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Strange bedfellows

Photo by Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium (House dust mites Uploaded by Jacopo Werther) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

When I was a kid I suffered from terrible nasal allergies, and was especially sensitive to pollen, cats, and dust. When I got a little older and learned that some of my allergies could be caused the microscopic mites that live on and around us, I was, to say the least, totally creeped out.

Now that I’m older, I’m more comfortable with idea that our bodies and living environments are homes to trillions of micro flora and fauna—but partly because I realize that it is futile to be overly concerned about it. They’re here whether we like it or not, and there is just no getting rid of them.

While there are many different types of mites, this blog post will be about the mites that both live in and actually cause some of the dust in your home: the appropriately named dust mite.

Unlike subcutaneous mites, dust mites do not live on people and they do not bite people. The feed on human detritus—shed skin cells—and prefer to live in our bedding, upholstery, and carpet.

The mites themselves are harmless enough, but their presence in our homes has a detrimental affect on our health—namely by triggering allergies and asthma. In fact, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology states that dust mites are "the most common cause" of allergies associated with household dust (as opposed to some of the other causes, such as mold and pet dander). They are also a suspected of being one of the causes of eczema.

If you are one of the unlucky ones who does suffer from dust mite-related allergies, it is probably no consolation to you that it isn’t the actual dust mite to which you are allergic, but rather a protein enzyme in their feces.

That’s right. You’re allergic to bug poop.

Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate all the dust mites in your home, but you can reduce their populations through a variety of methods to make your home less hospitable to them.

The following suggestions were mined from various sources around the web:

  • Have your carpet steam cleaned regularly.

  • Remove your carpet and Install hard surface floors, such as tile or wood.

  • Vacuum carpet often using a vacuum that contains a HEPA bag. Be advised that the act of vacuuming often stirs up a lot of dust itself, so if you’re particularly bothered by it, wear a dust mask and wait 20 minutes before entering the room after you’re finished.

  • Wash small rugs often.

  • Wash your bedding in hot water weekly, including the mattress and pillow covers. Wash your pillows, too, and replace them once a year. Mites thrive in warm, damp environments with plenty of access to food, which is why they love our beds so much.

  • Buy only washable stuffed animals and plush toys.

  • Dust with a damp rag where it is safe to do so and won’t harm your furniture.

  • Have your draperies cleaned regularly.

  • Buy a dehumidifier and try to lower your relative humidity to 50% or less. Mites don't like dry environments.

  • Keep a HEPA air filtration system running in your bedroom.

  • Hire URBAN URBANE to clean your home (okay, I added this one myself).

Dust mites are arachnids, like spiders and scorpions, just not as scary.

The two most common species of dust mites are the European house dust mite and the American house dust mite. In spite of what their names may suggest, both can be found worldwide.

Female dust mites usually live just over 2 months and can lay up to 100 eggs.

There can be between 100 to 500 dust mites per gram of dust in your home.

Further Reading


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