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Dust Mites

What Are House Dust Mites?

“House dust mites are sightless, transparent, eight legged, microscopic organisms, about 1/3 mm in length that are closely related to ticks and spiders. They feed on human skin scales, animal dander, food remnants, mold and pollen.” (Nurse Practitioner, October 1992. p. 53)

How do House Dust Mites Survive: Sources of Exposure ?

House dust mites exist in warm humid places. “ They have a life span of approximately 30 days and produce up to 200 times their own weight in feces during this time. In their third week of life, the egg-bearing females produce 20 to 30 new mites. (Nurse Practitioner, October 1992.p.53). Warm and humid areas are a nesting place for the mites. The following are the common household areas where they are found:

  • Mattresses
  • Carpets
  • Stuffed toys
  • Clothing

How Do House Dust Mites affect the Body?

House dust mites do not cause diseases in humans, however, chronic exposure to the allergens by way of inhalation of their fecal pallets can cause allergic reactions. These symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itching of the chin
  • Anterior chest tightness
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, and a cough
  • Respiratory failure can occur

Depending on the season and geographical area, house dust mite allergen concentration will vary. These allergens are considered the major source of allergic asthma. The presence of a high concentration for those who have antibodies towards the mite allergens will be affected causing an allergic reaction to occur.

How Do I Explain House Dust Mites to My Patients?

In many incidences, the patient is unaware of the presence of dust mites in their home. It is important to have them realize that the presence of these mites are not an indication of the home being unclean. To suggest that any type of bug is present, especially one that is not visible will also bring some apprehension that will need to be addressed . Provide written materials and resources to provide an understanding of the mites and their affects. Review materials together to be available to answer any questions.


Huss, Karen; Hush, Richard, Salerno , Maria “ Allergen Avoidance in the Treatment of Dust Mite Allergy and Asthma.” Nurse Practitioner 17 (1992).

Chang, K, Becker, Allen Ferguson Alexander, Manfreda V. Simons, E. Chan, Henry “Effect of Application of Benzyl Benzoate on House Dust Mite Allergy Levels”.

American Family Physician “What to Do About Dust Mites in the Home”. Available here.