There are many reasons why I get concerned about dust mites:
- They make people miserable when the population is not controlled.
- They contribute in the development of becoming sensitized to allergens.
- They contribute in the development of allergic asthma.
- They make asthma symptoms worse and go undetected as being the cause.
- They are the most common causes of indoor allergies.
Whether you have dust mite allergies or not, you’re still sleeping with those little bugs.
And millions of them! There could be upwards from 2 million of them in your bed and pillows.
The allergen that they produce is a very potent one. It is often compared to ragweed. These two types of nasal allergies trigger allergic symptoms the quickest.
The House Dust Mites
They do not bite or carry disease. They're different from its relatives because it is not a parasite. They do not burrow into our skin like scabies mites or hair follicle mites. They can and do, however, cause a rash with some people who are allergic and lay on the allergen all night long.
We provide the ideal living conditions for them. We supply them with all the food they need, the moisture they need, and the temperature that they love.
Being grateful to us, they takes up residence in our carpets, beds, sheets, pillows, blankets, towels, stuff toys, curtains, and our upholstered furniture.
Even in cold climates, they live the year-round in our warm homes. When the weather turns to warm and humid, the population becomes quite abundant. Avoidance strategies is important for keeping the population in check.
Dust mites are microscopic organisms. These critters are extremely small. They measure about .01 inch which is about 200-300 microns. A micron is a thousandth of a millimeter. It would require using a microscope of 10X to be able to see them.
Being members of the Arachnid class, they are not insects. The arachnid class means that they are joint-legged invertebrate animals and so they are more closely related to the tick and spider family.
- The two most common species are the American (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus).
- Every home has them unless you live in a high altitude or desert-like conditions.
- They are creamy white in color and are oval shaped.
- They have no eyes and no antennae.
- They do not like the light.
- They have 8 legs with sticky pads on the end.
They are very difficult to eradicate but there are ways to kill dust mites that are very effective.
There are four stages of development. They start out as an egg and then moves on to the larva stage where they only have 6 legs. Then they move to the nymph stage and finally to the adult stage where they develop 8 legs.
The adult stage can be reached in 3-4 weeks. Depending on the living conditions, they can live another 1-3 months. Under ideal living conditions, female can produce anywhere from 50-80 eggs in her lifetime.
Ideal Living Conditions
They are living in our home because we provide the ideal living conditions for them. They prefer temperatures at around 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit (24-29 Celsius).
They need moisture (humidity) at around 75-80%. Seventy percent humidity is found in the majority of homes. When the humidity or temperatures become lower in the house, you and I provide it for them. This is one reason why our beds is one of the most infected places. When we lay down to sleep, our bodies provide the warmth that they need. When our heads are resting on our pillows, our breath is providing the warmth and moisture that they need.
Dust mites like to congregate around our mouth where they love the breath and drool that we provide during the sleeping hours. When we sleep with covers and comforters, our bodies provide, through perspiration, the moisture that they need to thrive.
Dust mites are found in every home because there is an ample supply of the food source for them. Although household dusts consist of many things, dust mites can find fungi, pollen, skin flakes and other organic debris in the house dust to eat.
Regardless of the species, house dust mites are from the Dermatophagoides family which comes from Latin meaning “skin eating.” Both humans and pets alike produce skin flakes (dander) for them to consume. So it seems reasonable to believe that the places where we shed the most skin, like mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture (especially where our arms and neck have contact), and carpets are the places that you will find the highest concentration of dust mites.
On average, we shed about 4/5 ounce of dead skin per month. These skin flakes are extremely small and are a large component of house dust. These tiny particles are small enough to slip through the cotton weave of fabric and penetrate deep down into the upholstered furniture, comforters, mattresses and the alike to reach the places that they live.
With the quantity of dander (skin flakes) that pets and humans produce, there is no shortage of supply of the food source. There is no competition for food.
Their bodies consist of 80% water and yet they do not actually drink water. Their water source is the humidity in the air. They are able to absorb the water in the air through the walls of their body.
Those from the Dermatophagoides family do not have stomachs. The digestion needs to happen on the outside of the body. This is accomplished by them excreting enzymes onto the food source that will predigest it. After they consume all the nutrients from the food source, what is left is what scientist calls the fecal matter (or dropping).
This waste particle that is left (with their protein and enzymes on it) is the allergen that produces hay fever like symptoms in those that are allergic to it.
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