Waking up with a couple of itchy red dots across your body? It could be that you have some unwanted guests in your bed!
These bed invaders are also known as dust mites, and many people believe that the skin irritation is caused by dust mite bites.
What many believe to be the bite marks of dust mites look like small mosquito bites. In some cases they may even resemble the likes of the good old chicken pocks!
But hold on – do dust mite bites actually exist or are they merely a myth? The short answer is the latter!
The thing is that you aren’t actually being bitten by them. Instead, it is an allergic reaction that you are experiencing.
To fully understand what is going on, let us have a look at what dust mites really are and what the body is reacting to.
In addition, we will also discuss how you can treat and prevent a dust mite allergy.
What Are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are microscopic animals which were only recently discovered in 1964.
They are relatives of the common spider and are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Dust mites simply love warm and humid conditions – such as those found in your mattress (if you aren’t sleeping on the right one that is but we’ll get to that later!).
In fact, they are often found in spaces where humans spend a lot of their time, including couches, chairs or carpets.
Their favourite places however are mattresses, toppers and pillows. That’s because we spend at least 30% of our lifetime on them and they just love eating our shed skin.
In addition, when we sweat during the night we also create the damp conditions in which they thrive.
Both issues can easily be fixed with the help of the right gear. Before we get to that bit though, let’s dig a little deeper on the dust mite allergy matter.
Are Dust Mites a Type of Allergen?
Do you know what an allergen is?
An allergen is a particle which may trigger an allergic reaction, depending on whether or not the exposed individual is resistant to it or not.
Now, one would now assume at this point that the dust mite is a potential allergen, right? Nope, unfortunately the story goes a bit deeper!
Dust mites are not the allergen themselves. In fact, the dust mite on its own is actually not dangerous to us humans in any way.
It is not known to carry any human diseases or cause infections. In fact, dust mites don’t even bite as we have established earlier.
So what’s making your skin itch every night?
The Real Cause for Your Allergic Reaction
It won’t be easy to tell you this, but at some point we’ll have to rip off that band aid.
Ready? Here we go!
The actual allergen are the dust mite droppings and their left over bodies! There, we said it.
Although heavier than pollen, they have just the right size to enter the human respiratory tract.
The reaction is due to the stomach enzymes of the dust mite which are still in the droppings.
The thing is though that the droppings are not dangerous either. The issue is that your body may perceive it as such.
That is, after all, what an allergy is in the end.
Your body then experiences an inflammatory response by producing proteins known as antibodies to protect you from the dangers of the unwanted invaders.
Especially if you are exposed to the allergen over a longer period of time, a chronic inflammation may set in. In some cases, chronic exposure has also been associated with asthma.
A Quick Reassurance
By the way, just because you have dust mites at home does not mean that you have a dirty home.
It is fully normal to have them at home. In fact, it is impossible to have a fully dust mite free home. The only thing you can do is regulate the amount and keep it on a minimum.
We will get to more on this later in the article - we just felt the need to reassure you here!
Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms
There are many different symptoms which you may experience depending on numerous factors.
The usual symptoms of a dust mite allergy are caused by an inflammation in your nasal passages.
It starts off with simple sneezing and a runny nose. Some may also experience itchy, red or watery eyes along with nasal congestion, an itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat.
Some have also experienced uncontrollable coughing, and even facial pressure and pain. In very extreme cases, some have also had swollen, blue- colored skin under their eyes.
Parent tip: children often do a frequent upward rubbing movement on the nose. That’s a great tell that they may be experiencing an allergic reaction!
All these symptoms depend on how your body reacts to the allergen. Some may have less severe ones, such as sneezing or a runny nose. Other bodies may react much more heavily.
This is because it identifies the allergen as being more dangerous. In this case, it overreacts highly and produces much more antibodies to fight off the invader that it needs to.
Remember that the dust mite allergen is inherently safe and that it’s the body that is misinformed and overreacting at this point.
Dust Mite Allergy and Asthma
A big contributing factor is also whether or not you have asthma, in which case the risk and severity of a reaction is higher.
Right off the bat: if that’s the case, we highly recommend that you consult with your doctor.
People with asthma generally experience more severe symptoms. This includes additional difficulty in breathing or even chest tightness and pain. They may even be able to hear a whistling sound while they exhale.
All of these mentioned earlier will also lead to difficulties in sleeping. In turn, this lowers your immune system as well as your body lacks rest, which may lead to a flu or cold.
Again, if any of the above fit to your story please consult with your doctor!
When to See a Doctor
Since some (or most of them for that matter) symptoms remind you of the common cold, it can be very difficult to differentiate between an allergy and a cold.
The rule of thumb is that if the symptoms persist over a week, you may be experiencing an allergy. At this point, we give the first recommendation to see a doctor.
If you are experiencing very severe symptoms on the other hand, we highly recommend you to not wait a week and immediately call a doctor. Severe symptoms include nasal congestion, wheezing, coughing and difficulty sleeping.
If your shortness of breath or wheezing worsens rapidly, we recommend you to call emergency services instead - especially if you have asthma.
Dust Mite Allergy Treatment
Unfortunately there is no way to treat dust mite bites. That is because they are a myth! (Joke’s on you!)
Right, let’s get serious though.
#1 Types of Medication
The good news here is that over-the-counter medication will help you control your symptoms. If you have a more severe case, you may need to get prescription medication. Consult with your general practitioner about this.
The most common medication used to treat a dust mite allergy are Antihistamines. This will relieve itching, sneezing and watery eyes.
This medication is used by many people who have allergies because it hampers the allergic reaction. In simple terms: it tricks the body into realizing that the allergen is actually not dangerous.
Other medications include Decongestants and Nasal Steroids. Decongestants will help ease and unclog your nose. On the other hand, nasal steroids will help reduce the swelling in your nose. This will allows you to breathe better.
In very severe cases, your general practitioner may also offer immunotherapy. This is when you will get allergy shots and works on the same principle as a vaccination. However, this is only done if you have an allergy over a longer period of time.
Another option would be Odactra. This would be an alternative to the shots. It is an allergen extract which can be taken under the tongue.
It’s essentially the better alternative for those who have a fear of needles! It will also help against nasal and eye irritation caused by the dust mite allergy.
The best thing to do is to talk to your general practitioner. They will know what the best treatment is for you!
Top 4 Dust Mite Allergy Prevention Methods
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, around 20% of people suffer from allergies at some time in their lives.
You are definitely not alone!
This is why it is very important to minimize your exposure to allergens in general. Let’s take a look at a few ways to get rid of those pesky dust mites!
#1 Wash the Wash
First of all, it is important to wash your sheets on a weekly basis by using hot water.
It is recommended to wash with at least 60°C/140°F, but 90°C/194°F is even better! This will make sure that the dust mites will be killed.
In addition, it will also wash away all of the allergens. This includes the droppings, as well as dead dust mite bodies – yuck!
If you are unable to wash with hot water, do not worry! You can also choose to use commercial products containing tea tree or eucalyptus oils. They are specially formulated to remove dust mites in cold water.
Another option is also to hot tumble dry the washed sheets. If you do so for 10 minutes, it will also have the same effect.
However, dry cleaning is not as effective, which is why we do not recommend to do so.
#2 Take Cover
Did you know that there are special dust mite covers?
The dust mite covers are specially designed to keep the microscopic animals away from you.
In comparison to normal sheets, they only need to be washed every 2 months. They should also be washed in the same manner as usual sheets (see above).
#3 Fluffy Isn’t Always Good
Have any sheepskin or woollen products in your bedroom?
As much as we love the fluffy feeling as well, we’ll have to tell you some bad news here.
They are one of the favourite spots for those pesky critters to nest in.
We highly recommend that you get rid of them.
After all, why make it easy on them, right?
#4 Toy Story
Have any pets or kids?
Make sure to remove all soft toys from the bed and bedroom.
This is especially important if you have kids as they will also be unhappy to know that there are dust mites lurking.
Once again, you take away a place where they can feed and breed.
Who wants their infants to play with possibly harmful allergens?
Here are a few more steps you can take. They apply to both the bedroom and other living spaces:
1. Replace carpets with wooden floors
2. Damp-dust hard surfaces weekly
3. Vacuum clean at least weekly, especially on carpets
4. Make sure that it is not too humid in your living space
5. Replace curtains with blinds
6. Consider having leather or vinyl sofas and chairs instead of cloth
7. Do not sleep in the same room as your pet
An Even Better Way is Vita Talalay
So, why is Vita Talalay great against dust mites?
As mentioned earlier, one of the favourite spots for dust mites is the space you sleep in.
This is because they feed off your dead skin. In addition, your sweat you excrete during the night helps create the damp environment they need.
However, this is not the case with Vita Talalay latex products.
This is because it is so ventilating that it will never create a damp environment. It simply does not give dust mites a chance to thrive, making Vita Talalay latex hypoallergenic.
If you would like to know more about the hypoallergenic properties of Vita Talalay latex, please click here.
In addition, we also recommend you to read this article. It highlights the breathable properties of Vita Talalay latex, and compares it to other comfort materials.
The Bottom Line
Dust mite bites are a myth.
What causes you to have the skin irritations and other symptoms is an allergic reaction.
Dust mites will always be there. The only thing we can do is keep the exposure to a minimum.
One fantastic way to do so is to make sure that you have the right mattress, topper and pillow - Vita Talalay latex is the answer to that.
If you combine that with the above mentioned prevention tips, you and your family will be able to sleep healthy and wake up refreshed.
Also, find out more about the many other benefits of Vita Talalay here.