Does your home have dust mites? Odds are good that it does. Almost every home has dust mites – even those that are fastidiously clean. How can this be?
A dust mite is a tiny little bugs that are nearly invisible to the naked eye. A dust mite is so small it is measured in micrometers. A dust mite is typically 420 micrometers long and from 250 to 320 micrometers wide. The male and female dust mites are both sort of a creamy blue color and rectangular shaped. If you could see a dust mite, you would see eight-legged organisms with what’s called a striated cuticle. In short, they are both tiny and ugly.
The Life Cycle Of A Dust Mite
The dust mite begins as an egg. After the egg hatches, a six-legged dite mite larva emerges. After the first molt, an eight-legged dust mite nymph appears. After two nymphal stages occur, an eight-legged adult dust mite emerges. The dust mite life cycle from egg to adult is typically 30 days. Mated female dust mites can live for as long as 70 days, laying from 60 to 100 eggs in the last five weeks of life. A dust mite typically lives 10 weeks, during which time it will produce about 2000 fecal particles and an even larger number of partially digested, enzyme-covered dust particles.
House dust mites can survive in just about all climates and even at high altitudes. However, they prefer warm, wet environments such as mattresses and pillows. Carpets, furniture and bedding are also big gathering places for dust mites. These creatures don’t even need a supply of water to survive as they derive moisture from the humidity generated by our breathing, perspiration and saliva.
The dust mite is a simple creature in a category called acari which means they have no stomachs. Instead, they have diverticulae — or sacs or pouches. In addition, they are decomposer creatures in that they select food that has already been decomposed by fungi. They actually eat the same particle several times, digesting it each time between feedings. When they have fully digested a particle, it is expelled in the dust mite’s fecal matter.
Dust Mite Allergies
Dust mites love the places where we sleep or sit. The danger they pose to us does not come from bites or parasitic bloodsucking as it would from fleas or mosquitoes. Instead, the only danger to us comes from the allergens they produce – their fecal matter, body parts and partially digested dust particles that we come in contact with.
These microscopic bits of matter won’t bother many of us, but some of us are allergic to them. The typical symptoms of house dust mite allergies are inflamed or infected eczema, sneezing, itchiness, watering or reddening of the eyes, clogging in the lungs and a runny nose. And the allergens produced by dust mites are among the most common asthma triggers.
Controlling Dust Mites
If you or someone in your family suffers from either asthma or dust mite allergies, there are some simple things you can do to control dust mites.
The first step to controlling dust mites is to cover mattresses and pillows with dust proof or allergen impermeable, zippered covers. Your bedding – sheets, pillowcases and blankets — should be breathable and should be able to withstand frequent washings as you will want to wash them weekly in water that’s 130 degrees F. If the water in your home is not this hot, you can take the bedding to a laundromat or wash it in the hottest water possible and then dry it for at least 30 minutes using your dryer’s hot cycle.
The next step in controlling dust mites is to maintain low indoor humidity, as in 30% to 50% relative humidity if at all possible. You can measure the humidity level in your home with a hygrometer, which you should be able to buy at your local hardware store. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers are two devices you can use to help control humidity in your home.
Controlling dust mites also involves regular vacuuming. You need to vacuum your carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture regularly to reduce dust build up. If possible, use a vacuum with either a double-layer microfilter bag or a HEPA filter. Whoever in your family that has either asthma or a dust mite allergy should leave the area where you are vacuuming. If you are the one with asthma or a dust mite allergy, be sure to wear a mask while vacuuming to avoid inhaling the allergens, and try to stay out of the vacuumed area for 20 minutes so that dust and allergens can settle.
If you or someone in your family has asthma or a dust mite allergy, you can take measures to control the dust mite population. All it takes is a few dollars – for the impermeable mattress and pillow covers – and some work on your part and you can keep dust mites under control.