What Is a Dust Mite?

A dust mite measures only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter. They are too small to see with your eyes alone. Under a microscope, they look like white bugs. They have eight legs, so they are not insects, but arthropods, like spiders. Dust mites thrive in temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius). They also like humidity levels of 70 to 80 percent. There are at least 13 species of mites. They are all well adapted to the environment inside your home. They feed mainly on the tiny flakes of human skin that people shed each day. These flakes work their way deep into the inner layers of furniture, carpets, bedding and even stuffed toys. These are the places where mites thrive. An average adult person may shed up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day. This is enough to feed one million dust mites!

Dust mites are tiny creatures, about a quarter of a millimetre long. They live off human skin scales which have been partially digested by moulds and thrive in humid environments. Mites are found in bedding, carpets, soft furnishings and clothing. In people allergic to dust mite, it is often not the mite itself but proteins in their droppings which cause the allergy. Each mite produces about 20 of these waste droppings every day and the droppings continue to cause allergic symptoms even after the mite has died.

House dust mite allergy is very common and is associated with asthma, eczema and perennial allergic rhinitis. A significant amount of exposure to house dust mite allergen happens in the bed, so taking precautions in the bedroom by using allergy-proof covers on bedding, washing it regularly can sometimes help, although clinical trials suggest that multiple measures need to be taken, possibly including the use of chemicals called acaricides, in order to see an effect. However, remember that dust mite allergen is found in all rooms of the house, on the floor and in soft furnishings, not just in the bedroom.

Measures to avoid house dust mite will lower, but do not totally remove, dust mite allergens. Often, this will be sufficient to significantly improve symptoms, but sometimes, the reduction may simply not be enough to result in a noticeable difference. There is no way to predict whether someone will benefit from avoidance measures, except by trying them. Remember that it is better to properly carry out several allergen avoidance measures in order to see an improvement in symptoms. Just doing one or two things half-heartedly may not make any difference.

Dust Allergy

Dust allergies also make it difficult to breathe and may trigger asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.

Dust also just makes some people itchy. People with dust allergies often suffer the most inside their own homes or in other people’s homes. Oddly enough, their symptoms often worsen during or immediately after vacuuming, sweeping and dusting. The process of cleaning can stir up dust particles, making them easier to inhale.

Dust Allergy Symptoms

  • Sneezing

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Red, itchy or teary eyes

  • Wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath

  • Itching

Dust Allergy Triggers

  • Dust mites

  • Cockroaches

  • Mold

  • Pollen

  • Pet hair, fur or feathers

Dust Allergy Triggers

Dust mites. Dust mites—sometimes called bed mites—are the most common cause of allergy from house dust. Dust mites live and multiply easily in warm, humid places. They prefer temperatures at or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 75 to 80 percent. They die when the humidity falls below 50 percent. They are not usually found in dry climates.

Dust mite particles are often found in pillows, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They float into the air when anyone vacuums, walks on a carpet or disturbs bedding and they settle once the disturbance is over.

Dust mites are a common cause of asthma in children.

A house does not need to be visibly dirty to trigger a dust mite allergy reaction. The particles are too tiny to be seen and often cannot be removed using normal cleaning procedures. In fact, a vigorous cleaning can make an allergic person’s symptoms worse.

Asthma

Asthma symptoms affect an estimated  19 million adults and 7 million children — and are one of the leading causes of absences from work and school. Asthma often runs in families; according to the World Health Organization, about half the cases are due to genetic susceptibility and half result from environmental factors. Although there is no cure for asthma, effective treatments are available. Asthma can be best managed by seeing an allergist.

There are two types of asthma: allergic (caused by exposure to an allergen) and nonallergic (caused by stress, exercise, illnesses like a cold or the flu, or exposure to extreme weather, irritants in the air or some medications).

Asthma Triggers

  • Outdoor allergens, such as pollens from grass, trees and weeds

  • Indoor allergens, such as pet danderdust mites and mold

  • Certain drugs and food additives

  • Irritants in the air, such as smoke, chemical fumes and strong odors

  • Exercise (although people with asthma can benefit from some exercise)

Eczema

If your genes make you more likely to develop atopic eczema, the condition will develop after you are exposed to certain environmental factors, such as allergens.

Allergens are substances that can cause the body to react abnormally. This is known as an allergic reaction. Some of the most common allergens that can be causes of eczema include:

  • House dust mites

  • Pets (cats > dogs)

  • Pollens (seasonal)

  • Molds

  • Dandruff

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