Dust mites

Feeding off human skin leaving red marks!

The name dust mite is used for a number of mite species, usually the ones that belong to the Dermatophagoides genus but it is also used for other mite species such as Euroglyphus maynei. These mites are usually associated with dust and debris that can be found inside homes. The adult dust mites are very small in size, typically less than 0.5 mm long. Their body colour ranges from mostly white to a light tan colour. They are almost microscopic and a typical dust mite measures around 420 micrometres in length and have a width of 320 micrometres.

As their name suggests, dust mites live and reproduce in areas where there are large amounts of dust. They are one of typical pests found wherever there are humans. They also have a very important role in our lives as they eat some of our organic waste products such as shed human skin, and hair cells. Each person sheds around 1.5 grams of skins which equals to 0.3 – 0.45 kg each year. This amount of organic waste is more than enough to feed millions of dust mites.

Dust mites can survive almost every climate, from higher altitudes to indoor environments especially in bedrooms and kitchen areas. They thrive in mattresses, carpets, cushions, draperies, pillows, bedding and under furniture. Their number can be pretty high and range at around 190 mites per 1 gram of dust.  Dust mites can survive even in dry climates and reproduce in bedding because of the moisture generated by humans during all night of breathing and perspiring. Dust mites reproduce throughout the year and seasonal changes in their population can be hard to detect.

Biology

The complete life cycle of dust mites, from egg to a full adult stage, lasts around 30 days. Through their lives, dust mites go through five different stages: egg, larval stage, two nymphal stages and the adult stage. Adult dust mites can live as long as two months, depending on the amount of humidity and temperature of their surrounding environment. They prefer to live in homes that are located in areas with high humidity and constantly warm temperatures. Although there are some fluctuations in their activity, their population is able to increase dramatically when conditions are favourable to them. There is a much smaller chance that dust mite populations will grow enough to become a problem when they are located in dry and cold environments or houses with air condition. Dust mites are concentrated in those areas of houses where there is constant traffic such as beds, chairs, and carpets that have long fibres. They attach themselves in these places because there is a constant source of food there. Human skin flakes, house dust, fungal spores, insect scales are often found in these areas which acts as an infinite source of food for dust mites. They do not like strong light and will often hide themselves in seams, ledges or behind furniture. They do not have the ability to fly but they can become airborne during our activities such as making the bed.

Dust mite allergy – what to do?

Dust mites are just a quarter of a millimetre long and they live by feeding on shed human skin which they find in their humid locations in our homes. They prefer places such as our beds, carpets, all soft furnishing and clothing. They are known to cause allergies as humans tend to react to various proteins (allergens) in their droppings. Each dust mite is able to produce 20 of these droppings every day. These droppings will continue to cause allergic symptoms even if the mites are dead.

It is very important to know that a positive allergy skin test to dust mites does not mean that dust mites are the cause of your child’s symptoms. Only a small number of children that have a positive test to dust mites will have the symptoms caused by the allergen. The true meaning of allergy test results should be discussed during a doctor´s appointment.

dust mites allergy

dust mites allergy

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Allergy to dust mites is very common and is often associated with eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis. The allergy to dust mites is especially frequent in Australia where the allergen is present in large quantities. The most common place of exposure to dust mite allergen is the bed, mostly because the allergen is heavy and must be disturbed before being able to become airborne. Still, the allergen can be found in every part of the house, on the floor and in the furnishing. It is possible that removal of dust mite allergen from the house would ease up the allergic symptoms. However, this was not possible to achieve in Australian homes. There are several dust mite removal techniques that can be used to reduce dust mites but neither one does the job of completely removing it.

Some of the methods that are often used to decrease the number of mites and their allergens are costly with limited evidence of their effectiveness. This is why it is important to discuss the potential value of these techniques in treating your allergies.

First aid

In case of skin reaction to dust mites, an anti-itching cream can be used to soothe the irritation. For bigger skin reactions, there might be the need to use antihistamines. People that have asthma and similar respiratory issues, should consult their general practitioner or their immunologist to identify the allergens and relieve the symptoms. There are many allergy clinics in Sydney that specialize in identifying allergies to different materials, including dust mites. Allergy caused by dust mites can be managed with immunotherapy and by reducing the number of dust mites in the house.

 

Pest management

dust mites management

dust mites management

Dust mite population management in the house is very difficult. Certain studies have shown that it is not possible to reduce dust mite’s population to such a level that would ease up the symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis for most sensitive individuals. It is almost impossible to remove each and every one of dust mites in your home, but areas in which dust mites typically reside can be precisely targeted and their population reduced. While the use of insecticides can prove to be effective in dealing with dust mites, using it as an only method will not reduce asthma symptoms immediately. This is due to the fact that dead mites and their droppings will still be present in the house. Using environmental and physical methods is needed even without using the insecticide. Carpeted areas should be minimized and replaced, if possible, with hard surfaces that can be cleaned with ease. Try to use beddings and other products that can be washed and cleaned on a weekly basis. All soft furnishings such as mattresses should be vacuumed regularly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA air filter. By reducing humidity levels in your home and improving ventilation with air conditioning will help in keeping the dust mites and their population levels at a lower level.

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