Dust Mites: A Microscopic Threat to Your Family’s Health

Dr. Group
by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

Dust Mite

Dust mites are tiny, microscopic bugs, that are commonly found in human habitats, such as your house, couch, bed or carpet. They are able to thrive in our living environment, because they live off of our dead skin cells, and the dander from our pets.

Regardless of how clean we try to keep our homes, we are still vulnerable to dust mites. Cleaning alone will not counteract the problem due to the fact that the average human gives off 5-10 grams of dead skin cells each week, about 3lbs per year.

Despite the most regimented of cleaning schedules, the dust mites in your home will have plenty to sustain. The average house dust mite reproduces at an astonishingly rapid rate. The effects of this plethora of dust mites in our homes can have a significant role in causing health problems.

Dust mites excrete an average of 20 droppings of waste each day. Many people are highly allergic to these droppings, and scientists are beginning to correlate dust mites to asthma, as well as other allergic symptoms [1].

How Am I Exposed to Dust Mites?

Dust mites thrive off of dead skin. Dust mites live in our sheets, clothing, stuffed animals, carpet, upholstery, towels and furniture. While your dryer will most likely kill the dust mites (from clothing, sheets and towels), many things like furniture and carpet are more difficult to control for mites and their excrement.

Their droppings are composed of protein compounds. When we breathe in these protein substances, or when they come into contact with our skin, our body tries to protect us by producing antibodies. In turn, our antibodies release histamine which is a chemical that causes the typical swelling and red color associated with allergies.

Dust Mites: Symptoms of Exposure

Dust mites can pose a serious threat to our health as an allergen, and have been proven to trigger asthma, especially in children and the elderly. Clinical trials conducted by Cytos Biotechnology [2], showed a direct correlation between dust mites in your home and triggered allergies.

Symptoms of dust-mite triggered allergies include itchiness, infected/inflamed eczema, watering eyes, runny nose, clogged lungs, hay fever, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and even breathing problems.

Very sensitive people even report getting red, itchy bumps on their skin after lying on a dust-mite infested rug or bed. It’s easy to see why eliminating dust mites from your home could seriously improve your overall health.

Shocking Facts About Dust Mites

  • The average bed is home to anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites.
  • Pets with large amounts of fur can greatly increase the number of dust mites in your home.
  • We inhale their droppings from our pillows as we sleep, lay on carpet, or breathe in airborne dust particles.
  • Common household dust is often heavily composed of, and contaminated with the fecal pellets and cast skins of dust mites.
  • Estimates state that 80% of the material you can see floating in a sunbeam is actually human skin flakes (dust-mite food!)
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  • Studies show that an estimated 50-80% of asthmatics are affected by dust mites [3]. Other allergic reactions to dust mites may even include headaches, fatigue and depression.
  • Dust mites are considered arachnids, which is the same class that includes spiders, ticks, and even scorpions!

Tips For Eliminating Dust Mites In Your Home

Although dust mites are microscopic, there are some steps we can take to fight them. Here are several methods that you can use to minimize dust mites, as well as their cast skins and fecal droppings, from your home:

  • Get rid of their food sources. Remove dust from your home. Don’t sweep or “dust” floors or hard surfaces. This only serves to circulate the dust throughout the house, giving you more chance to inhale them. Instead, use damp cloths that will attract and hold the dust you’re collecting.
  • Vacuum up dust instead of sweeping. Vacuum floors, furniture, carpet and upholstery with a machine that uses HEPA filter technology. It will capture the mites and their eggs.
  • It might be a good idea to invest in a good quality air purification system that employs a HEPA filter and UV and negative ion technologies for best results when cleaning your air.
  • To minimize pet dander, run a wet cloth over pet fur each day, especially after animals come in from outdoors. Another good way to contain loose hair is to brush fur in both directions and then follow with a damp cloth.
  • Keep your home humidity levels low. Use a dehumidifier to keep your air below 50% humidity because dust mites don’t like dry air. I suggest that you run a dehumidifier about 2 to 3 times per week in high humidity regions.
  • Wash bedding weekly and use water at about 130° Fahrenheit. Very hot water kills the dust mites. Use natural laundry detergent and add essential oils to help kill any living mites left behind. Dry your bedding on high heat as well.
  • Make an investment and purchase hypoallergenic bedding and furniture. You should replace your pillows, and even bedding, yearly. There are also mattress and pillow coverings that are dust mite-free and organic. Some suggest enclosing the mattress top and sides with a dust mite impervious cover.
  • If you have cloth curtains, clean them regularly with the vacuum and a damp cloth. Light-weight materials hold fewer mites than heavier materials.
  • Make sure to hang clothes up in a well-ventilated closet or wardrobe. If your closet or wardrobe can’t be ventilated, purchase a non-chemical moisture remover.
  • Carpet can be replaced with non-toxic wool or non-toxic hardwood or cork flooring. If you use carpet, be sure to use all-natural carpet cleaning products.
  • Get rid of the clutter! Clutter collects dust, and by now you know that it also collects dust mites. Think about removing (or at least reducing) knickknacks, unnecessary objects, piles of books, magazines and newspapers, as well as piles of clothes from your bedroom.
  • Children’s stuffed animals can also carry mites. To kill mites, you can place the toys in the freezer for 24 hours before you wash them, or simply wash them in very hot water.

Do you have any tips for eliminating dust mites? Please drop them in the comment section below.

References (3)
  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Asthma Triggers: Gain Control.
  2. Klimek L, Willers J, Hammann-Haenni A, Pfaar O, Stocker H, Mueller P, Renner WA, Bachmann MF. Assessment of clinical efficacy of CYT003-QbG10 in patients with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: a phase IIb study. Clin Exp Allergy. 2011 Sep;41(9):1305-12. Epub 2011 Jun 14.
  3. Kemp TJ, Siebers RW, Fishwick D, O'Grady GB, Fitzharris P, Crane J. House dust mite allergen in pillows. BMJ. 1996 Oct 12;313(7062):916.

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