As parents, we try to stay ahead of everything that could potentially threaten the health and well-being of our kids. When prepping for outdoor fun, we review bee sting safety practices, sunscreen policies, and how to bypass the lines at amusement parks.
However, bug bite protection doesn’t stop in the great outdoors: We have to be prepped to keep our kiddos safe from indoor bugs too.
Today, we want to give you all the information about bed bugs and dust mites and how to spot the differences between each. We also want to arm you with what you’ll need to keep them out of your home and what to do if you find them lurking around your space.
Let’s get started.
What Is a Bed Bug?
A bed bug is a tiny brown oval bug that bites. They feed on our blood, and females can produce about ten eggs per day. These guys are small, but you can see them with the naked eye. Their eggs are oblong and pearly white.
If you have bed bugs, you’ll likely notice small clusters of these around your room and your bed.
What Do Bed Bugs Do?
Bed bugs will bite, leaving small red bumps on your skin that itch and can be painful (depending on your sensitivity). These red bumps are smaller than a mosquito bite but can be just as annoying to those that get bitten.
While they aren’t really known for spreading diseases, their bites can lead to rashes that may result in infections of the skin.
Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?
Bed bugs may love your bed, but they really will hide and set up camp anywhere in your house. Their favorite places are the mattress and the box spring, but if you have large piles of clutter or extra-bulky/ornate furniture, bed bugs will burrow in the crevices. They will also find cracks around your home to nest, so fill those areas up.
When Do Bed Bugs Attack?
A common misconception is that bed bugs only attack at night when you’re asleep. This is entirely false, as bed bugs will attack whenever they are hungry. They prefer to bite when you’re asleep because it’s the safest time to feed.
You can’t squish a bug if you don’t realize there’s a bug around, but a desperate and hungry bed bug will bite you whenever the opportunity presents itself, including during daylight hours.
What Is a Dust Mite?
Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in our homes. The interesting thing about dust mites is that we all have them. They don’t come and go or infest our homes; we actually all live with dust mites on a regular basis.
The biggest issue with dust mites is the number of people that are allergic to them. A person that is allergic to dust mites will have a serious issue during allergy season, however, and possibly all year long if their allergies are bad enough.
What Do Dust Mites Do?
Contrary to bed bugs, dust mites feed on dead human skin cells and they don’t bite. Dust mites feed on the skin that flakes off of you and your pets every day rather than bite or drink blood.
While dust mites don’t bite, they can cause skin reactions. Because people who are allergic to dust mites tend to be heavily allergic, rashes on the skin can occur, including other physical signs. During heavier environmental allergy seasons, dust mites can trigger hay fever, sinus congestion and pressure, as well as heavy sneezing and asthma-like wheezing and coughing.
Where Do Dust Mites Hide?
Similar to bed bugs, dust mites like to live on your bed and other furniture. They prefer areas that you frequently hang out in, so their meals are plentiful. They enjoy humid, warm climates but can live anywhere.
When Do Dust Mites Attack?
Thankfully, you never have to really worry about dust mites attacking you. There will be more of them around in the hotter months, but they don’t ever fully leave your home.
If you’re allergic to them, you may notice that in the summer, you’re itching and red more often than at other times of the year; this could be due to dust mites.
This may also answer any questions about why you’re sneezing more in the morning. If dust mites are abundant in your bedroom, you’re inhaling them frequently while you sleep, causing your brain to trigger allergy symptoms all night.
The Difference Between Bed Bugs and Dust Mites
There are several differences between bed bugs and dust mites. Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye and direct light, but dust mites are microscopic.
While dust mites do feed on humans like bed bugs, they differ in that dust mites only eat the discarded skin that you leave behind, and they never bite you. They can cause skin irritation similar to bed bugs, but that won’t be an issue for everyone that comes into contact with dust mites.
The other big difference is that you can minimize the prevalence of dust mites in your home, but unlike bed bugs, you can’t entirely get rid of them. Bed bugs can be flushed out and should be the first sign they have infested your home.
How To Get Rid of Bugs Inside the Home
While dust mites might never truly go away, bed bugs can and need to be eliminated from your home. You can minimize dust mites by using the same procedures that you get rid of bed bugs with.
These are simple steps that may be time-consuming, but they can get rid of the bugs that are invading your home. Your kids will thank you when they stop itching and scratching all day, and the rashes start to fade.
Do Laundry to the Extreme
Wash all bedding and any clothing where you’ve found evidence of bed bugs. Because dust mites are so small, you won’t be able to see them on clothing or bedding, but if allergy symptoms have been flaring up, know that you’re treating your home for these guys too.
Clean everything using the hot water setting to kill any adult bed bugs and destroy any egg clusters lurking around.
Sweep and Vacuum
Sweeping and vacuuming might be part of your normal routine anyway, but even if you’ve done this recently, vacuum the carpets, flooring, mattress, and furniture, as well as dust, again.
Dust mites thrive in those dusty settings, so eliminate their homes and habitats, especially during those months when there’s ample dust in the air that brings them inside. Use the host attachment on your vacuum to get in those nooks and crannies around mattresses and bed frames, as these are ideal settings for bed bugs to live.
Keep It Cool
Dust mites thrive in warm, humid climates, so keep the house cool to avoid inviting them inside. It doesn’t need to be freezing, but keep the house cool and humidity-free as much as possible, and the dust mites will look elsewhere for a home.
Fill In the Cracks
Bed bugs like to live in places you don’t check or disturb, so cracks in the floorboards or baseboards are places they will nest if the bed isn’t the perfect place for them. Fill in those cracks and crevices, and bed bugs will lose their homes and have to migrate elsewhere.
Before bringing furniture into your home, inspect it for bugs. If it’s dusty and a bit damp or old, dust mites might be present. But if you notice little brown specks or red dots on the furniture, especially secondhand furniture, then you need to have it deep cleaned before bringing it into your home.
Essential Oil Patches
Dust mites are your body’s response to an allergen in the air. If you’re looking for an all-natural way of dealing with these allergy symptoms, our patches can help.
Our AllergyPatch can help to block those allergy receptors in your brain that trigger sneezing, wheezing, and runny nose. Each sticker is full of up to eight hours of protection, and you’ll start to feel relief instantly.
Bed Bug and Dust Mite Prevention
If you’ve been able to rid your home of bed bugs, chances are you don’t want them coming back. Similarly, if you’ve taken steps to minimize dust mites, you don’t want to see them come back in full force as soon as you turn your back.
Below are some basic tips and tricks to keep them from coming back.
Bed bugs will nest and burrow in your bed and other areas of your home that they deem safe. They base this sense of safety on the ability to hide without being disturbed, so keep this in the back of your mind when you’re decorating or moving things around.
Here are a few points to consider:
- Keep clutter to a minimum. Bed bugs will find a pile of clothes on the ground as an ideal space, as they can hide in shirts, hitch a ride with you, and remain relatively undisturbed in your room. This goes for piles of papers or other clutter: Bed bugs will see it as an invitation to move in, so clean it up.
- Always inspect and thoroughly clean any furniture you buy on consignment. Secondhand furniture isn’t always cleaned before it’s put out in a showroom; look it over carefully before adding it to your living room.
- Wash sheets and blankets on a rotating and continuous basis. Bed bugs can’t live on sheets that are being cleaned regularly.
Dust mites live in the air and are usually harmless. However, if you even have a slight dust mite allergy, these bugs can prove to be a real day ruiner.
Here are some ways to prevent dust mites from taking over your space:
- Dust regularly. If you live in an area that is especially dusty, you may need to dust weekly to keep the dust mites at bay. If your area is less so, then a monthly dusting may be enough.
- Wash sheets often. Dust mites collect on the underside of furniture, so keep them off your sheets by cleaning them regularly.
- Use allergy-focused filters on vents or allergy-safe covers to minimize allergies on bedding and pillows.
Keeping Your Family Safe
The bottom line, no one wants to deal with bed bugs or dust mites, but they’re a part of life. With some careful preparation, all-natural remedies, and a watchful eye, we can do our best to keep our lives as bug-free as possible!
Bed Bugs | Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Dust Mites | American Lung Association
Green Cleaning: 10 Essential Oils that Naturally Repel Insects | ACHS