Dust mites are one of the most common allergy and asthma triggers that lurk inside your own home.

While these microscopic creatures resemble small bugs, dust mites don’t actually leave bites on your skin. They can, however, cause skin rashes. You’re also more likely to have other allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and postnasal drip.

Dust mites aren’t to be confused with bedbugs, which are a separate type of species that leave visible bites on your skin.

If you have continuous allergy symptoms throughout the year, it may be worth talking to a doctor about possible dust mite allergies. While difficult to get rid of completely, there are ways you can manage dust mite populations in your home while also treating your allergies.

Dust mites can be difficult to detect due to their small size. These microscopic arthropods are estimated to be only 1/4 to 1/3 millimeters long. You can only see them under a microscope, and even then, they only look like small white spider-like creatures.

Males dust mites can live over a month, while female dust mites can live up to 90 days.

The reason why dust mites are so prevalent in people’s homes is that they feed off of dead skin cells. On an average day, one person may shed 1.5 grams of dead skin cells, which can feed up to one million dust mites at a time.

Dust mites make their homes in places where dead skin cells are most likely to accumulate, such as bedding, furniture, and carpeting. Rugs and stuffed animals also make good homes for dust mites.

While you can find dust mites all over the world, these creatures tend to favor hot and humid climates. Since they can burrow themselves deep into cloth fibers, they can also travel with you when you move or are on a vacation or business trip.

Dust mites themselves are allergenic, meaning they can cause allergies. They also leave behind skin and fecal matter that may also trigger allergies.

While other bugs you encounter may bite, dust mites themselves don’t actually bite your skin. However, an allergic reaction to these pesky creatures may induce skin rashes. These are often red and itchy in nature.

Allergic reactions to dust mites are common and typically caused by inhaling the mites’ skin and fecal matter materials.

If you have a dust mite allergy, you may experience symptoms year-round. You may also notice that your symptoms peak during the hot, humid summer months. Common signs of a dust mite allergy include:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • postnasal drip
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • itchy, water eyes
  • red, itchy skin
  • itchy throat

Depending on the severity of your dust mite allergies, this condition may also trigger asthma.

You may notice wheezing, coughing, and chest pain as a result. Your symptoms may be worse at night when you’re lying down. The more you stay indoors, the more you may be prone to dust mite complications.

The best way to treat allergies is to get rid of the underlying culprit. Depending on the severity of your symptoms though, you may need immediate relief.

Talk to your doctor about the following treatment options for dust mite allergies:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines. These work by blocking histamine, which is released when your immune system encounters an allergen. Common antihistamines brands include Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra, and Benadryl.
  • Decongestants. If your allergies continuously cause stuffy nose, postnasal drip, and sinus headaches, you may benefit from an OTC or prescription decongestant to break up the mucus.
  • Prescription allergy medications. Possibilities include oral leukotriene receptor antagonists and nasal corticosteroids.
  • Allergy shots. These work by injecting small amounts of a specific allergen into your system so you build up immunity over time. Allergy shots are administered weekly over the course of several months or even years and are best for severe allergies that aren’t alleviated with medications. You must undergo allergy testing before getting allergy shots.

Dust mites are difficult to get rid of completely, but removing as many as possible from your home can help prevent allergic reactions.

The best way to get rid of dust mites is to target the areas they tend to live in and thrive. These include:

  • bedding
  • pillows
  • carpets
  • rugs
  • pet bedding and furniture
  • furniture
  • blinds and curtains
  • toys and stuffed animals

Frequent vacuuming, wet mopping, dusting, and washing can all treat dust mites. You don’t need any specialized products. You just need to make sure you wash bedding in hot water and use wet cloths that can properly trap dust when you clean.

Prevention is key to avoiding allergies, including dust mites. It may be challenging to prevent them altogether, but you can take the following steps to control the dust mite population in your household:

  • Avoid carpeting in your home as much as possible.
  • Vacuum and deep clean all carpet and rugs as often as you can.
  • Dust regularly, paying extra attention to blinds, furniture crevices, and other small areas where dust mites may accumulate.
  • Keep the humidity in your home under 50 percent to ward off the conditions dust mites thrive in.
  • Use certified allergen-capturing filters in all air conditioning units and vacuums to make sure dust mites and their fecal matter are fully captured.
  • Wash all bedding weekly using hot water.
  • Use zippered mattress and pillow covers to prevent dust mites from entering your bedding.

It’s important to note that pesticides do not get rid of dust mites.

What’s the difference between a dust mite and a bedbug?

Bedbugs are larger than dust mites, and can be seen with the naked eye. They’re sometimes confused with dust mites because they live in bedding, carpets, and curtains. And like dust mites, they can also cause allergic reactions.

The key difference though is that bedbugs literally bite humans and feed off of their blood. Dust mites can irritate your skin, but they don’t bite you.

Although dust mites don’t bite humans, their widespread presence in your home can lead to uncomfortable allergy symptoms, including skin rashes.

Dust mites are prevalent in most homes, so regular cleaning and other preventive measures are key to stopping their large numbers while also alleviating your allergies.

If you continue to have allergies despite dust mite prevention, see an allergist for help.