny white bugs on your skin, you probably have bed bugs. Bed bug bites look like small, reddish welts and usually appear in lines, rings, or clusters on the skin’s surface.
Bed bugs have brown, flattened bodies with a distinctive apple-seed shape, making them easy to identify. However, they are only active at night and hide in mattress seams and other crevices during the day. They emerge to feed on their human host at night, and many people report feeling a crawling sensation as they walk over the skin’s surface.
To wrap it up
If you see little white bugs anywhere on your body, you will need to identify them immediately! Some white bugs (like body lice and scabies mites) are common human parasites and may require acaricide or insecticide treatment to get rid of.
However, not all white bugs on your skin will bite you. Dust mites and mold mites (AKA grain mites) are common in houses and usually harmless. However, dust mites and mold mites can trigger allergic attacks if they directly contact the skin. The bumpy, irritated patches of skin may subsequently be mistaken for insect bites.
If you have any kind of infestation at home, it is usually best to contact a pest control professional. They will be able to identify your pest, assess the infestation, and implement quick and effective pest control treatments to eliminate the bugs.