Bugs in Your Bed| Bed Bugs or Dust Mites?

I am noticing that the site is getting a lot of traffic from people searching for information about “mites in bed” and that they are landing up on the post about bed bugs.  These two pests are entirely different, so I thought I would clear up any confusion by writing this post.

Neither bed bugs nor dust mites are pleasant topics to read about, in fact there is a big “eugh” factor involved.  However, rest assured you are not alone; everyone’s got dust mites and an increasing number of people are suffering with bed bugs.  Sort out your problems here.

This post is about:

  • How to tell the difference between bed bugs and dust mites
  • Common health problems associated with bed bugs and dust mites
  • How to deal with dust mites in your bed

The Difference Between Bed Bugs and Dust Mites

If you suspect that you have pests infesting your bed and don’t know what kind they are, don’t be alarmed.  Plenty of people are worried that they have bed bugs when in fact they have dust mites.  All of us have dust mites – fact!  Not all of us have bed bugs.  Here are the differences:

Bed Bugs

An immature bed bug, clearly visible, feeding on a human host

  • Are parasitic insects that feed on blood during the night.
  • Need a host – a warm blooded mammal (you!) from which to suck blood.
  • Live around the bed area in crevices and cracks.
  • Are visible to the naked eye – they are flat, brownish red insects about the size of an apple pip.
  • Bite! You may notice bites, typically in a line of about three.

Dust Mites

A house dust mite, around 0.3mm long.

  • Are mites, not insects – they are more like minute spiders.
  • Feed on shed dead skin.
  • Live inside your mattress and pillows as well as in carpets, rugs and fluffy toys.
  • Are almost invisible to the naked eye – you are extremely unlikely to find them.
  • Do not bite.
  • Can cause allergic reactions.

Common Health Problems Caused by Bed Bugs and Dust Mites

The good news on bed bugs is that whilst they can leave bite marks, which are often itchy, they don’t actually cause any major health problems.  However, the thought of something feeding on your blood whilst you sleep is naturally disgusting, so best to get rid of them!

Read more about how to avoid a bed bugs here.

Dust mites on the other hand won’t bite you, but they are a major cause of allergic reactions in susceptible people.  It’s not the dust mites themselves that make you wheeze though, it’s their dirt.  In fact, dust mite dirt is a major constituent of household dust.  This is bad news for people who are predisposed to asthma and rhinitis allergies.

Symptoms of a dust mite allergy:

  • wheezing
  • sneezing
  • itch on the roof of the mouth and in the throat
  • watery eyes
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • infantile eczema

How to Deal with Dust Mites in Your Bed

Most people’s mattresses contain tens of thousands of dust mites.  There are tens of thousands more in your carpet.  They manage to live by feeding on the proteins in your household dust – that’s your shed skin and that of your pets if you have them. We humans produce around 5-10 grammes of shed skin a week, plenty to feed our microscopic army of dust mites.  The dust mites in turn produce their own waste; each mite has about 20 droppings a day, which can set off allergies when breathed in.

Dust mites are multiplying in modern homes because of our lifestyles.  We no longer have sparsely furnished, draughty, cold houses, we have double-glazed, centrally heated homes with plenty of soft furnishing, all of which provide an ideally warm, cosy breeding ground for dust mites.  [break]

How are you going to get rid of your dust mites?  Top tips are:

  • Vacuum clean your carpets frequently and mattress regularly.
  • Fit your mattress and pillows with mite-proof covers.  Some covers will stop bed bugs too.
  • Wash your bedding regularly (at least every two weeks, please!) at high temperatures and tumble dry it on high too.
  • Air your house.  Open your windows when you get up each morning to let out the humidity that builds up overnight.
  • Air your bedding.  Hang your bedding outside during sunny weather.
  • Steam clean carpets occasionally.
  • Mop hard flooring regularly.
  • Freeze children’s soft toys if you can’t wash them (put them in plastic bags and leave in the freezer for 24 hours).
  • Consider replacing your carpets for laminate flooring and remove unnecessary soft furnishings and soft toys, particularly in the bedrooms.


  • Bed bugs and dust mites are entirely different pests.
  • Dust mites don’t bite, but can cause allergic reactions.
  • Dust mites numbers can be controlled in the bedroom by following a strict and consistent regime of household cleaning.