Dust Mites: What They Are & How to Prevent Them

JANUARY 17TH, 2019
Dust Mites: What They Are & How to Prevent Them

A tiny creature living in your home might be making big problems for you. If you have allergies or asthma, you might be having an allergic reaction without even knowing what the trigger is.

 

WHAT ARE DUST MITES?

Dust mites are microscopic arthropods that measure about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter in diameter.

Too small to view with the human eye, dust mites are closely related to ticks and spiders and appear as little white bugs with eight legs when viewed under a microscope.

Dust mites don’t fly or jump.

There are least thirteen different species of mites.  The two most common ones are Dermatophagoides farinae (the American dust mite) and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (the European dust mite).

Dust mites thrive in warm temperatures (20 to 25 degrees Celsius) and humidity levels of 70 to 80 percent.

 

WHAT DO DUST MITES LOOK LIKE?

Dust mites must be viewed under a microscope to be seen.  If you think you can see one with your naked eye, then it is not a dust mite.

They are translucent, colourless and have an oval shape.  Here is a picture of dust mites taken using a microscope.

Picture of dust mites, dust mites under microscope
Picture of dust mites. Photo credit: Gilles San Martin

 

DO DUST MITES BITE?

These microscopic pests don’t bite!

They feed on decaying human matter such as the small particles of skin that humans naturally lose every day.

On average, an adult will shed up to 1.5 grams of skin flakes each day – enough to feed one million dust mites. Yuck!

If you think you are getting bitten by dust mites, you may want to investigate the difference between mites and bed bugs via this great article by Terminix.

 

HOW LONG DO DUST MITES LIVE?

A dust mite’s lifespan is only one to two and a half months; however, they reproduce really fast which makes them a difficult pest to rid your home of.

A female can live for up to 70 days and produces up to 100 eggs during that time.  A male’s lifespan is much shorter at between ten to nineteen days.

Most dust mites will die in low humidity or extreme temperatures but leave behind their dead bodies and waste which can continue to cause allergic reactions.

In a warm, humid house, dust mites can survive year-round.

Common household items such as bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpeting all provide perfect environments for dust mites to live and reproduce in.

 

WHAT IS A DUST MITE ALLERGY?

Allergies occur as a natural immune system response to a foreign substance entering the body.

Your immune system produces proteins called antibodies that help protect the body against unwanted viruses and bacteria that can make you sick or cause infections.

However, when you have an allergy, your immune system makes antibodies that identify your particular allergen as something harmful, even though it typically isn’t.

The allergen is the substance that triggers the allergic reaction, therefore, a dust mite allergy is one in which the dust mite and its’ waste are the allergen.

 

SYMPTOMS OF A DUST MITE ALLERGY

An inflammation of the nasal passage causes dust mite allergy symptoms, which include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, red, or watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy nose, mouth, or throat
  • Itchy skin
  • Postnasal drip (a flow of mucus from behind your nose into your throat)
  • Cough
  • Facial pressure and/or pain

If your dust mite allergy triggers asthma, you might also experience:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness and/or pain
  • An audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
  • Bouts of coughing or wheezing that worsen due to a respiratory virus such as the common cold

 

DUST MITE ALLERGY PATHWAY

Here is a summary of how dust mite allergies happen:

Dust mite allergies pathway

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HOW TO PREVENT DUST MITES IN YOUR HOME

Remember that having dust mites in your home does not mean that it is not clean.

In most areas of the world, these creatures live almost everywhere, no matter how clean a particular location is.

However, you can certainly make some changes to reduce their effects.

 

The Bedroom:

Studies have shown that more dust mites live in your bedroom than anywhere else in your home, so the bedroom is a good place to start:

Cover your mattress and pillows. 

Cover your mattress and pillows with zippered, dust-proof covers or fabrics.  Dust-proof materials feature tiny pores that are too small for dust mites and their waste to fit through.

Wash your bedding.

Wash your sheets and blanks weekly in hot water.

The water must be at least 55 degrees Celsius or hotter in order to kill the dust mites.

Don’t make your bed.

Yes, you read that right!  A perfect excuse not to make your bed.

Since mites love warmth and moisture, making your bed as soon as you wake up allows the dust mites to continue to grow and reproduce at maximum capacity.

Peeling off the covers and airing the bedding out during the day, quickly reduces temperatures and humidity, thereby slowing the dust mites’ exponential rate of growth.

This means they eat less, poop less, breed less and lay fewer eggs which equals fewer allergens being produced.

Get rid of fabrics that can’t be washed often.

Dust mites love to live in wall-to-wall carpeting, curtains, blinds and down-filled pillows.   These are materials that you cannot easily wash on a regular basis.

Consider replacing these items with ones that can be washed more frequently.

Rest of Home:

You should treat the rest of your house as if it is your bedroom. Here are a couple more tips:

  • Wash rugs in hot water whenever possible since dry cleaning or water temperatures above 55 degrees Celsius will kill mites
  • Keep house humidity below 50 percent by using a dehumidifier and/or air conditioning unit
  • Change the filter in your furnace or air conditioning unit more frequently as this helps trap dust mites and their allergens and keeps them from spreading throughout your home

 

HOW ANTIMICROBIALS HELP TO CONTROL DUST MITES

Before we continue, if you are a resident of the United States than we ask that you read our regulatory statement.  The Environmental Protection Agency does not allow dust mite claims for items treated with antimicrobial products.

An important component of the dust mite diet is mould that grows on the dead skin cells they consume.  The ones they find most “tasty” are Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium sphaerospermum, and Wallemia sebi.  If interested, you can learn more here.

The mould softens and partially digests the skin cells, allowing them to be more efficiently processed by the dust mite.  The microbes also provide vitamin B to the dust mites.

Fabrics and materials treated with antimicrobials such as mattress ticking & polyurethane foam, carpeting, pillow fill, feather & down, sheets and blankets discourage mould and mildew growth.

Hence, dead skin cells are less likely to become colonized with fungal growth, essentially slowing and disrupting the dust mite’s life cycle.

 

ULTRA-FRESH ANTIMICROBIAL PROTECTION

Select Ultra-Fresh technologies are proven to significantly prevent dust mite populations from growing in various finished materials as compared to the exact same untreated articles.

As a result, fewer dust mite allergens are recovered from Ultra-Fresh treated goods.

Sensitive Choice

Developed by the National Asthma Council Australia in 2006, the Sensitive Choice program encourages companies to produce products and services that are more asthma and allergy preventative.

Dust mite allergy prevention
The Sensitive Choice program recognizes products that help manage allergy and asthma triggers

Due to the proven effects that Ultra-Fresh has on reducing dust mite populations, our technologies have been adopted by many manufacturers in Australia, such as Dunlop Foams, Beaulieu Carpets Australia, Jaspa pillows, and Jellyfish Mattress to help in the fight against allergies and asthma triggered by dust mite allergens.

These finished goods help provide relief to allergy and asthma sufferers and are part of the Sensitive Choice program.

Allergy UK

Ultra-fresh is also approved by AllergyUK in recognition of having a positive impact on allergies by effectively reducing dust mite allergens in certain antimicrobial treated products.

Allergy UK Seal of Approval
A product that carries the Allergy UK Seal of Approval has been scientifically verified to prevent, diminish or eliminate allergens from the environment.

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Our Antimicrobial Expertise

Thomson Research Associates (TRA) is a global leader in the field of antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial, and anti-dust mite treatments (see regulatory information), providing antimicrobial protection to finished products for over 60 years.

We are committed to helping our clients deliver fresh, durable, innovative and safe products by providing antimicrobial additives and treatments for fabrics, polymers, foams, coatings and more.

Our ultimate goal is to satisfy our clients’ specific needs through excellence in service, science, and support.   Find out how we work with you through our scientific testing laboratory, highly-qualified technical and regulatory specialists.

We are US EPA registered, BPR compliant and Oeko-Tex listed. Our products comply with all regulatory requirements of each country where they are sold.

Furthermore, acknowledging our social responsibility, we have partnered with bluesign® in our joint initiative for the removal of harmful substances and practices from the manufacturing process.

Learn more about us or contact us for more information.