What are Dust Mites?

Dust MitesDust Mites are microscopic bugs that feed on dead skin cells shed by humans and their animal pets. They measure just 0.25 mm in length, and are invisible to the naked eye.

The house dust mite flourishes in the stable environment provided by homes, specifically in bedrooms and carpets. Dust mites thrive in mattresses and pillows, and can also be found in carpets, furniture and bedding, Dust mites are an Arachnida, related to the common spider.

Dust MitesThe average life cycle for a male house dust mite is 10 to 19 days. A mated female house dust mite can last up to 70 days, laying 60 to 100 eggs in the last 5 weeks of her life. In a 10-week life span, a house dust mite will produce approximately 2,000 faecal particles and an even larger number of partially digested enzyme-covered dust particles.

It is the excrement (droppings) that contains Guanine, and enzyme-covered dust particles that are the allergen. A single mite produces up to 30 droppings per day; twice it’s body weight.

House dust mites are a common cause of asthma and allergic symptoms worldwide.

Apart from asthma, they cause:

  • Swollen, itchy and watery eyes
  • Hay fever
  • Infantile eczema
  • Sneezing and runny nose (particularly first thing in the morning)
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Snoring
  • Sinus symptoms
  • Frequent waking

What is the problem?

Bed bugsThe problem is that dust mites are so microscopic, naked to the human eye, that they easily work their way deep down in the carpet fibre and pass through the weave of your sheets and protectors to infest your mattress and pillows,  It is dark, warm for 8 hours a night, and humid. It couldn’t be more perfect for the dust mite. Well it is.

Guess what they eat? Your dead skin that we shed every day. Cats and dogs are even worse at providing food for the mite than we are. Dust mites absolutely thrive in these conditions, eating to their hearts content and making more of themselves. Here’s where it gets nasty. Each dust mite produces 20 – 30 droppings every day. That’s over 20 – 30 million microscopic pieces of excrement every day in your mattress, with a large but not so abundant amount in your carpet. In addition, as the mite grows, it sheds its exoskeletons and this also contains the protein that causes allergies.

So what! Well the excrement contains Guanine, absorbed from the digestive juices of the mite. These faeces dry, and when agitated, turn into a microscopic dust. So every time you walk and lay on your carpet, sit and lay on your lounge, get in and out of bed, turn whilst asleep, move your head, bash the pillow (you get the picture), this excrement filled dust is getting into your lungs, eyes, mouth, and on our skin. The protein substances in the dust mite faeces produces antibodies in people who are allergic, causing the release of histamines which cause nasal congestion and irritation of the upper respiratory passages.

According to Darryl C. Zeldin, acting director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, in the Wall Street Journal (January 5, 2010, Page D2), almost 50% of American homes have allergen levels that are high enough to cause sensitivity in people who were not previously allergic to dust mites. In other words, high levels of dust mites and their waste, can cause previously non-allergic people to develop an allergy.