House dust mites are tiny arachnids measuring about 0.4 mm (0.016 in) in length and 0.32 mm (0.013in) in width. This means that they are only just visible to the naked eye and can only be properly identified under a microscope. Dust mites are best known for feeding on small particles of organic matter (like dead skin) and for the allergens that they produce, which causes asthma and allergy in certain people. The symptoms of dust mite allergy can include: sneezing, itchiness, skin rash (eczema), itchy and/or watering eyes, runny nose and clogged lungs. There are three main species of dust mites called European house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus), the American house dust mite (Dermatophagoides farinae) and Euroglyphus maynei. Despite these names these species are found all over the world.
Where do dust mites live?
Unfortunately for allergy and asthma sufferers dust mites can survive in all climates and altitudes. They are most commonly found in indoor environments, such as homes and offices, where they thrive in: mattresses, furniture, carpet, rugs, curtains, soft toys, bedding etc. They are more common on cloth/fabric surfaces. For example, a leather couch is non-porus and will contain far fewer dust mites than a couch covered in cloth upholstery. Dust mites particularly thrive in warm, humid conditions, although they can live in dry areas particularly in objects, such as bedding, that absorb moisture from the body.
Removing dust mites
Reducing humidity and replacing furniture and carpets with alternative non-porus materials is the first line of defense. Secondly, regular cleaning of bedding with hot water and then drying in a hot dryer will kill the mites.
Did you know?
There is a common myth that dust mites live on people. Although they can live on clothing, they are not able to live on the human skin.
There is currently no cure for dust mite allergy. The common treatment is anti-histamines and steroids to lessen the severity of the symptoms