Dust Mite Bites vs. Bed Bugs: What’s the Difference?


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Battle of the bugs

Nobody wants uninvited guests in their bed, but a couple of types of critters think our warm mattresses come with a neon “occupancy available” sign. Two that love our beds and bedding are dust mites and bed bugs.

But how can you tell which set up camp, and what can you do about it?

It starts with brushing up on your entomology (the study of insects), says Zachary DeVries, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

We dive into everything you need to know about dust mites and bed bugs, according to the experts. Read on for how to tell what’s in your bed and how to prevent each.



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How to tell if it’s dust mites or bed bugs

Dust mites aren’t bugs per se, he explains. They are actually members of the arachnid family and have eight legs, just like spiders, chiggers, and ticks. They are teeny-tiny and are only seen with a microscope.

On the other hand, you don’t need a microscope to see a bed bug if you know where to look. They have six legs and are roughly the size of an apple seed. If the bed bug has recently feasted, it has a reddish-brown color from your blood.

Bed bugs may leave other clues, too. These include a sweet, musty odor, which bed bugs use to communicate with one another, specks of blood, or its outer shell (exoskeleton).

Other signs that you’ve got bed bugs include tiny, dark specks (bed bug feces) or eggs in cracks and crevices of your bed, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Neither bed bugs nor dust mites can fly. They tend to hang out in the same places as you do such as your bed and couch.

“House dust mites live where dust accumulates, and bed bugs are found where people are found,” DeVries says.

Another distinction: Dust mites don’t bite. Instead, they feed on your dead skin cell flakes that you shed in abundance every day. (The average adult sheds up to 1.5 grams of skin a day, which can feed 1 million dust mites.)

They are fairly ubiquitous, too. As many as four out of five homes in the US have detectable levels of dust mite allergen in at least one bed, according to the American Lung Association.

“Bed bugs will bite us because they need our blood to survive,” DeVries says. “They are known as ectoparasites because they don’t get inside of our bodies.”

Dust mites vs. bed bugs: how long they live

A dust mite’s life cycle comprises five stages: egg, larva, protonymph, tritonymph, and adult. The transition to adult mite takes one month under optimal conditions. Adult dust mites can live up to two months, and the females can lay anywhere from 50 to 100 eggs.

Bed bugs also have five developmental life stages. They need to shed their exoskeleton to grow larger, and this requires taking a blood meal. It can take about 37 days for a bed bug egg to become an adult, and adult bed bugs can live for up to one year provided they are well fed, according to entomologists at Virginia Tech.

Exactly how many eggs a female bed bug lays depends on how often she eats. The more she eats, the longer she lives, and the more eggs that she can lay.

Bed bugs tend to strike at night, and meal lasts about 4 to 12 minutes, per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They dine and ditch, too, returning to their hiding place as soon as they are full.

Some good news? Neither bed bugs nor dust mites transmit diseases, DeVries says.

The symptoms of bed bugs vs. dust mites

Dust mites only cause symptoms, including sneezing, sniffling, runny eyes, and coughing, if you are allergic to them. Unfortunately, 20 million Americans are allergic to dust mites, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Here’s what happens: You inhale microscopic fecal matter and dead body parts of dust mites, and your body’s immune system goes on the attack and produces antibodies against the mites, starting the process that causes sniffling, sneezing, itchy eyes, and other allergy symptoms.

Bed bugs don’t cause allergies, but you can develop an allergic reaction to a bed bug bite. This may result in severe itching, blisters, or hives around the bite or bites, DeVries says. (Here’s how to tell the difference between bed bug bites vs fleabites.)






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Bed bug bite identification and treatment

Is it a bed bug bite? The only way to know for sure is to find the culprit.

“Bed bug bites are not always linear,” DeVries says. “They can be spread out haphazardly.”

You may see clusters of red bites or welts that appear on areas of skin exposed during sleep, such as your face, arms, and trunk. (Here’s how to spot the difference between a chigger bite and a bed bug bite.)

You can treat most bed bug bites at home by washing the area with soap and water, and applying an anti-itch cream to soothe the itch, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

The bites usually heal within a week or two. If you see signs of an infection such as pus or an allergic reaction such as hives, see your doctor as you may need more aggressive treatments.

Keep these other home remedies for bed bugs in mind, too.

Dust mite allergy diagnosis and treatment

If you think you may be allergic to dust mites, see an allergist for further testing. Skin prick and/or blood testing can help determine what is causing your symptoms. Your doctor will also ask you about your symptoms and when they are most likely to occur for a fuller picture of what is going on.

Dust mite allergy treatments are allergy shots or immunotherapy, says Russell Leftwich, MD, an allergist in Nashville, Tennessee, and an American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology spokesperson.

These shots gradually introduce dust mite allergens to your immune system in the hopes that the next time it encounters such allergens, it won’t launch an attack.

Other treatments focus on symptom relief. If you’re stuffed up, a nasal spray or oral antihistamine can help, while eye drops may soothe irritated eyes, Dr. Leftwich says.

Dust mites vs. bed bugs: prevention

It’s almost impossible to get rid of dust mites entirely, but there are lots of things you can do to reduce your exposure to these critters around your home.

For starters, consider mattress and pillow coverings that keep dust mites out. Bonus: these can also help keep bed bugs away, DeVries says.

“They keep dust mites out and can make it harder for bed bugs to grab onto your mattress,” he says.

Finely woven fabrics may keep dust mites out, according to a 2018 study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

(Here’s how to get rid of dust mites.)

Vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter also helps get dust mites out of carpets. If you are not using a HEPA filter, your vacuum could release dust mites back into the air around you. These are the best HEPA filter vacuums if you have allergies.

A portable HEPA filter that you can take from room to room can also help clear the air of dust mites, pollen, and other potential allergens. (Do you need a HEPA filter? Find out here.)

Make sure to wipe down all surfaces so your environment is as dust-free as possible, DeVries says.

Lower the humidity around your home to below 50 percent as dust mites need humidity to survive, DeVries says. They don’t drink water, so they need to absorb it from the environment. They also need temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius) to thrive, he says.

Eliminate clutter, says Neeta Ogden, MD, an allergist and immunologist in Edison, New Jersey, and an American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) spokesperson. Replace drapes with blinds and wall-to-wall carpet with washable area rugs, or with hardwood floors, she says.

Getting rid of bed bugs is a little trickier, DeVries says. There is no need to use ƒpesticides or insecticides to get rid of dust mites, but you may need these bigger guns for bed bugs.

Many chemicals can deal with a bed bug infestation such as pyrethrin, pyrethroids, and insect growth regulators. They all work differently, and sometimes more than one class is needed, according to the EPA.

You may need to call in the pros for this type of clean-up, DeVries says.

Heat treatments are another option for getting rid of bed bugs. “These will heat your house up to 120-130 degrees and cook bed bugs,” he says. These can treat large or small areas.

Another way to kill bed bugs and dust mites is to put the infested item into the dryer on a high-heat setting, he says. “If you want to wash it you can, but it’s the high heat that will destroy these pests.” Extreme cold works too. If you can’t put it in a dryer, place it in the freezer for two days in a zip lock bag, he suggests.

Knowing the difference between bed bugs and dust mites is the first step toward getting these unwanted visitors out of your bedding and home.

If you prefer your mushrooms sauteed, you’re on the right track. “When mushrooms are cooked, they release nutrients, including protein, B vitamins, potassium, as well as a wide range of other nutrients not commonly found in other foods,” says Rene Ficek, RD, lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. “In Asian traditions, mushrooms are regarded as both food and medicine because they can enhance the immune system.”

Cauliflower has many similarities to its other colorful cruciferous cousin, broccoli. “Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and fiber,” says Silvia Delgado, MS, RD, at Kaiser Permanente’s Baldwin Park Medical Center in Southern California. Just one cup of this crunchy veggie provides 3/4 of daily recommended amounts for vitamin C. (These are other surprising foods high in vitamin C.) To preserve cauliflower’s nutrients, Delgado suggests steaming instead of boiling your cauliflower. Try adding turmeric, the bright orange spice in curry, to add flavor and antioxidants. Turmeric is good for your belly, too.

There’s nothing flashy about oatmeal. But this modest bowl of creamy oats has a healthy sidekick you may not know about called soluble fiber. “Soluble fiber binds to the bad cholesterol in the blood stream and helps with elimination and lower cholesterol levels,” says Ficek. Since oatmeal is rich in fiber, its makes us feel fuller longer because the body works hard to digest it. “A high-fiber diet is well-established to reduce risk of certain gastrointestinal cancers, including colon cancer.” Try these tasty oatmeal toppers on your next bowl.

These little wonder grains of quinoa are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, which means you get the most nutrients for the fewest amount of calories. It has fiber, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. It is also one of the few plant foods considered a complete protein and comprised of all essential amino acids. “An abundance of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients are present in quinoa,” says Ficek. “Quinoa provides important vitamins and minerals, which protect against early aging and cancer.” It also provides healthy fats and can decrease inflammation, which is good for the heart.”

We know that milk is good for our bones because of its calcium, but moo juice can also help you sleep better at night. “Science now shows us that drinking a warm glass of milk will indeed help you sleep better,” says Ficek. “Dairy products are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps in the production of the sleep inducing brain chemicals serotonin and melatonin. Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin.” In addition, the calcium and magnesium work together to calm to the body and help relax muscles. If you’re lacking in these sleepy time minerals, you could wake up after a few hours and have a hard time getting back to sleep. These are some dairy myths you can safely ignore.

If you’re a fan of sliding these guys back, we’ve got good news for you. “Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc available,” says Ficek. (These are signs you may not be getting enough zinc.) Oysters are also a good source of iron. Slide six of them back raw or cooked, and you get about a third of your daily recommended value of heme iron, which is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron. Don’t eat seafood? Here’s how to get enough iron when you’re a vegetarian.

It’s all about gut health these days, and if you eat Greek yogurt, you’re not only getting twice the protein as regular yogurt, you’re also getting probiotics, the “healthy bacteria” for your gut. “Probiotics have shown promising results in its support of digestive health, diabetes control, and the immune system,” says Delgado. When you shop for Greek yogurt, looks for “live active cultures” on the label, and avoid added sugars. Try these savory recipes to cook with Greek yogurt.

Garlic has been used for centuries to ward off vampires, the bubonic plague, and even the common cold. “Modern science has studied science garlic’s effects on the immune system and gotten some promising results,” says Bobby Maknoon, RD, of of Bobby Maknoon Consulting in Astoria, New York.” Garlic gets its pungent smell from sulfurous compounds. Sulfurous compounds are thought to be responsible for garlic’s immunity-boosting powers. It’s thought that sulfurous compounds somehow support white blood cells.” Though research points to garlic shortening the length of a cold, you would probably have to take garlic supplements or highly concentrated amounts. Garlic’s compounds allicin and alliin may improve blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol levels. To help maximize the activity of these good guys, make sure you let your chopped or sliced garlic sit for 10 minutes before cooking with it.

The white potato, a trusted staple for years, has been in the shadows of the popular sweet potato as of late. Potatoes are healthy as long as you leave the gravy boat in the china cabinet. A medium potato has over 4 grams of fiber, 70 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, 30 percent of daily recommended value of vitamin B6, and only 163 calories. Try topping with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for a hearty side dish.

According to popcorn.org, air-popped popcorn has a mere 30 calories per cup; oil-popped popcorn has only 35 calories per cup. Even if you lightly butter it, you’re only looking at 80 calories per cup. If you eat three cups (that’s easy, right?), you’ll get a full serving of whole grains for the day. Meanwhile, store-bought microwave popcorn usually has a lot of additives and chemicalized butter flavoring. Instead, make your own microwave popcorn, or make popcorn on the stove. Buy the white kernels if you want a lighter and crispy texture. Yellow is chewier and tends to get stuck in your teeth more than white kernels.

Otherwise known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans are quite the trendy little legume right now. A cup provides 50 percent of the recommended dietary fiber for the day. “Fiber has been shown to help with blood sugar control, cholesterol control, and weight loss,” says Delgado. Chickpeas also promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and are a great source of protein, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Just when you thought chickpeas couldn’t get any better, the liquid they float in called aquafaba is an egg substitute that can be whipped up into a fluffy meringue or used as an egg substitute in baking. Toss chickpeas in salads, roast them for a crunchy snacks, or puree them to make hummus.

Turnips have been flying under the radar in recent years, but these unpretentious veggies deserve consideration. First off, each cup is only 30 calories. Second, one cup contains 30 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C value. Third, “the green part of the plant is also edible and packed with its own nutritious benefits. So go ahead and include all parts of this healthy plant,” suggests Delgado. “Turnips add crunch and texture to your meals. Add them to salads, soup, curries, and stews.”

If you’re trying to cut back on your cholesterol and saturated fat intake, tofu could fit the bill for your Meatless Monday. “Tofu is made from soybeans and has been associated in research with a decrease in risk of cancer,” says Delgado. When your buying tofu, look for organic, calcium-fortified tofu, which is also a good source selenium and omega-3s. Just four ounces of tofu contains 17 grams of protein. You may have heard of the fermented varieties before like tempeh, miso, or nato. “The fermentation process increases the digestibility and the nutrient absorption from tofu,” says Delgado. Soft tofu is best suited for sauces, dressings, or desserts, while firm tofu works best in stir-frying, baking, or grilling.

13/13 SLIDES

The post Dust Mite Bites vs. Bed Bugs: What’s the Difference? appeared first on The Healthy.

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