What to Know About Mites

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on February 14, 2024
10 min read

Mites are tiny bugs in the tick and spider family. They get blamed for a lot of mysterious itching or biting symptoms because they are so tiny and hard to spot. There are thousands of different species of mites, and each species has different eating, biting, and bloodsucking habits.

It's possible for mites to pass diseases along to animals and humans they come in contact with. Although mite-related illness isn't common in the U.S., mites can still be dangerous to you if they show up in large numbers.

Can dust mites bite?

Unlike some other parasites, dust mites don't bite or directly injure your skin in any way.

Here are some common mites that you might find around you.

Clover mites

Clover mites can take a home by storm, entering buildings by the thousands. They don't bite or cause health issues in humans, but they are annoying pests.

You can see them easily—they are red, green, or brown and have long front legs. Clover mites leave a red stain when squished, and they can lay thousands of eggs in your home. They feed on plants in the spring, summer, and fall, and in cold weather, they look for shelter.

Dust mites

Dust mites are too small for us to see with the naked eye. They feed on dead human skin cells and thrive in warm and humid environments. While they can't harm humans by bites or stings, a dust mite's feces, urine, or decaying body create dust and proteins that are later inhaled by people. You have a dust allergy if dust mites cause swelling, or inflammation, of your nasal passages.

House dust mites

House dust mites are so small that you probably won't see them unless you're looking closely for them. Because of their tiny size, they get swept up in the air and make up a lot of the indoor dust that you might see swirling around your house.

When you inhale them, house dust mites can cause allergies—including asthma attacks or allergy symptoms. They mostly eat dander and dead skin and are most likely to be found in pillows, couches, and mattresses.

Itch mites

Itch mites are also a smaller species of mite. They feed on insects and are known to bite humans and animals.

Itch mites like to infest plant materials like straw, hay, grass, leaves, or other similar substances and bite their prey when it gets close enough to their shelter.

If an itch mite bites you, you won't feel it, but you'll notice itchy red spots later on. Unlike many other kinds of mites, itch mites can't live indoors.


A type of human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis) can cause a scabies infection. Itch mites burrow into the upper layer of your skin. They live and lay their eggs there.

Anyone can get scabies as it spreads by direct close contact, from person to person. A severe form of scabies is crusted (Norwegian) scabies, and it can affect people who are older, immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system), or disabled. This type of scabies causes thick, crusty skin that can flake off onto clothing and linens, spreading the infestation further.

Scabies mites can live for a while on humans, up to 2 months, so it's important to get treatment for the person infected and any close contacts. You can get a prescription cream from your doctor to clear the infestation.


There are two kinds of chigger mites that bite humans. If a chigger mite senses the carbon dioxide you exhale, they'll find a way to make contact with your skin and latch on.

Although they don't suck your blood, they have a unique ability to release skin-digesting saliva that dissolves your skin. If you don't find the chigger and remove it from your skin, the chigger bite will inflame, harden, and begin to itch.


Demodex mites are generally harmless microscopic mites that live in your hair follicles. They are also called face mites. Face mites are very common, spreading from person to person, affecting almost everyone. Rarely, they can cause a skin condition called Demodex folliculitis or demodicosis. Demodex mites are most often found on the:

  • Forehead
  • Eyelashes
  • Cheeks
  • Outer part of your ear canal
  • Side of your nose

Eyelash mites

Eyelash mites are another name for Demodex mites. They're commonly found on your face and feed on the oils and dead cells on your skin. They're harmless unless too many eyelash mites populate and cause inflammation of the eyelids or blepharitis. Your doctor can determine if mites are the cause and prescribe medication if needed to clear the infestation.

Bird and rodent mites

There are some types of mites that live on birds and rodents that can bite people as well. They jump from the animal or bird if the animal they live on (the hosts) die or leave their homes. The most common ones are:

  • House mouse mites
  • Spiny rat mites
  • Tropical rat mites
  • Northern fowl mites
  • Chicken mites

When in buildings, they are close to their host or the next one, usually in cracks and crevices, or around warm areas like pipes and furnaces.

Their bites can be painful and cause skin irritation, rashes, and itching.

Oak mites

Oak mites, or oak leaf itch mites, live on oak trees but can also be found in grains and other stored products. Their bite causes an itchy, red rash with tiny bumps.

Varroa mites

This tiny parasite lives on the surface of honey bees. They are destructive mites that cause the adult bees and their larvae to die. Varroa mites don't affect humans, however.

Not all mites bite. But those that do bite, like chiggers and itch mites, can cause uncomfortable symptoms, mostly itching. Scabies mites don't bite, but when they burrow under your skin, they also can cause severe itching.

While itching can be quite annoying, it isn't serious by itself. However, it can make you scratch the area, which can break the skin and lead to an infection.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Red rash
  • Blisters or bumps
  • Burrows (thin wavy lines) on your skin
  • Wheezing (from dust mites in bedding and carpeting)

If you have any signs of a serious allergic reaction, seek emergency help right away. These could include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling tightness in your chest or throat
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Developing hives (raised, red, itchy bumps that are larger than the mite bites and are elsewhere on the body)
  • Nausea and vomiting

Mite bite treatment will vary depending on the type of mite that bit you.

Most mite or chigger bites can be treated at home, although if the pain or itching doesn't go away or there is any sign of infection (fever or swelling, redness, pain, or drainage around the area), contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Some things that may help relieve the pain and itching from the mite bites are:

  • Wash the area well with soap and water.
  • Apply a cool compress or ice pack to the area. Be sure to place a towel or some other type of fabric between the ice pack and your skin to prevent damaging the skin.
  • Apply an antihistamine cream or ointment, or take an oral (pill or liquid) form.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like acetaminophen.

There is no home remedy for scabies because the mites have to be killed. The medications, called scabicides, are creams or ointments and only available by prescription. These are applied, literally, from head to toe. Some are for adults only, while others are safe for children. It's very important that you follow the directions exactly as described to ensure that all the scabies are eliminated, or you will have to repeat the treatment.

The medications for classic scabies include:

  • Permethrin cream 5%. This is typically the first choice and may be used on children 2 months and older.
  • Crotamiton lotion 10% and Crotamiton cream 10%. These treatments are for adults only.
  • Sulfur ointment (5%-10%). These can be used for children under 2 months.
  • Lindane lotion 1%. This medication isn't for premature babies, infants, people with seizure disorders, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the elderly, people weighing under 110 pounds, or those who have very irritated skin.

Ivermectin, an oral drug, might be suggested for people who didn't respond to the creams or who, for some reason, can't use them. However, it's not FDA-approved for scabies. It also isn't known if ivermectin is safe for young children or during pregnancy.

Treatment of crusted scabies is stronger and may involve using both oral ivermectin and one of these topical creams:

  • Permethrin cream 5%
  • Benzyl benzoate 25% (with or without tea tree oil) can be used in lower concentrations for children
  • Keratolytic cream

Scabies live on humans, so once you successfully treat the scabies, the mites are gone. However, if you are still in close contact with the person who spread the scabies and they haven't been treated, you can become reinfected. It's important that all your close contacts be thoroughly treated.

How you get rid of mites depends on the type of mite and where they hide.

How to get rid of dust mites

Because dust mites live in bedding, drapes, carpeting, etc., those areas need to be either removed completely, covered, or thoroughly cleaned. You can start by covering your pillows and mattresses with tight-weave dust-proof covers, and be sure to dust hard surfaces regularly. You can also remove or avoid using the following in your home:

  • Drapes and upholstered furniture, including headboards on your bed
  • Stuffed animals and dust collectors in bedrooms, such as artificial flowers
  • Wool blankets and down quilts
  • Carpets

If you have upholstered furniture or carpeting, steam clean them whenever possible. The steam kills dust mites. Unfortunately, simple vacuuming doesn't eliminate them, but use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air filter.

Other steps you can take include:

  • Wet mop your floors daily.
  • Use a dehumidifier so your home isn't too damp (which mites love).
  • Wash your bed linens and pillow and mattress covers in hot water weekly. If you have a dryer, use the high heat setting to dry them.
  • Use a high quality air filter.

Get rid of other mites

How you get rid of other types of mites depends on the type and where they live. For example, bird and rodent mites live in cracks and crevices, usually in warm places, near their hosts or their nests. Wherever the mites live, it's important to:

  • Vacuum or clean them away with a wet cloth. Throw away the vacuum bag or cloth because the mites can crawl back out.
  • Look for any nests or areas where rodents or birds may be nesting and remove them.
  • Apply approved insecticides around the outside of your home, focusing on windows, doors, and anywhere else animals and mites can enter.
  • Consult a professional exterminator if you can't reach the areas where mites are or if you are not having any success on your own.
  • Clean your house regularly, and wash your bedding, curtains, carpets, and furniture often. If you think a specific item is infested with mites, seal it in a plastic container and get rid of it to keep the mites from spreading.‌

Mites are everywhere, and we can't always prevent them. If you show any signs of having mite bites, you can take quick action to ease symptoms and get rid of the mites. If you suspect you have scabies, however, you need to be diagnosed and treated by a healthcare professional. While annoying and uncomfortable, most mites aren't serious and can be removed from your home.

How do you know if you have mites?

If you have an itchy rash or bumps on some areas of your body, it could be due to mites. If you have dust mites, you also may sneeze a lot, have a runny nose, or even wheeze.

How do you get rid of mites?

Getting rid of mites depends on the type of mite. The general recommendations include keeping your house dehumidified, vacuum and clean your home often, cover your mattress and pillows with antimite covers, and, if necessary, call in a professional exterminator.

How do you tell if you have mites in your house?

Because most mites are not seen by the naked eye, signs of mite bites would likely be the first clue that you could have mites in your house. The exception is with scabies—if you have a burrowing type of rash in your skin, that is a sign of scabies.

What causes mites in your house?

Mites can enter your house in different ways. Dust mites are everywhere, just like dust, so they can enter through any opening in the home or cling to your clothing. Other types of mites, like bird and rodent mites or oak mites, enter your home as they cling to their host. Scabies is passed by direct contact from person to person.