Bed mites: how to solve it?

January 6, 2024

One of the less obvious, but no less important, aspects of sleep is the quality of where we rest. Bed mites, invisible to the naked eye, can become a major problem, negatively affecting our sleep and health. In this post, we will explore how to recognize, combat, and prevent their presence.

How can you tell if your bed has mites?

Bed mites are microscopic beings and are not easily visible. However, some signs can indicate their presence. The first sign is often related to allergic reactions such as sneezing, itchy eyes, rhinitis, throat-ache or difficulty breathing, especially upon awakening. These symptoms can be confused with those of hay fever, the typical spring allergy, but if they persist it could be an indication of the presence of mites.

Another sign is the presence of small dark spots on the mattress or bedding. These spots are their droppings and may indicate an infestation. Also, if you notice a mold-like odor in your mattress or pillows, it could be the result of mite metabolism. If suspected, the best thing to do is to restore impeccable hygiene in the room with a fine cleaning and, if the problem persists, to hear from a pediatrician to rule out other causes and to hear from a pest control expert (although these have to be extreme cases).

What to do against bed mites?

Fighting bed mites requires a systematic and consistent approach. To begin with, it is essential to keep the environment as clean and dry as possible. Mites love humidity, so reducing the relative humidity below 50 percent can help inhibit their growth. The use of dehumidifiers is a great way to keep the air dry; another much easier one is to ventilate the room often, although in particular homes with only one exposure, this may be difficult, as no currents form between windows.

Regularly cleaning bedding at high temperatures (at least 60 degrees) kills mites and removes their allergens. Vacuuming the mattress, pillows, and bed area frequently with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter is also recommended. Mite-proof mattresses and pillow covers can provide a physical barrier between you and mites, preventing them from nesting in the mattress or pillows.

Good hygiene should prevent the problem in 90% of cases or at least limit it.

How to recognize mite bites?

Contrary to what you might think, bed mites do not sting in the strict sense, but they can cause sting-like skin irritations. These allergic reactions manifest as red, itchy, and sometimes swollen patches, often arranged in rows or groups. The severity of the reaction varies from person to person and can be confused with bites from other insects such as mosquitoes or fleas.

If you notice these signs, it may be helpful to observe your resting environment for other clues to their presence. Also, you should consider consulting a doctor to determine the exact nature of the reaction and to find an appropriate treatment to relieve the symptoms.

How do you kill mattress mites?

Killing mattress mites requires a methodical approach. As mentioned above, washing the bedding in warm water is a crucial first step. For the mattress, deep cleaning with steam can be very effective. The steam heat penetrates the mattress, killing mites and removing allergens without the use of chemicals (make sure your mattress can withstand that kind of cleaning without damage).

Another method is to use specific acaricidal products, which can be sprayed on the mattress. However, it is important to follow the instructions carefully and make sure the product is safe and non-toxic, especially if there are children or pets in the house. After applying any treatment, it is critical to let the mattress dry completely before making the bed again.

In what part of the body do mites sting?

Mites tend to concentrate in areas of the body that are most exposed while sleeping or that come in contact with the infested area. This includes arms, neck, face, and back. However, it is important to remember that the skin reaction is not an actual “sting”, but the body’s response to allergens produced by mites, such as their feces or body fragments.

Reactions can vary in intensity; some people may not notice the presence of mites at all, while others may have very strong reactions. Managing your sleeping environment is crucial to reducing contact with these allergens and improving the quality of your and your baby’s sleep.

How to eliminate mites from the pillow?

Eliminating mites from the pillow requires attention since it is an object that we have close to our face for several hours each night. It is advisable to use mite-proof pillows and wash them regularly, along with pillowcases, in warm water. If pillows are not washable, they can be frozen for at least 24 hours to kill mites, but this practice must be followed by good ventilation in the sun to remove moisture.

Also, replacing old pillows with new ones every two years or so can help reduce the presence of mites. Consider using zippered pillowcases and mite-resistant fabrics to create an additional protective barrier. Regular cleaning is the best defense against bed mites, thus ensuring a healthier sleeping environment for you and your family.

What about bed bugs?

Bed bugs are an entirely different kind of infestation. They can be found almost anywhere, but they often infest hotels (even upscale hotels) and hostels, brought in by travelers who may have been out in the wilderness and didn’t realize they were carrying a live bedbug. Making their nests in the hidden parts of beds or even at fairly large distances from rooms, it is always difficult to spot them, so much so that they require a very thorough search of mattresses, bed frames, and room baseboards, where they nest and go to lay their eggs. Normally, if we find them, we get a series of bites on the legs, neck, and arms, bites that form lines, and, probably, a few specks of blood on the pillow and sheet.

Getting rid of them is much more difficult than with mites, normally a procedure of smoking in the room where they were found is needed.

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Jeon YH, Lee YJ, Sohn MH, Lee HR. Effects of Vacuuming Mattresses on Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms in Children. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2019 Sep;11(5):655-663. doi: 10.4168/aair.2019.11.5.655. PMID: 31332977; PMCID: PMC6658412.

About the Author

Severino Cirillo

Health, Wellness and Education Expert. With a degree in Community Health, he is the CEO of Informed Parent and is responsible for validating the blog's scientific information and coordinating the editorial team of experts, consisting of gynecologists, midwives, psychotherapists, and others in pregnancy, perinatal, and parenting wellness and health.