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House Dust Mites & Allergy

- Control the allergy and the mite -

Summary: House dust, which is mostly dead skin cells, is food for a tiny mite called the house dust mite. These mites excrete an allergen that can make some people very sick.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

House dust mites, sometimes called "dust bugs"

House dust mites are tiny (~1/50"), nearly colorless mites that feed on the organic debris (dust) in our homes. Nearly all homes have some mites but obviously those homes with more of the dust that mites use are likely to have more dust mites. Dust mites live in the fabrics and textiles that trap dust such as carpets, mattresses, bedding, curtains, and so forth. These tiny mites would go completely unnoticed except for the fact that they can cause moderate to severe allergy in some people.

common misspellings: illuminate (eliminate) dust mites, dustmites

mold mites, closely related to dust mites

A mold mite (related to dust mites), Tyrophagus putrescentiae, magnified about 100x. USDA/ARS; Photo by Eric Erbe; digital colorization by Chris Pooley.

As homes are sealed tighter and tighter against the elements in order to conserve energy, house dust mites (Dermatophagoides spp.) become more of a problem. This page will help you get rid of these mites and the allergens they produce.


Dust is mostly made of our skin!

House dust is a mixture of ash, cloth fibers, hair, plant pollen, human and animal skin (dander), soil particles, and fungal spores. In many households, human skin flakes, alone, make up much of this debris. House dust mites use this debris as food. These tiny mites feed directly on the organic parts of house dust.

Allergens are excreted by the mites

What goes into the dust mite as a flake of skin comes out the other end as waste that contains an allergen, a compound that is capable of stuffing up your nose (rhinitis) or even causing a life-threatening asthma attack. House dust mites are not the only source of allergens in our indoor environment but they may be one of the most important.


Dust mite and allergy treatment

Dust mite allergy can be managed by a combination of:

  • reducing the number of dust mites
  • reducing contact with allergen
  • medically treating the allergy

See the following articles for details: The number of dust mites and the allergen pool can be reduced by proper house cleaning (see How to Manage Dust Mites & Allergens). You can also reduce the amount of airborne allergen by using room air purifiers that employ HEPA filters (see Using Room Air Purifiers to Reduce Allergens). Finally, medically treat the allergy with medication and immunotherapy, see your allergist.

Related Articles

Dust Mite Allergy Control

Room Air Purifiers & Dust Mite Allergies

Mold Mites


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Mission: To provide accurate, up-to-date and unbiased information for solving common insect and mite problems around your home, business and landscape using least-toxic methods.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD,  , email:  [email protected]

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