What are dust mites?
The house dust mite gets its name from its habitat – household dust. The main component of dust is shed skin flakes, the mite’s preferred food source.
Areas around the home that are heavily used, such as beds and upholstered furniture, will have much higher mite populations than the rest of the house.
The most common dust mite in Australian homes is Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, which tends to prefer coastal rather than inland areas. This mite has been associated with dermatological and respiratory allergies in humans, such as eczema and asthma.
Symptoms of allergic reaction to dust mites
House dust mites can trigger respiratory or dermatological conditions, including asthma and eczema. Symptoms can include:
- A tight feeling in the chest.
- Runny nose.
- Itchy nose.
- Itchy, watery eyes.
- Itchy skin.
- Skin rashes.
Physical characteristics of the house dust mite
The characteristics of a house dust mite include:
- Less than half a millimetre in length, which makes it hard to see with the naked eye.
- Oval-shaped body.
- Light-coloured body with fine stripes.
- Life span of around 2 months or so, depending on the conditions.
Allergic reaction to dust mites.
Unlike other common household bugs (fleas, for example), dust mites don’t bite. Their bodies, secretions and faeces contain particular proteins that can trigger allergic symptoms in susceptible people.
Common hiding spots for dust mites
The diet of the house dust mite includes shed skin flakes, pollen and fungal spores. It prefers warm, humid and dark environments.
Common hiding spots around the home include:
- Mattresses and bed linen.
- Upholstered furniture.
- Shag-pile or long-fibred carpets.
- Soft toys.