We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
Dust mites are common household pests. These microscopic bugs are some of the most common allergy and asthma triggers around the world.
Many people think that they are allergic to dust when they have an allergy to dust mites. Dust mites do not bite, but they can cause allergic reactions and skin rashes.
This article looks at the symptoms of dust mite allergies. It also looks at how to get rid of dust mites and prevent allergic reactions.
Unlike other members of the mite family, dust mites do not actually bite. Dust mites do not feed on the blood of humans as some other mites do.
Although they may “hitchhike” on clothing, it is a myth that dust mites live on people. They feed primarily on dander, or flakes of dead skin that fall from humans and animals.
Dust consists of skin particles, animal fur, and dirt from outside. It also contains dust mite feces and decomposing dust mite bodies. It is a protein in the feces and dead mites that cause the bite-like rash on humans.
These particles are so small that they can become airborne, and people can inhale them when something disturbs dust. This can cause an allergic reaction to occur.
Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs when the body mistakenly identifies a harmless substance as an intruder. That is what a dust mite allergy is.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), common symptoms of dust mite allergies include:
- a runny nose
- itchy, red, or watery eyes
- a stuffy nose
- an itchy nose, mouth, or throat
- itchy, red skin
- postnasal drip, which is a flow of mucus from behind the nose into the throat
A person may recognize these symptoms as being similar to those of seasonal allergies, and they may even mistake them for seasonal allergies in the warmer months.
For minor allergies, people usually do not need to see a doctor. Taking over-the-counter medications can be enough to combat the symptoms and provide relief.
Decongestants and antihistamines are the most common allergy medications. They can help get rid of a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and itching.
Sometimes, the symptoms may be severe enough that they require a visit to the doctor’s office. A doctor can prescribe:
- nasal corticosteroids
- leukotriene receptor antagonists
- cromolyn sodium
If a person with a dust mite allergy does not get complete relief from medications, they can consider immunotherapy, or allergy shots. These work by gradually increasing a person’s tolerance to certain allergy triggers.
Dust mites are very small, and there are many of them in almost every home, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This makes it difficult to remove them completely.
A house does not need to be visibly dirty to trigger a dust mite allergy reaction. According to Asthma UK, research suggests that no method is likely to make a useful difference to the number of dust mites in a home.
However, they go on to say that some people with asthma notice a difference in their symptoms by trying the following:
- regularly vacuuming
- airing rooms
- choosing hard floors rather than carpets
- using dust mite covers on bedding
- using air filters and purifiers
Freezing and then washing soft toys can also help remove dust mites. Specifically, leaving toys overnight in a sealed bag in the freezer will kill the dust mites, and washing them in hot water will remove their bodies.
Washing clothes and linens using the hot wash setting will also help remove dust mites. Wash them in water that is at least 130°F (54°C) to kill dust mites, and wash them regularly — preferably every week.
Allergen-proof covers are available for comforters and pillows that are not suitable for regular washing. These are available for purchase online.
According to the AAFA, studies suggest that more dust mites live in the bedroom than anywhere else in the home. They go on to suggest that the bedroom is the best place to start when trying to prevent infestations of dust mites.
The following sections list some prevention and removal tips in more detail.
Remove household dust
As dust mites mostly eat the dead skin that makes up household dust, infrequent dusting can make a home welcoming to dust mites. Therefore, regular dusting can lower the number of dust mites living in the home, as it removes their food source.
When cleaning, try dusting decorations first to give the dust time to settle on the floor before vacuuming. Also, always use a damp cloth to dust, as dry dusting can move the dust into the air.
Controlling humidity can also help prevent dust mites. Dust mites transfer air and water through their body walls and are subject to desiccation at low humidity. This means that they literally dry up and die.
Well-ventilated homes in dry climates contain fewer dust mites than those in less ventilated and more humid climates. Therefore, investing in a dehumidifier could help ease the symptoms of a dust mite allergy.
Keeping the humidity at less than 50% can help prevent a dust mite infestation.
Dust mites do not survive in extreme temperatures. They thrive in temperatures of 68–77°F (20–25°C), so keeping the temperature below this could help prevent them from remaining alive.
People should also try to clean the air conditioner filters regularly to prevent or reduce the spreading of dust mites.
On the other end of the temperature scale, one study suggests that using an electric blanket each night could help prevent dust mite infestations.
The following table looks at the main differences between dust mites and bedbugs.
|What do they eat?||Dust mites eat flakes of dead skin.||Bedbugs drink human blood to survive.|
|How small are they?||A dust mite measures only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter (mm).||Adult bedbugs, in general, are about the size of an apple seed (5–7 mm).|
|What temperatures do they like?||Dust mites prefer temperatures of 68–77°F (20–25°C).||Bedbugs can survive and remain active at temperatures as low as 46°F (8°C), but they die when their body temperatures reach 113°F (45°C).|
|How can I deal with an infestation?||There are many measures a person can take to help remove dust mites.||If there is an infestation of bedbugs, a person can contact a professional to deal with it.|
Regularly cleaning the home can help alleviate the symptoms of dust mite allergies and prevent large numbers of dust mites.
Dust mites do not bite, but an infestation can still cause problems.
Allergies can be serious, especially in those with asthma, so it is important to see an allergist or doctor for advice if symptoms persist or become unbearable.