The simple thought of dust mites in your home can make you sick, both literally and figuratively. Dust mites are very common and can be found in four out of five homes in the United States. Dust mites are insect-like pests that live in your home and feed on “dust.” Did you know the dust in your home is mostly made up of human debris such as hair and skin cells? In addition to human debris, dust is also composed of microplastics, pollen, dirt, and fibers. Dust will also contain animal dander if you have pets in your home.

Before we dive into where dust mites are found, let’s try to understand these pests a little better and the problems they cause. Microscopic in size dust mites are virtually harmless in a physical sense. They are not considered parasites as they do not bite or sting. They also don’t burrow into human skin. What makes dust mites harmful is the allergen they create. Fecal pellets and body fragments make up the allergen created by these mites.

Allergens caused by dust mites are some of the most common indoor substances. These allergens trigger allergic reactions and asthma in many people. Even individuals without allergies or asthma can be affected by dust mite allergens. Considered an irritant, dust mite debris worsens indoor air pollution. When inhaled it acts as an irritant and can cause issues with the lungs.

Dust mites need moisture to live. Thriving in humid environments, these tiny insects can be found in your bed, where humidity gets trapped under your covers. Stuffed animals that are allowed in the bed can become home to bed bugs as well. Bed bugs can also live on fabric furniture such as carpet and chairs as well as in the carpet and on curtains. All of these areas are places that aren’t typically dusted, therefore leaving food for the mites.

Beds are a common hotspot for dust mites. A mattress can be home to 100,000 to 10 million dust mites at once. When an individual is resting on a mattress, the inside becomes the prime environment for the mite; warm and humid. Because humans shed ⅕ of their skin every week, a mattress is the perfect feeding grounds for these microscopic mites.

In addition to places such as beds and couches, these mites can be found in one of the most obvious places, dust. Although dust mites can sometimes be found in dust, they typically don’t stay there for long. Because these insects need moisture, dust on a hard surface doesn’t provide the environment needed to thrive.

Humidity is the number one factor in determining the concentration of dust mites in a home. The higher the humidity the higher the concentration of mites. Reducing the humidity in your home can help prevent dust mites. The removal of furniture containing soft surfaces should also be considered to help prevent dust mites, as well as replacing the carpets if you’ve had problems with dust mites in the past. To reduce the likelihood of dust mites, it’s important to wash bedding and floors often.