House dust mite

House dust mites (HDM, or simply dust mites) are mites found in association with dust in dwellings.[1]

The main species are:

  • Dermatophagoides farinae (American house dust mite)
  • Dermatophagoides microceras
  • Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (European house dust mite)
  • Euroglyphus maynei (Mayne's house dust mite)



The dust mites are cosmopolitan members of the mite family Pyroglyphidae.


House dust mites, due to their very small size and translucent bodies, are barely visible to the unaided eye.[2] A typical house dust mite measures 0.2–0.3 mm (0.008–0.012 in) in length.[3] For accurate identification, one needs at least 10× magnification. The body of the house dust mite has a striated cuticle.


They feed on skin flakes from animals, including humans, and on some mold. Dermatophagoides farinae fungal food choices in 16 tested species commonly found in homes was observed in vitro to be Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium sphaerospermum, and Wallemia sebi, and they disliked Penicillium chrysogenum, Aspergillus versicolor, and Stachybotrys chartarum.[4]


The predators of dust mites are other allergenic mites (Cheyletiella), silverfish and pseudoscorpions.[5]


The average life cycle for a house dust mite is 65–100 days.[6] A mated female house dust mite can live up to 70 days, laying 60 to 100 eggs in the last five weeks of her life. In a 10-week life span, a house dust mite will produce approximately 2,000 fecal particles and an even larger number of partially digested enzyme-covered dust particles.


Dust mites are found worldwide, but are found more commonly in humid regions.[7] The species Blomia tropicalis is typically found only in tropical or subtropical regions.[8] Detectable dust mite allergen was found in the beds of about 84% of surveyed United States homes.[9] In Europe, detectable Der p 1 or Der f 1 allergen was found in 68% of surveyed homes.[10]

Health issues


The mite's gut contains potent digestive enzymes (notably Peptidase 1) that persist in their feces and are major inducers of allergic reactions such as wheezing. The mite's exoskeleton can also contribute to allergic reactions. Unlike scabies mites or skin follicle mites, house dust mites do not burrow under the skin and are not parasitic.[11]

Severe dust mite infestation in the home has been linked to atopic dermatitis and epidermal barrier damage has been documented.[12]

House dust mites are associated with allergic rhinitis and asthma,[13] as well as allergic conjunctivitis.[14] Efforts to remove these mites from the environment have not been found to be effective.[13] Immunotherapy may be useful in those affected.[13] Subcutaneous injections have better evidence than under the tongue dosing.[15] Topical steroids as nasal spray or inhalation may be used.[16]

Oral mite anaphylaxis

Dermatophagoides spp. can cause oral mite anaphylaxis (AKA pancake syndrome) when found in flour.[17][18]

Control techniques

House dust mites are present indoors wherever humans live. Positive tests for dust mite allergies are extremely common among people with asthma. Dust mites are microscopic arachnids whose primary food is dead human skin cells, but they do not live on living people. They and their feces and other allergens which they produce are major constituents of house dust, but because they are so heavy they are not suspended for long in the air. They are generally found on the floor and other surfaces until disturbed (by walking, for example). It could take somewhere between twenty minutes and two hours for dust mites to settle back down out of the air.

Dust mites are a nesting species that prefers a dark, warm, and humid climate. They flourish in mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets. Their feces include enzymes that are released upon contact with a moist surface, which can happen when a person inhales, and these enzymes can kill cells within the human body.[19] House dust mites did not become a problem until humans began to use textiles, such as western style blankets and clothing.[20]


Furniture with wooden or leather surfaces reduce the dust mite population.[21]

Bed linen

Hot tumble drying a bed linen for 1 hour will kill 99% of mites therein.[22]

Weekly changing the bed linen reduces the risk of exposure to dust mites.[16]

Cotton covers not covered with complete mattress covers are very likely to become colonised by bacteria and molds; they must be cleaned periodically (at least every second to third month).[23]

Dust mite eggs are freeze tolerant (−70 °C for 30 minutes); hatching can normally be prevented by exposure of fabrics to:[24]

  • Direct sunlight for 3 hours or
  • Dry or wet heat of at least 60 °C (140 °F) for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Dust mites drown in water.[25]

Good properties of anti-mite fabrics have been identified as being:[26]

  • Thread count greater than 246.
  • Pore size of between 2 and 10 microns.
  • Allergen impenetrability >99%.
  • Dust leakage of less than 4%.
  • Breathability between 2 and 6 cm3/second/cm2.

Indoor climate

Allergy patients are advised to keep the relative humidity below 50%, if possible. Very few mites can survive if the humidity is less than 45% (at 22 °C (72 °F)). However, they can survive if the humidity is high just for an hour and a half per day, for example due to cooking.[25]

See also

  • Arthropods portal


  1. Denmark, H. A.; Cromroy, H. L. (April 2017) [October 1998]. "House dust mites—Dermatophagoides spp". Featured Creatures. Department of Entomology & Nemotology, University of Florida, and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry. EENY-59. Originally published as DPI Entomology Circular 314.
  2. "Why study the major cause of allergy, the house dust mite?". Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  3. "The House Dust Mite: Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus". MicrobiologyBytes. 2007. Archived from the original on 16 May 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2019.. Note that the video is gone.
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