Dust mites: Everything you need to know
Everyone has heard of dust mites. However, it’s surprising just how many people are unaware as to what they are, how they can impact your health, and how to treat and prevent them. Identified as the UK’s most common indoor allergen, though dust mites are microscopic in size, they can certainly pack a punch for most allergy, asthma and eczema sufferers.
So, whether you’re sneezing and wheezing from unexplained allergies or are finding your sleep disturbed night after night, our extensive guide will explain just how to tackle a dust mite allergy.
Warning, the following blog might make you squeamish!
What are dust mites?
Dust mites are spider-like pests that live in common house dust. They feed on flakes of dead skin or dander, often shed by people and pets, making carpets, curtains, upholstered furniture and even your mattresses and bedding a popular hotspot for these puny pests. Contrary to popular belief, they can’t be seen with the naked eye, as they measure about 1/100th of an inch in length, making them relatively harmless in small doses.
Are dust mites the same as bed bugs?
No, though the two are very frequently confused. While dust mites are microscopic pests that live, for the most part, undetected in common house dust, bed bugs are much larger, apple seed sized insects that are typically found, as their name suggests, in our beds. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and can easily transport from place to place, often found in temporary dwellings such as public transport, hospitals and hotels. However, due to their nocturnal nature and parasitic need for a local blood supply, you may just find yourself sharing a bed with these uninvited guests. While dust mites consume dead skin cells and dander, bed bugs thrive off of a diet of, rather gruesomely, human or animal blood – hence that old saying… Don’t let the bed bugs bite!
Bed bug bedroom hiding places usually include:
- Mattresses and box springs
- Bedding: mostly duvets and pillows
- Bed frames and headboards
- Upholstered furniture
What causes dust mites?
Dust mites are naturally attracted anywhere that has a build-up of dust, making them inevitable members of every household. One general misconception about these pests is that they only appear in dirty or cluttered homes. Though this might be a contributing factor to how well they thrive, this is certainly not the root cause.
In fact, dust mites are so well-adapted that they have been known to survive and thrive in every continent bar Antarctica. And, given that the average adult naturally sheds about 1.5 grams of skin per day, it’s likely that you alone have the ability to feed up to 1 million dust mites.
Can dust mites be harmful?
Dust mites, unlike bed bugs, are relatively harmless, as they do not bite, burrow or carry diseases as common parasites do. However, these tiny pests can cause big problems for allergy and asthma sufferers. With 5.4 million people suffering with asthma within the UK, and approximately 21 million adults in the UK suffering from at least one allergy, dust mites can be detrimental to over a third of the UK’s general health, and so being able to identify the symptoms of a dust mite allergy is essential.
It is actually the dust mite’s excrement and protein matter that is responsible for the allergy, as it creates a very fine dust.
As symptoms of a dust mite allergy are synonymous with most common allergies, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what you might be allergic to in your home. Therefore, the most effective way to diagnose a dust mite allergy is by visiting your local GP or an allergist. Symptoms of the allergy tend to include:
- Wheezing and sneezing
- Itchy eyes, mouth or nose
- Nasal congestion
- Runny noses
And for those that suffer with asthma, you may experience:
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Whistling or wheezing when exhaling
- Trouble sleeping
- Depending on the severity of your condition or the infestation, it can even lead to an asthma attack
People, especially children, that suffer with eczema are also particularly vulnerable to a flare-up when exposed to dust mites in the home, with up to 80% of eczema sufferers having a direct allergy to pollen, dust mites, mould and even certain foods.
Is a dust mite allergy seasonal?
Unfortunately, dust mites can be a year-round trigger for allergies, as their well-adapted nature allows them to survive in most settings.
In the springtime, pollen aggravates allergies, and dust mite infestations can make the symptoms significantly worse.
Though the fall and winter seasons see months of bleaker, colder weather and arguably a climate that dust mites will struggle to survive in, we tend to combat this by closing up our homes with the heating on full blast, allowing concentrations of dust mites, and therefore the allergy-causing their faeces, to increase tenfold inside.
As dust mites thrive and multiply during warm, humid weather, summer is also a key period in the dust mite reproduction timeline.
5 ways to treat and prevent dust mites:
Though over the counter antihistamines can help to relieve symptoms of an allergy, this only offers a temporary fix for a long-term problem, and so facing the issue head on by reducing the potential of an infestation is certainly the best way to treat and prevent further dust mite allergies.
Given that, on average, we spend a third of our lives in bed, our bedrooms are an ideal breeding ground for dust mites and other common pests and parasites.
Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to completely eradicate dust mites within your home permanently, however you can vastly reduce the possibility of a large-scale infestation with 5 easy steps:
1. The first step to tackling a dust-mite infestation is by tidying and decluttering to reduce their potential hiding places. Not only does clutter decrease our productivity and increase stress rates, dust is far more likely to collect in a cluttered room. Try your best to clear out items such as children’s toys, soft furnishings and furniture that may be riddled with dust mites
2. Now you’ve done the tidying, the next step is cleaning. Regular, thorough cleaning of your bedroom is one of the best ways to eradicate the build-up of dust mites. That means washing your bed linens at least once a week, hoovering and cleaning your carpet, dusting all hard surfaces and deep cleaning your mattress and soft furnishings as frequently as possible.
3. Invest in NOMITE certified bedding. This certification ensures that the high-density fabric casing forms a natural barrier against dust mites while still allowing for exceptional air exchange and climate regulation. NOMITE certified bedding gives you the option for natural bedding while remaining entirely hypoallergenic.
4. Alternatively, you could opt for synthetic bedding. All dùsal synthetic bedding is nonallergenic, meaning it is highly unlikely to attract potential allergens. You don’t have to compromise on quality or comfort either, as we offer premium branded synthetics including our Dacron® Comforel® selection that imitates the indulgent feel of down, and our Suprelle® Tencel® Eco Fresh.
5. Decent air flow is essential. Dust mites thrive in dark and damp environments with a continual food source, so investing in a good air filter system is a trustworthy method of removing humidity for your home, and in turn, the essential living conditions for dust mites to survive.