5 facts you should know about the dust mites in your home

Averaging at just half a millimetre long and living by the millions, it’s not an easy task to track down and eliminate dust mites. Thriving in places like carpets, pillows and bedding, they live by feasting on the dead skin and hair of humans and pets… Not the nicest of thoughts.

Now, whilst these little miniature creepy crawlies may not quite be big enough to cause any visible harm to us, they actually pose quite a serious threat to our lungs and allergies. And with the UK holding some of the highest rates of asthma in Europe, with an average 3 people a day dying from it, dust mites are most certainly something to consider a problem.

A recent study by NUS-SMART discovered that dust mites could cause much more harm to asthmatic patients than previously thought when found in pillows and beds. The bugs can actually damage a person’s DNA, which can worsen lung inflammation and lead to cell death if the DNA is not repaired.

1. What they are, exactly.

Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live on the dead skin cells of humans and pets. Whilst the mites are mostly harmless to people and don’t carry diseases, they can cause allergic reactions to humans, especially among asthmatics.

The bugs are only 250 to 300 microns in length and have translucent bodies, so you’re not going to catch them wandering around the house.

5 facts you should know about the dust mites in your home

2. Adult females lay about 40 to 80 eggs at a time.

Once each egg hatches, a six-legged larva will emerge. An eight-legged nymph will appear after the first moult. Eventually, it will become an eight-legged adult. The mite will be fully grown after one month and will live for another one to three months.

Whilst dust mites do live primarily off of dead skin, they can also off of other sources such as fungi, cereals, crumbs and traces of pet food.

3. Where they hide.

Due to skin cells being found most in mattresses, furniture and carpeted areas, that’s where the mites will lurk. Beds are the perfect habitat for dust mites, with the average mattress habilitating around 100,000 to 10 million mites.

The car is another place where dust mites can thrive, with the most common areas of habilitation being the steering wheel, radio, gear shift, cup holders and seats.

5 facts you should know about the dust mites in your home 2

4. The allergy symptoms.

Symptoms of a dust mite allergy include runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, red/watery eyes, asthma & difficulty breathing, eczema, coughing or hay fever. In children, frequent upward rubbing of the nose could indicate an allergy to dust mites.

5. How to get rid of dust mites.

So how do we get rid, or at least reduce the number of dust mites in our homes? Firstly, reduce humidity in your home by opening windows to allow ventilation. Install extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms and wipe away condensation from windows every day.

Try to wash your bedding often – at least once every two weeks, using water at a temperature of at least 54 deg C. You can also buy dust-proof or allergen-impermeable covers made of plastic to encase mattresses, pillows and duvets.

Get your carpets cleaned professionally and vacuum them regularly – every few days at least. If your child is allergic to dust mites, make sure the bedroom is kept tidy and soft toys are stored in a wooden box to prevent them from collecting dust.

Some people actually freeze soft toys at least once a week to kill dust mites and then wash the toys to remove allergens.