A common misconception in the bug world is that house dust mites and bed bugs are one and the same. It’s not uncommon to hear people interchange these two different creatures, and for the majority of people who don’t have a dust allergy this isn’t really a problem.
However, if like me you’re one of the many millions of people who suffer an acute allergy to house dust mites then it’s imperative to properly understand the difference between the two.
House Dust Mite or Bed Bug?
The first, and most obvious difference is that bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, and dust mites aren’t. I’ve been to hotels before which have a number of large, visible bed bugs on the mattress. They look like flat, miniature cockroaches and, wait for it, they like to suck your blood. So if you’ve ever woken up and found unusual red bite marks on your skin, you may well have had an attack of the bed bugs
House dust mites on the other hand are tiny, and cannot be seen by the naked eye. For the majority of people they will peacefully coexist, in your mattress, in your furniture feeding of the scraps of dead skin and debris and doing no harm. They won’t try to bit you, they won’t frighten you and you won’t even know they’re there.
The problems caused by house dust mites, however, are much more chronic. For those unfortunate enough to be allergic to them, they can expect sneezing, eye irritation, eczema and skin conditions. And with them being so microscopic and multiplying like rabbits it’s largely impossible to know when and where they’re present.
Where you can literally see a bed bug, pick it up and kill it, a house dust mite infestation is hugely problematic to first get rid of, and then keep at bay.
Arachnid vs Insect
Although they both like nothing more than burrowing deep into our mattresses and bedding, house dust mites and bed bugs aren’t even from the same family. Bed bugs are insects and house dust mites are in fact arachnids!
So you’re telling me as well as the threat of bed bugs, there are thousands of tiny spiders probably living in my mattress? Well, yes! That’s exactly what they are. But they’re hardly black widows. If you’re not allergic, they’re not problematic. It all depends on whether or not they cause an allergic reaction.
Bed bugs of course are problematic for anyone as their harm to humans comes not from allergic reactions, but from the leech-like blood sucking if they manage to get close to your skin. Ouch.
What Should I do if I have either?
It’s not ideal to have either of the critters in your home, but they need to be treated in different ways. Bed bugs can be treated like any pest infestation such as cockroaches, mice or wasps. You’re probably going to need to call in the boys to have them professionally removed, especially in extreme cases. At the very least you will need to buy some specialist treatments to banish them from your home, unless you want to carry on waking up covered in a rash all the time.
House dust mites are far less straight forward to treat, however. It’s virtually impossible to keep a home dust free, and therefore impossible to keep it dust mite free. They’re everywhere. If you’ve got a bed, they’re in there. But that’s not to say there’s nothing you can do. What you can do is minimise the dust in your home, and therefore minimise the number of mites you’re exposed to.
There are a number of services out there who claim to be able to treat your mattress and make it dust mite free. I suppose for expense beds this is worth a shot, rather than fork out many thousands for a new one. But often the only option is to replace a mattress and get a shiny new one which you know for a fact has no mites in it.
After that it’s a case of commitment to dusting and arranging your home in a way that makes a dust mite’s life a misery. With bed bugs it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. But with dust mites, they’re still there causing havoc even when there are no obvious signs.
And that’s it. Know your bugs, and don’t let them win!