Dust Mites. What are they and why they matter?

Dust Mites

Dust mites might not have been what Shakespeare is talking about in Hamlet.  He refers to the thousand shock that flesh is heir to.  On this list of pests, diseases and maladies that afflict humans, the common household dust mite would seem to occupy a slot near the bottom. however, for a fair number of people this is not the case.

Dust Mite
house dust mite

Dust mites are microscopic invertebrate animals that belong to the same order as the much more familiar and visible spiders. They are small, nearly invisible to the naked eye, and 5 standing shoulder to shoulder are barely one millimeter wide’. In and of themselves they are harmless to other animals including humans. They are not carriers or vectors for any parasite, virus, bacteria or prion. Why then are they considered pests or undesirable organism?  They actually serve a useful function/ they feed on the dead skin particles that are shed continuously by humans and their pets;

Dust might droppings

Like all animals they produce excrement.  Unfortunately, dust mite droppings contain a substance that causes allergic reactions in susceptible humans. Most people are completely unaffected by dust mites and never suffer any ill effect from their presence.  Those who are sensitive, however may experience a whole range of symptoms that may even cause significant difficulties for those afflicted with asthma. It is safe to say that while not in the same category of creatures that are disease carriers, such as mosquitoes, fleas, or tics, dust mites represent a non-trivial health hazard.

Dust mites are found everywhere people live. They are quite happy in places where people rest and sleep.  dust mites can be found in rugs and furniture notably mattresses and bedding. They thrive anyplace where dead skin flakes can accumulate. A single mattress may be home to millions of dust mites. Their life cycle is short lasting only a few weeks. But they breed like rabbits.  A female dust mire can lay up to 100 eggs in her lifetime.

What then can be done to control these pests?

There is no magic bullet or single point dust mite solution. Most experts recommend a multiple methods approach. Overall the approach is to make the environment as inhospitable as possible. Dust mites do not live where it is dry.  In addition to central air filtration keeping the relative humidity below 40% can keep the dust mite population to a minimum. However, lowering the relative humidity of a residence too far can produce problems as well

Since dust mites live in carpets, bedding and mattresses, the use of a dust mite proof mattress and pillow represents a good step after lowering relative humidity. Bedding should be washed weekly in very hot water.  This not only kills the mites; it also deprives them of a large portion of their food supply. Mites and their droppings can be removed from carpets and floors through simple vacuuming especially by using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter. Persons who are susceptible can also avoid carpeting the home, especially sleeping areas, in favor of tile or hardwood flooring.

Air purifiers for dust mites

Maxum HEPA Cigar Air Purifier

The Maxum HEPA is a great way to remove dust mites and their feces from the air in your home

Unfortunately, dust mites and their waste are easily made airborne by ordinary human activity.  This is where air purification equipment is very useful.   In a home that has forced air HVAC a passive HEPA filter or active electrostatic filter such as LakeAir LAD2214 may be installed.  In addition to central air filtration, stand-alone air purifiers such as the LakeAir Maxum home air purifier are ideal for removing most types of air born irritants including dust mites and their droppings. The Maxum is also portable and can be relocated to a different area of the residence as needed.   The Maxum and Excel are an excellent choice for a rental property or a residence that does not have  forced air HVAC