If you've ever woken up with itchy red bumps on your skin, it's likely you've found yourself worried about the possibility of dust mite bites. In reality, however, the facts about these tiny creatures and their capacity to injure humans may surprise you, and help inform your future bedding and home design decisions.
Dust mites are a type of tiny insect that feed primarily upon the remains of human skin. Dandruff, shed hair, and dead skin make up the core of their diet, and as sickening as that may be, it turns out that you have little to fear from mites when it comes to their ability to bite you. Simply put, dust mites don't bite humans, and they're not interested in your blood, as some online rumors may have you believe.
Yet if you're waking up with itchy, reddened skin, could mites still be to blame? The short answer is yes, but there may be another cause you should rule out as well. If you find yourself in this situation, it is entirely possible that you're dealing with bed bugs instead of mites. Bed bugs are very interested in your blood, as it forms their primary food source, and these tiny parasites are well known for infesting humans.
As EMedicineHealth points out, there has been a notable resurgence of bed bug infestations in developed countries in recent years, particularly in urban centers in the United States. Bed bug bites are characterized by reddish lesions on the skin, which may be raised or flat. They can be found in clusters or in a linear pattern, and last from one to two weeks. If you experience these symptoms and also discover evidence of blood on your sheets, you may find yourself fighting against bed bugs.
An itchy, red rash, however, may also be an indicator of dust mites. Instead of biting humans, the mites can be responsible for such a rash through an allergic reaction, which some people will experience when exposed to proteins in the mites' fecal matter. As we've previously discussed here on the Green Conscience Blog, this is a far greater issue than many realize. After just a few years of usage, a down pillow or comforter can absorb an astounding amount of mite waste and remains. A typical mattress can harbor up to 10 million fecal matter producing mites, and though these insects have a lifespan of just 10 to 19 days, they lay between 60 to 80 eggs in their lifetime.
Dust mite waste and remains are linked to a range of allergic reactions, and since a normal person sheds up to an ounce of skin cells every week, these insects have an ample food source drawing them toward most mattresses. Luckily, however, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from the negative health effects of mites.
This final step is one of the most effective you can take against mites. Mattresses and bedding made from wool and latex are not only non-toxic, due largely to a lack of fire retardant chemicals, they are also deeply inhospitable to mites. The natural structure of cotton fiber helps to draw moisture out of bedding, removing one of the key elements necessary to provide a favorable mite habitat. In addition, specialized dust mite covers can be applied to pillows and mattresses in order to prevent the transfer of moisture and mites to the inner layers of bedding. These covers make it far easier to dispose of mites and their fecal matter on a regular basis.
Green Conscience specializes in sustainable, healthy bedding. If you believe you're facing the negative effects of dust mite bites and are considering upgrading your bedding, stop by the store and speak with Karen today.
[Images: "CSIRO ScienceImage 11085 A scanning electron micrograph of a female dust mite" by CSIRO, "House Dust Mite" by Employee of US Government, FDA.]
Hi! I'm Karen Totino, owner of Green Conscience Home. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of our posts, so comment away! One of my goals is to get the community discussing some of these eco topics, and hopefully help each other out!