Dust mites belong to the arthropod family. They’re related to ticks and resemble insects, but they lack wings and eyes. Dust mite bites are typically harmless, though they can sometimes result in swelling, itching, and pain
Dust mites are quite small, too, making them hard to identify. As a result, many people don’t realize they’ve been exposed to mites until they notice what look like small bites.
Read on to learn more about mite bites, including a photo guide to help you determine what bit you.
When people think of mites or suspect they’ve been bitten, their mind often automatically goes to dust mites. But dust mites don’t bite humans. They also don’t live on humans, though they can sometimes get onto your clothing.
Dust mites can, however, cause allergic reactions.
The dust in your home is partially made up of dust mite feces and decomposing dust mite bodies. Many people who believe they’re allergic to dust really have an allergy to this protein-rich dust, which often triggers symptoms of asthma and hay fever.
Mite bites are often hard to identify. You might not feel the bite until after it happens or notice the mite when it bites. Not knowing what’s biting you can be frustrating and a little unnerving.
While your symptoms will vary depending on the mite that bit you, there are some general signs that can help you identify a mite bite from, say, a spider bite.
Common signs of a mite bite
- red, rash-like marks on your skin
- small bumps that can become hard or inflamed
- irritation, itching, and pain near the mark, rash, or bump
- swollen or blistered skin near the bite
If you want to find out exactly what bit you, sticky traps or tape can sometimes help you trap the culprit. Specific characteristics or symptoms of your bite can also help you find out what type of mite you’re dealing with.
Chiggers live outside in cracks in the soil, generally in damp rural areas with tall grass and vegetation overgrowth.
Only chigger larvae bite humans. They feed by injecting saliva that dissolves your skin and sucking this product back up. If you don’t remove them from your skin, they may keep feeding for several days.
It’s common to get chigger bites on your:
The bites form red welts within a day, and these welts eventually harden and become inflamed. Chigger bites are often extremely itchy, but try not to scratch, as scratching may lead to infection and fever.
Scabies mites need a human or animal host in order to live. They burrow into your skin, where they lay eggs. They’re very contagious and can easily pass through close contact.
With scabies, you may not experience any symptoms for several weeks, but eventually, rash-like bumps and blisters will develop along the folds of your skin, including:
- between your fingers
- in the bend of your knees and elbows
- around your waist, breasts, or buttocks
- around male genitals
- on the bottom of your feet, especially in children
Itching associated with scabies is often severe and can become even worse during the night. Scabies require medical treatment, so it’s important to follow up with your healthcare provider if you think you have them.
Two main types of Demodex mites live on your body. Demodex folliculorum, or the hair follicle mite, generally lives in hair follicles on your face. Demodex brevis more often lives on your neck or chest.
You can’t see these mites without a microscope, and they often don’t cause symptoms. But for some, they may cause:
- itchy or scaly skin
- increased skin sensitivity
- burning sensation
- skin that feels rough like sandpaper
You may be more likely to notice skin issues and other signs of this mite if you have a weak immune system.
Bird and rodent mites
Rodent and bird mites typically live in nests and on animal hosts. If their host dies or leaves the nest, however, they may also bite humans.
You may feel a small sting when they bite and eventually notice:
- extreme itching
- a rash
- skin irritation
These mites usually feed on small flies that live on oak leaves, but they can drop from trees and bite humans. This happens most often in late summer. Oak tree leaves with crusted brown edges can indicate oak mites. If you see these leaves, avoid sitting or working under these trees.
Oak mite bites leave red welts, usually on your face, neck, or arms. These welts are often mistaken for chigger bites. In 12 hours or so, the bites turn into bumps that look like pimples and are extremely itchy. You may have multiple bumps that form a painful rash. These bites may last for as long as two weeks.
Straw itch mites
These mites live in stored grain, hay, or seeds, as well as trees and leaves. They usually prey on insects but will also bite humans. However, they don’t remain on your body after biting you.
You’ll usually encounter these mites if you sit or walk under the trees they live in or lie down in leaf piles. They commonly bite the shoulders and neck and leave red marks that itch and may appear to be a rash.
If you’re still not sure what bit you, the photo guide below can help.
If you have visible bites or think a mite may have bitten you, it’s a good idea to take a shower using plenty of soap. Wash your clothes and any affected bedding in warm, soapy water. Carefully applying a topical permethrin cream (scabicide) will eliminate any remaining mites on your body. In most situations, care is directed at relieving itch and skin discomfort.
Antihistamine creams or anti-itch creams, including those containing hydrocortisone, can help reduce itching. You can also take oral antihistamines for severe itching. If you have painful bites, anesthetic creams can help.
Mite bites often cause severe itching, but scratching can lead to infection. It’s important to try to reduce the itch with medication, ice, or other treatments.
Do I need to see a doctor?
You’ll need to see a healthcare provider for treatment if you have scabies bites. For most other types of mite bites, you may be fine healing on your own.
However, you may still want to make an appointment if:
- over-the-counter creams don’t relieve pain and itching
- the bites don’t improve after a week or two
- you have any signs of infection, including fever, swelling, warmth, or leaking fluid at the bite location
If you develop hives, feel dizzy, or have trouble breathing after you’ve been bitten, seek emergency medical attention. These signs can indicate an allergic reaction.
Treating your house for mites and insects can help in some cases, but it’s generally recommended to make sure what type of infestation you have before using sprays and repellants. These treatments may not work on all types of mites.
Mite bites can be extremely uncomfortable. They may itch, hurt, and cause skin irritation that can last for as long as two weeks.
Most types of mite bites clear up on their own, so you usually won’t need medical attention. Over-the-counter pain medications and anti-itch creams can help relieve itching and pain.
If you keep getting bites you can’t identify, you may want to see a healthcare provider. Finding out what kind of mites keep biting you can help you figure out if you have an infestation.