Are Dust Mites Dangerous to Humans? - An Expert's Perspective

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that can have a significant impact on the health of people with asthma and those who are allergic or sensitive to them. Allergens released by these mites can cause mild to severe allergic reactions, such as runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. But dust mites can also be responsible for other non-allergic symptoms in humans, known as acariasis. Acariasis is an infestation of mites in various tissues of the human body, from the gastrointestinal tract to the lungs.

Although mites usually parasitize animals, some free-living mites may occasionally invade a host. When domestic mites invade the human body, it is believed that this is a non-specific invasion that differs from the parasitization of an animal, as it lacks specific symptoms and is not caused by specific mite species. The clinical symptoms of acariasis are nonspecific and often overlap with other symptoms of the disease, leading to frequent misdiagnoses and missed cases. Dust mite allergy can range from mild to severe.

In mild cases, people may experience occasional runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. Severe cases may be ongoing (chronic) and cause persistent sneezing, coughing, congestion, facial pressure, an outbreak of eczema, or a severe asthma attack. Most researchers support the idea that protective bedding reduces exposure to dust mites. Dust mites can provide their own food source by excreting proteolytic enzymes, including the protein Der p 1 – an important allergen released by basement membrane cells to increase epithelial detachment.

If medications do not provide complete relief for people with dust mite allergies, they may consider immunotherapy or allergy shots. Given existing reports, it seems likely that most cases of acariasis occur in more tropical climates and in people with occupational exposures to mites. However, this loss of respiratory epithelium can cause sensitization to dust mite proteins and other allergens, which subsequently causes asthma symptoms. Well-ventilated homes in dry climates contain fewer dust mites than those in less ventilated and more humid climates. At the other end of the temperature scale, a study suggests that using an electric blanket every night could help prevent dust mite infestations. Dust mites are mostly harmless to people and do not transmit diseases; however they and their feces can cause allergic reactions in humans – especially among asthmatics. To reduce exposure to dust mites in the home, make sure to wash sheets, blankets, and pillowcases every two weeks.

Regularly dusting can also reduce the number of mites that live in the home as it eliminates their food source – organic matter such as skin cells that people have shed. Dust also contains the faeces and decaying bodies of dust mites; it is the proteins present in these residues that are responsible for dust mite allergy. Some signs and symptoms of dust mite allergy are similar to those of the common cold. A single dust mite produces around 20 waste droppings a day; each containing a protein that many people are allergic to. Undoubtedly, detecting mites in urine under a microscope would contribute to diagnosing this disease.

Brittany Kleck
Brittany Kleck

Typical food practitioner. General tv scholar. Hipster-friendly tea geek. General reader. Infuriatingly humble tv fanatic. Passionate zombie junkie.