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Bed Basics

Dust Mites: Dead or Alive

When people think of dust, they think of wiping down their antique furniture, mopping the floors and the gray stuff around their desks at work. Unsurprisingly, when people think “dust mites,” oftentimes they think it must be some special type of dust. Rarely do they consider that the term might refer to a living organism.

The truth is that dust mites are very much real and very much alive.

What exactly is a dust mite?


A dust mite is a type of arthropod, an invertebrate animal with an exoskeleton. Crabs, butterflies and scorpions are all common types of arthropods. Dust mites are most closely related to spiders. Dust mites are sometimes confused with bed bugs, but Mattress Firm has created this sheet to help you tell the difference.

Dust mites can be found all around the house — common places include carpet, upholstered furniture, curtains, bedding, and, that’s right, mattresses. They tend to flourish in temperatures of 68 to 77°F and humidity levels around 70-80%.

Are dust mites harmful?


There are 13 species of dust mites, each of which can be found in the household articles mentioned above. But, the dust mites themselves are not usually a problem for humans — the problem is in what they leave behind.

Dust mites excrete an active digestive enzyme called “Der p1.” Humans are allergic to this enzyme, which acts like a meat tenderizer and can kill defense cells in the lungs, nose, eyes and skin. After the enzyme “melts” the glue-like substance that binds organic cells together, Der p1 can invade our bodies and travel through our blood stream.

That sounds bad. How does the human body react to dust mites?


Our allergic reaction to dust mites results in symptoms similar to those of other common allergies. Most commonly, they include sneezing and a runny nose. Many people suffering from an allergic reaction to dust mites also feel effects similar to those of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, around 20 million Americans experience allergic symptoms from dust mites annually.

What can I do to get rid of dust mites?


Unfortunately, the only solution is to prevent the dust mites from taking hold in the first place. There is no way to effectively remove all dust mites from a home, no matter how hard you might try through various products and services.

The problem is that dust mites bury themselves so deeply into household fabrics that even after vacuuming up to 95% of them could remain.

The most effective prevention methods are covering mattresses and pillows in dust-proof zipper cases, washing and laundering household fabric effectively, and getting rid of places that dust mites thrive. Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible.

 

While dust mites can be difficult deal with, they are not insurmountable creatures to control. For more great tips regarding mattress health and household cleaning, visit our related posts on the Daily Doze.

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