A Moment of Science

What Makes Dust Mites So Sneezy?

Are indoor allergies getting you down? The cause may gross you out!

Close-up view of a dust might

Photo: Gilles San Martin(flickr)

Household dust mites are typically a little less than a third of a millimeter in length -- essentially microscopic.

Are indoor allergies making you miserable? You’re probably not going to like this, but dust mite poop is a likely culprit.

Twenty Times A Day

Believe it or not, the average household dust mite defecates about twenty times a day. The tiny pellets they excrete are about the size of pollen grains and can easily become airborne.

When allergy sufferers inhale the tiny pellets, their immune systems overreact, causing mucous membranes to release a number of substances, including histamine, which is what produces allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, coughing and swollen eyes.

What do dust mites eat? Flakes of your very own dead skin.

Is There Anything I Can Do?

Dust mites need two things to survive: dead skin and moist air. (Dust mites absorb water through their exoskeletons rather than drinking it through their mouths.)

Because mattresses, cloth couch cushions and carpet tend to be some the dustiest, dankest places in a home, this is where mites tend to gravitate. By vacuuming and steam cleaning often, you’ll go a long way towards controlling indoor allergens.

Of course, eliminating mites entirely isn’t going to be possible, so you may need to take allergy medication as well to manage your symptoms.

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