What are Dust Mites?

House dust mites are microscopic bugs that primarily live off the dead skin cells that are regularly shed from humans and animals. Humans continually shed about 1/5 ounce of dead skin each week. And since we spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping, high levels of dust mites are often associated with the bedroom. Dust mites do not burrow under the skin and are generally harmless to people. The concern about dust mites is that people are allergic to them. A single dust mite produces about 20 waste droppings each day, each containing a protein to which many people are allergic to.

How do you know if you’re allergic?

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy
  • Watery eyes
  • Running nose
  • Frequent awakening
  • Respiratory problems

The dust mite allergen comes from their tiny feces and their body fragments which are components of dust. These particles are so small they become airborne and are inhaled causing allergic reactions. To thrive, dust mites need very warm temperatures (75-80 degrees F) and high humidity levels. A typical mattress can contain tens of thousands of dust mites. The average lifecycle for a male dust mite is about 10 to19 days, while a female can live up to 70 days. The female dust mite lays 60 to 100 eggs in the last 5 weeks of her life. In a 10-week life span a dust mite will produce 2,000 fecal particles.

Dust mite management

High levels of dust mites and their wastes can cause previously non-allergic people to develop an allergy. To eliminate dust mite allergens, it is vital to take actions to reduce dust mite populations and reduce the exposure to dust.

  1. Lower Humidity– Dust mites love warm, humid conditions above 70F. Studies have shown air-conditioned homes have ten times fewer dust mite allergens than non-air-conditioned homes.
  2. Clean/Vacuum – Wash bedding every few weeks. Research has shown laundering with any detergent in warm water (77 degrees F) removes nearly all dust mites from bedding. If you cannot launder blankets, dry clean them once a year. Shampoo, steam clean or beat non-washable carpets once a year. Vacuums with a water filter remove a greater range of particle sizes than paper-bag types.
  3. Air purifiers – While it is better to stop dust mites at the source, dust mites are simply too numerous and reproduce too frequently to keep their numbers lowered without the aid of an air purifier. HEPA filters work well to remove 99.97% of dust mites, allergens, pollen, and pet dander. Dust mites are 0.5-50 microns in size and the HEPA filter is able to filter contaminants as small as 0.3 microns. When dust mites are not airborne, the HEPA filter cannot capture the mite. Thus, it is important to maintain vigorous cleaning practices as well using an air purifier.

Read Next: Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Purify Air

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