What is a dust mite?
Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farinae, are commonly known as house dust mites. Microscopic, eight legged creatures, 0.3mm in length, and invisible to the human eye, they are arachnids relatives of spiders, not insects.
A gram of house dust (approximately half of a teaspoon) contains as many as 1,000 dust mites. That same gram of dust can hold 250,000 of their fecal pellets. A dust mite will produce 20 fecal pellets per day, that is 200 times its own body weight in feces during its short lifetime. With millions of dust mites living in one bed this means there are vast amounts of droppings there. These levels mean that virtually all dust mite sensitive people will experience problems as a direct result of the dust mites and their droppings in their mattress, pillow and duvet.
The development of the house dust mite from an egg to an adult takes just three to four weeks. Adults live for about six weeks, during which time the females produce forty to eighty eggs.
Dust mites survive by eating dead skin cells, which make up to 80% of house dust. They also live off water vapor, which we provide for them through perspiring and breathing, approximately one pint per person per night.
House dust mites are found in virtually all homes, no matter how clean. They live in the dust that accumulates in carpets, fabrics, furniture and bedding.
A Primary source of dust mite exposure in the home is in the bedroom, which provides the best conditions of warmth, humidity, and food for their growth. The average bedroom can be infested by millions of microscopic dust mites. We spend around one third of our lives in the bedroom so we are in close and prolonged contact with dust mites. They are present in mattresses, pillows, blankets, carpets, upholstered furniture, curtains, and similar fabrics.
Asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis are the three main allergic diseases where the cause of most attacks has been linked to the house dust mite allergen.
It is not only the dust mite that causes the problem. The allergen which causes asthma attacks, allergies and eczema is actually a protein found in their droppings and their carcasses.
Research shows that during one nights sleep most people toss and turn up to 60 or 70 times meaning the dust mite droppings are frequently expelled into the air from bedding. Researchers have also discovered that the allergens can then stay in the air for up to 2 hours. Once airborne, dried dust mite droppings are easily inhaled into our airways thus causing allergic reactions in asthmatics. These allergens can cause wheezing, coughs, itchy eyes, sniffles and, in more serious cases, asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis.