The Nearly Microscopic Monster Called the Dust Mite

Have you ever had cold symptoms that last for weeks or months, never seeming to quite go away? You might actually be having an allergic reaction to dust mites. This is a lot more common than most people think. In fact, people who say that they are allergic to household dust probably aren’t allergic to dust, they are most likely allergic to dust mites.

Dust mites are comprised of a number of species of tiny mites that unsurprisingly are associated with household dust. The reason they are associated with house dust should become apparent in this article.

These and other mites are arachnids, which means that they are related to spiders. Like spiders, they have eight legs. However, they are extremely small; so tiny that they can barely be seen by the naked eye if a person has good eyesight. A dust mite typically grows to between 8 thousandths to 12 thousandths of an inch long (2 tenths to 3 tenths of a millimeter).

Dust mites aren’t particularly long-lived. The females live about 10 weeks and the males only live about three. However, female dust mites can lay up to 100 eggs in their lifetimes, so they can populate quickly.

This diminutive arachnid is found wherever there is household dust, which is nearly everywhere people live. It was mentioned that dust mites are associated with household dust. Household dust is mostly made up of flakes of skin and dander. This is what dust mites eat.

Dust mites aren’t parasitic like some other mites. However, in the process of digesting skin flakes, they produce several strong enzymes and these are what people tend to have an allergic reaction to. The symptoms are much like the runny nose, watery eyes, and wheezing associated with colds and asthma, and in severe allergic reactions, there can be anaphylaxis.

Dust mites are controllable, though. They thrive in high humidity and cool temperatures. This means that if the house is kept dusted, the humidity is kept below 45%, and the room temperature is kept around 72 F or 22 C, the number of dust mites should be held in check.

Compared to other mites, dust mites usually cause fewer problems, especially since they are primarily after the dead flakes of human and pet skin that makes up a large portion of household dust. Scabies, a different kind of mite that burrows under the skin and lives as a parasite, is a far worse problem.

Still, a large number of people who think that they have a chronic cold may not have a cold at all. They may be having an allergic reaction to a dust mite infestation. This could be worthwhile to keep in mind.


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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • If you live in a desert and your home doesn’t receive extra humidity from evaporation, you could be right. Even Phoenix, Arizona and Tripoli, Libya have dust mites, though mostly inside of buildings that are more humid than outside.


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