Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Dust mites

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Dust mites are tiny insects that feed on discarded human skin.
  • Dust mites don’t bite or sting, but some people are allergic to them and their droppings.
  • There are steps you can take to lower the number of dust mites in your house.

What are dust mites?

Dust mites are so tiny you can’t see them without a microscope. They belong to the same family as spiders. They feed on discarded human skin, house dust, and other microscopic food sources such as pollen and fungal spores.

Dust mites do not bite or sting. However, some people are allergic to dust mites and their droppings. They may trigger symptoms in people who are allergic to them and have:

Not everybody with these conditions are allergic to dust mites. But if you have symptoms all year long, you are likely to have a dust mite allergy.

Where are dust mites commonly found?

Dust mites thrive in homes with higher humidity levels and constant warm temperatures. So, they are more common in coastal areas of Australia than in inland, dry areas.

Dust mites live in:

  • carpets
  • bedding
  • clothing
  • upholstered furniture

Dust mites live in the bottom of the carpet. They seem to flourish in low traffic areas like under the bed.

Because they feed on discarded skin cells, they are also commonly found in the bed and bedroom. When you are making your bed, they can become airborne and settle in other areas of the house.

How do dust mites affect my health?

People who have asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or other allergies may be allergic to dust mites. The allergen created by dust mites can trigger symptoms.

If you suspect that you are allergic to dust mites, you should see your doctor. It’s important to confirm that dust mites are a trigger for your asthma or allergy.

Allergy tests such as a skin prick test or specific blood tests will help to show this. However, a positive test doesn’t mean that the dust mite will trigger your symptoms.

What are the symptoms of dust mite allergy?

If you’re allergic to dust mites, your symptoms will depend on your diagnosis. This could be:

  • asthma
  • eczema
  • hay fever
  • another allergic condition

Your doctor will work with you to help control your symptoms. This may involve asthma or allergy medicine, as well as avoiding the dust mites.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe allergen immunotherapy. Allergen immunotherapy changes the way your immune system reacts to allergens.

This involves slowly increasing doses of the dust mite allergen to help reduce the severity of your symptoms. This can take 3 to 5 years of treatment to be effective.

How can I get rid of dust mites?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way of removing dust mites from your house. You will need to do more than one thing to lower the number of dust mites and see an effect.

The allergen is present both in the mites as well as in their droppings and discarded skin cases. So, it’s important to try to reduce all of these to control allergic symptoms.

In my bedroom

Reducing mites in your bedding is the most effective way of reducing the amount of the allergen in your home.

This is because:

  • you spend a lot of time in your bed
  • high concentration of mites and their faeces in your bed

Wash your sheets and pillowcases every week in water hotter than 60°C. This will kill the dust mites and remove the allergen. If you can’t use hot water, try a commercial washing product. This should contain tea tree or eucalyptus oils. These both kill dust mites and can be used in cold water.

Open the curtains and allow sunshine into your room and, if possible, onto your bed. Dust mites don’t like bright light.

Put dust mite-resistant protective covers on your mattress, doona and pillows. These should be washed every 8 weeks.

Remove sheepskin underlays from your bed.

Remove pillows and soft toys from the bedroom or wash them every week. Soft toys can be put into the freezer to kill the dust mites, but this will not remove the allergen.

In other rooms

Vacuuming should be done weekly. While it won’t completely remove all dust mites or allergens, it will reduce their numbers. As vacuuming disturbs the dust try to get someone else to vacuum. You should avoid entering the room for 20 minutes afterwards.

High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaners may remove more allergen than a standard vacuum cleaner.

Vacuuming is not very efficient at removing mites and their faeces. Vacuuming alone will not make a significant difference to the number of mites.

It’s more effective to vacuum dust mites and droppings from hard surface floors.

Use a damp or electrostatic cloth to dust hard surfaces.

You can also reduce the overall humidity of your house and increase the air flow. This may help to keep dust mites at a lower level.

If possible, use vinyl or leather lounges rather than fabric.

Replace fabric curtains with venetian blinds or shutters to make them easier to clean. If you can’t do this, try to wash your curtains regularly.

Consider replacing carpets with hard floors. This is more effective at reducing total numbers of mites than vacuuming your carpets, but it is impractical for most people.

Other ways of reducing dust mites

Some commonly promoted ways of reducing dust mites are expensive. There’s often little evidence to support their claims of success. It’s a good idea to discuss these strategies with your doctor first.

Resources and support

To learn more about dust mite or other allergies, visit the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) website.

Alternatively, call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Dust mites trigger my asthma and allergies - National Asthma Council Australia

About dust mites Dust mites are microscopic creatures that feed off human skin scales. They are one of the most common allergen triggers for asthma, especially

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Mould triggers my asthma and allergies - National Asthma Council Australia

Common allergic triggers of asthma The most common allergic triggers of asthma are house dust-mites, pets, pollen and mould. While allergy avoidance measures h

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Know your allergic triggers - National Asthma Council Australia

Around two out of five Australians have allergies, including most people with asthma. Allergies tend to run in families but family members may not have the same

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Asthma and allergens - Better Health Channel

Many people with asthma find their symptoms can worsen when they are exposed to certain allergens like house dust mite, animal dander, pollen and mould.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

House dust mite allergy- what should you do? | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

House dust mites are about a quarter of a millimetre long

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Asthma and Allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

ASCIA PC FAST FACTS Asthma and Allergy 2023

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

About asthma and allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Allergy plays an important role in asthma, as one of the major factors associated with the cause and persistence of asthma. Around 8 in 10 people with asthma have positive allergy test results.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

What are asthma triggers? - National Asthma Council Australia

Triggers can cause the airways to become narrow and inflamed, leading to asthma symptoms.

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Gas stoves and asthma in children - National Asthma Council Australia

Most people know about pollen, dust mites and mould as triggers of their child’s asthma symptoms. But recent findings suggest that cooking with gas stoves, or e

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Pollen triggers my asthma and allergies - National Asthma Council Australia

Many people are allergic to windborne pollen from grasses, weeds and trees. This pollen can blow into your nose and eyes, triggering asthma and allergies. High

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.