Lying in bed when it’s dark and quiet might make you feel like you’re all alone, but if you’ve not hoovered your mattress in the last two years the chances are that’s far from your reality. It’s no secret that miniature critters live among us, arachnophobes are probably all too aware of this, but did you know some arachnids are very partial to bedding? (Some even like hanging out in your pores...)
What are dust mites?
Dust mites are microscopic arthropods and, while there are a few species, the two most commonly found in the US are Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farinae. Being so small, neither species is likely to impact the aesthetic of your bedroom, but they could have a big impact on your life. Dust mites are the most common asthma and allergy trigger found inside homes, commonly causing rashes, sneezing, and postnasal drip. Symptoms can range from mild to the extreme, and can greatly increase the likelihood of an asthma attack.
Where do they live?
You’ll likely find dust mites all over your house, but your bed sheets and mattress will be a big hit for these little guys owing to the fact they feed on your discarded skin cells. You might not realize it, but every day you shed around 1.5 grams of dead skin cells. When we’re in bed, our skin comes into contact with much more of the mattress and bedding than it does when compared to sitting on a chair, and as such these snug spots in our homes are basically an all-you-can-eat human skin cell buffet for dust mites. The dust mites will hang out in the places where we make it rain dermal flakes, so you can assume everything from bedding to stuffed animals is free real estate for these hungry mites.
“Hundreds of thousands of dust mites can live in the bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets, or curtains in your home. They feed on the dead human skin cells found in dust,” says the American Lung Association (ALA). “Dust mites are not parasites; they don't bite, sting or burrow into our bodies. The harmful allergen they create comes from their fecal pellets and body fragments. Dust mites are nearly everywhere; roughly four out of five homes in the United States have detectable levels of dust mite allergen in at least one bed.”
DO dust mites trigger allergies?
If you’ve not noticed any symptoms of allergies or asthma in your home, it could be that you’re immune to the allergen deposited by their poop. While there’s no guarantee that dust mites are the cause, people feeling routinely itchy or sneezy in their homes may benefit from trying to keep dust mites to a minimum.
How to get rid of dust mites
Fortunately, there are a few methods you can employ to keep mass colonies of dust mites at bay. Dust is a good indicator that you need to take action, being essentially a smorgasbord of fluff and dead skin. Dust regularly and hoover commonly frequented areas of your home – including your mattress. You don’t need to be jumping up on your bed every week, but if you can’t remember the last time you did then it’s almost certainly been too long.
Reducing the number of soft furnishings available can also keep dust mite numbers down as it means they have fewer places to gather and wait for your precious dandruff. Humidity is also key, as dust mites love a warm and muggy environment. The ALA says aiming for 50 percent humidity is a decent goal, which can be helped along with the assistance of a dehumidifier.