Dust mites are a common concern for homeowners and many people wonder what do dust mites look like to the human eye? These small bugs are found in almost every home. In fact, there are probably millions of mites currently crawling around in your pillows, sheets, and furniture.
What do these bugs look like? Despite the frightening-looking images that you may often see depicting dust mites, they really look like small blobs.
Dust mites are incredibly small and invisible to the human eye. However, there are ways to see them.
What Are Dust Mites?
People often assume that dust mites are tiny insects. They are part of the arachnid family, which means that they have eight legs and two body segments.
These microscopic bugs feed and live on the dead skin cells that you and your pets shed throughout your house. As these dead skin cells typically end up as dust in your house, the mites are referred to as dust mites.
Dust mites tend to live in areas where they can find food, which includes dusty or damp areas of the house, along with porous fibers, such as carpeting, clothing, bedding, and furniture. A typical bed mattress may provide a home to tens of thousands of small dust mites.
Each dust mite can create about 20 droppings of waste each day. These droppings contain a protein that is responsible for the allergic reaction that some people experience due to a dust mite allergy. Over time, the fabric can become infested with mites. In fact, after two years, about 10% of the weight of your pillow is comprised of dead dust mites and their waste.
You Need a Microscope to See Dust Mites
The truth is that dust mites are too small for detection with the human eye. A dust mite is typically less than 1/100th of an inch in size. That is too small for you to see without a microscope.
While you cannot see them with the naked eye, there are microscopic photographs of these tiny arachnids. They are a creamy, white color and most of their body is a shapeless translucent glob. Like most arachnids, they have eight legs and no antennae.
How to Detect the Presence of Dust Mites
Your home likely has dust mites, as they are found almost everywhere. However, they typically only become a problem if you have a dust mite allergy.
An allergic reaction to these small bugs is one of the most common ways to detect the presence of dust mites. The symptoms include sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing, nasal congestion, and a runny nose.
If you have a serious dust mite infestation, you may also experience skin irritation. A major infestation can cause itching and irritation. However, you will not get any bites from these small bugs. The bites are most likely from another critter, such as a spider, fleas, or bed bugs.
While an allergic reaction may indicate the presence of dust mites, the reaction may also be triggered by other allergens in your home. However, there are a couple of ways to verify the presence of dust mites.
The first method you can perform yourself: as mentioned, you need a microscope to see dust mites. Almost any microscope, including a microscope for kids, should work. You also need a roll of clear tape, like the tape you use to wrap presents.
Remove two strips of tape. Place one piece of tape on the surface where you suspect dust mites may be present. Dust mites are most often found in damp areas or parts of the house that contain a lot of dust. They can also be found in your bedding, as they mainly live off dead skin cells.
When you have a major infestation, you may also have dust mites on your body. If your skin feels itchy or irritated, you can try placing the tape on an area of your skin.
Remove the tape and then cover the back side with the second piece of tape. You now have a microscope slide that may contain dust mites. Place the slide in the microscope and look for small, translucent globs with small legs. The globs may also be clumped together.
There is no need for professional testing to determine if your home has dust mites. As they are found in almost every home and building, the test will only confirm what you already know.
Are Dust Mites Harmful to People and Pets?
Dust mites do not bite or sting. They are not parasites that live off your body. However, they do live off dead skin cells, which is why they are mostly found in your bedding and in your household dust.
While dust mites do not bite or sting, they can cause an allergic reaction in nearly one out of four people. If you are allergic to household dust, there is a good chance that you are also allergic to dust mites.
Pets, including cats and dogs, can also suffer from an allergy to dust mites. Just like people, the biggest threat that dust mites pose for your pets is an allergic reaction. If your dog or cat has an allergy to dust mites, they may frequently itch or develop recurrent ear infections.
People and pets can be tested for a dust mite allergy. If the test confirms the allergy, there are two ways of dealing with the problem.
As dust mites cannot be eliminated, you can either use medications to control the allergic reaction or take steps to help control the dust mite population and reduce the presence of allergens in your home.
Simple Tips for Preventing Dust Mite Infestations
You cannot completely get rid of dust mites in your home. They are found almost everywhere. However, there are ways to reduce the number of dust mites in your home.
The first step that you can take to help get rid of dust mites is to keep your home clean. Vacuum the carpets, sweep the floors, and dust at least once per week to target some of the areas where dust mites are most commonly found.
You should also regularly wash your bedding in hot water to help kill dust mites. You may also want to avoid feather or wool pillows and bedding, as these materials can provide a suitable home for mites because they collect your dead skin cells.
You can also purchase dust-proof and hypoallergenic mattress and pillow covers to help keep dust mites from infesting your bedding.
The humidity levels in your home may also have an impact on the dust mite population. Keeping the relative humidity at 50% or lower may lower the number of dust mites. Either use a dehumidifier or the dehumidifier mode on an AC unit to help control the humidity in your house.
Using HEPA Filters to Help Reduce the Number of Mites
Another solution for reducing the number of dust mites in your home is to use HEPA filters. These filters can be found in air purifiers and vacuum cleaners.
When vacuuming your carpeting, furniture, and curtains with a vacuum containing a HEPA filter, you are more likely to capture dust mites as you vacuum.
Remember that dust mites are incredibly small. They typically measure about 20 microns in size, while their fecal matter can measure 10 microns or smaller. While these sizes are too small to detect with the naked eye, they are large enough to be trapped by a HEPA filter.
The filter can also help trap dust, which is a natural habitat for dust mites. By regularly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, you can also reduce the amount of dusting needed to keep surfaces free of dust.
Along with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter, you may want to place an air purifier containing a HEPA filter in your house. The air purifier offers continuous filtration power to help pull dust and dust mite allergens out of the air.
These two simple steps can have a significant impact on dust mite numbers in your home. They also help to clean your air, removing pet dander and other particles that may increase the risk of an allergic reaction.
Last Thoughts on Detecting Dust Mites
While you cannot see dust mites, they are in your home. They can be found in your bedding, furniture, carpeting, and even the dust bunnies in the corner of a room.
The only way to see a dust mite is to use a microscope. You can prepare your own sample using tape. However, the sample will only confirm what you already know – that you have dust mites in your house.
Dust mites do not pose a threat to your health, other than the potential for an allergic reaction. The best way to deal with this problem is to maintain a clean home and regularly wash your bedding. Using a vacuum cleaner and an air purifier with HEPA filters can also help control the dust mite population.
In the end, you do not need to detect dust mites. Assume that they are present and take steps to eliminate dust in your home and keep your fabrics clean.