Dust Mite Bites or Bed Bug Bites?


Are you waking up in the morning or in the middle of the night with red and itchy welts on your skin?  

Are you concerned that you may have dust mites or even worse, bed bugs?   This article will help you get to the bottom of what's causing your problem, and help you figure out if you have Dust Mite Bites, Bed Bug Bites or maybe even something else.

Dust Mites and Bed Bugs - They are very different

There is a common myth on the internet that dust mites bite.  We'll ease your concerns somewhat, as dust mites (also called bed mites) are harmful, but they don't bite.  
Dust Mite

Magnified Dust Mite

Dust mites and bed bugs really have very little in common, other than the fact they can both live in your bed or home and both can cause health problems.

Let's compare the differences in dust mites and bed bugs:

  • Again - Bed Bugs bite, dust mites don't
  • Bed Bugs are about the size of an apple seed and can be seen with the naked eye.  Dust mites are microscopic, and cannot be seen with the naked eye.
  • While a nuisance, bed bugs have not been proven to cause any serious health issues.  Dust mites can cause significant health issues and can be very dangerous.  More on that below.
  • Both shed their skin and defecate, leaving feces around.  Bed Bug skin and feces is gross, but generally not dangerous.  Dust mite skin and feces pose considerable health risks.
  • Dust mites are found in nearly all homes, bed bugs are not.  Bed bugs are only found in homes with active bed bug infestations.

Bed Bug Bites

Hermann with bed bug (Cimex lectularius) bites from Art Hotel Westcord in Amsterdam - Ludwigshafen, 26.11.2015

If you are waking up in the morning, with itchy red welts on your skin, they are not being caused by dust mites, however, you may have bed bugs bites.  

Bites can also be caused by many other things, including allergic reactions, and bites from other insects such as parasitic mites.  

Top signs of bed bug bites include:

  • Red and itchy bumps found in areas of your body that touch your mattress while you're sleeping
  • If you go to bed with no itchy red bumps, but wake up with them, you may likely have bed bugs
  • If the red marks are in a line, or in groups of 3, this is a common sign of bed bugs.

Get more information on our bed bug bites guide.   You can also read more about how to tell if you have bed bugs, as bite marks are just one of the key signs of bed bugs.

Symptoms of dust mites

Symptoms of Dust Mites include sneezing

Remember, there are no dust mite bites, dust mites DO NOT bite, so the symptoms of dust mites are very different than those of bed bugs and other biting insects, and often resemble allergies.

There are more than 48,000 cataloged species of mites, dust mites being just one of those.   A very small number of these mites are parasitic to humans and leave bite marks.  

Since the majority of homes around the world have dust mites, there is very little you can do to control the mites themselves.  You can, however, treat the symptoms, which are:

  • Red, itchy and watery eyes
  • A runny nose and sneezing
  • A cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen tongue and/or lips
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea, vomiting or abnormal stomach pain and cramps
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion, memory loss

Many confuse a dust mite rash, with being bitten by dust mites.  Again, dust mites do not bite - but the allergic reaction they can cause can cause a rash if the reaction is severe.  Treatment of the rash, and the allergic reaction that is causing it is best left to a physician.  Bed bugs, on the other hand, can form a bed bug rash, depending on how allergic the person is to their saliva.

Dust Mite Bites and Bed Bug Bite Treatment

bed bug bite treatment

Treatment for bed bug bites is basically the treatment of the symptoms themselves, as the bugs will be long gone by the time your bite marks show up the next morning.   See, bed bugs are a bit sneaky.  

They have a numbing agent in their saliva, that keeps most people from feeling the bite when it's occurring.   Ironically that same numbing agent is what causes the inflammation and swelling later where the bite occurred.

Treatment of bed bug bites usually just involves washing and drying the area, then treating the itching and swelling with an anti-itch cream such as Cortaid or Benedryl cream.  

Normally bed bug bites go away on their own within a week or so unless you get new bites, which unfortunately is very common when you have a bed bug infestation.  Also, people that are highly allergic, can take longer, up to 6 weeks.

Treating the symptoms with bed bugs is not the solution, you have to kill the bed bugs themselves, which can be tough, and often a drawn-out process.  Fortunately, we provide lots of options and information on bed bug treatment.

Dust mites are different.  Dust mites are nearly impossible to get rid of and reside in almost every single home in the world.   Treatment for symptoms of Dust mites involves seeing your doctor to get treatment for allergies, as dust mite skin and fecal matter causes allergic reasons in some.  

Treatment of the dust mites themselves is virtually impossible, but minimizing dust and clutter can bring down their population in your home.

Prevention of Dust Mites and Bed Bugs

Mattress Covers protect you dust mites

Bed bug prevention is a very large topic that we discuss in detail in on our prevention guide.  The basic concept includes:

Prevention of dust mites is impossible.   Regardless of how clean and tidy you keep your home, you will have dust mites.  What you can control though is the amount of them.  This is done through minimizing dust in your home.  Some tips for minimizing dust include:

  • Frequent Vacuuming using HEPA filters
  • Utilizing high-quality filters in your AC and Heating unitsHEPA filters
  • Minimizing clutter
  • Vacuuming and cleaning in commonly unseen areas, such as under your bed, under furniture, etc.
  • Minimizing carpet
  • Keeping linen's clean, especially bed sheets, comforters, and blankets
  • Utilizing Mattress and Box Spring Covers (we recommend Bed Bug Mattress Covers, even if you don't have bed bugs)
  • Minimize humidity in your home - Dust Mites thrive in higher humidity

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