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What to Know About Mites

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 29, 2021

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 United States, mites can still be dangerous to you if they show up in large numbers.

Different Kinds of Mites

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

Clover mite. 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.

House dust mite. 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 mite. 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.

Chiggers. There are two different 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.

Mite Bite Symptoms

Because there are so many different kinds of mites, bite symptoms will vary. A common effect of all bites, though, is itchiness.

Other symptoms can include red spots and skin lesions.

Mite Bite Treatments

If you think you’ve been exposed to mites, do your best to remove them as soon as possible. The longer a mite is attached to your skin, the worse your symptoms can become.

Take a hot, soapy bath and scrub your skin with a washcloth to get rid of the actual mites. Itching from mite bites can become very intense, but it can be relieved by using an allergy medication or applying hydrocortisone cream to the affected area.

Avoiding Mite Bites

To avoid getting bitten by mites, find where the mites are coming from first and then make sure to get rid of them immediately by vacuuming the area.

If you’ve seen mites in your home or on your skin, inspect further to figure out where they live and what kind of mites they are. If you find that they’re entering your home through cracks or gaps, seal things up to prevent more mites from getting inside.

After you find and get rid of the mites, install a high-quality air filter in your home to eliminate the dust that possibly contains a lot of dust mites.

Mites thrive in humidity. If you live in a humid climate or in a home that’s not well ventilated, take measures to dry your home out for a few weeks to kill off any mites. You can do this by running the air conditioner and showering at a temperature that won’t generate a lot of heat or steam.

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.

If you find mites in your home, get rid of them before they spread or bite you. If you have a skin irritation that you believe is caused by mites, contact your healthcare provider.

Although mite bites themselves aren’t dangerous, there’s a slim chance that the mites have passed along a disease. Consulting your doctor can help make sure whether your problem is mite-related or not.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Illinois Department of Public Health: “Mites Affecting Humans.”

Merck Manual: “Mite Bites."

NC State Extension Publications: “Mites That “Bug People.”

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