Dust Mites in the Home: What Exactly Are They?

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Most people's knowledge of dust mites is limited to the barest details and generally involves common misconceptions based in urban myth. Most people know that dust mites are little bugs of one kind or another. They'll tell you they cause infestations and maybe a painful rash. They certainly make you sneeze! And they'll often repeat the old saw about dust mites adding ten pounds of weight in dead skin to the cushions on your couch. But what is the truth about dust mites?

The truth is that like all myths, these misconceptions are based loosely in fact. First, dust mites are little critters: specifically, they are tiny arachnids (yes, that's the same category to which spiders belong!) often smaller than one-fourth of a millimeter. If you don't have ruler handy, all you need to know is that 0.25 millimeters is small - so small it’s invisible to the naked eye.

Now the good news: these tiny arachnids are too small to bite and too small to cause any kind of skin irritation. They also live for only a matter of a few weeks. But the bad news is that they multiply with extreme rapidity, and that their perfect habitat is the stable environment of the human home. Climate controlled weather-protected homes, with carpets and cushions and pillows to hide in, and with plenty of humans and animals around to feed on, are just about paradise to dust mites.

Oh, did we forget to mention what they eat? That's right - you. To be fair, they won't eat your living flesh, but their delicacy is the tiny flakes of human skin you shed each and every day. Our skin cells constantly are shed as they are damaged, and as we drop these flakes of skin - the dust mites are waiting.

Not so bad, right? After all, they're busy cleaning up what you leave behind, and it’s not as if you can see what they're doing!

But then there's more bad news: there are countless billions of them in your home. They are breeding, and you are breathing them in and out, with every breath. And if you are like most folks, the shells of dead mites - and the feces they leave behind - are probably the single biggest factor in your allergies!

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