Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs – What’s the Difference?

For a long time, I thought that bed bugs and dust mites were the same thing.

But it turns out that there are quite a few differences between dust mites and bed bugs.

Below I’ve explained the differences and how best to deal with each if you’re struggling with an infestation of either.

What Are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are microscopic arthropods that cannot be seen with the naked eye and have a white spider-like appearance [1].

More specifically, the different species include the North American dust mite (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus).

The bad news is that dust mites are present in all our homes because they love to feed on the dead skin cells that we shed – which is around 1.5 grams per day and can feed up to 1 million dust mites [2].

Dust mites are typically found in warm, damp areas such as our mattresses, bedding, pillows, and the cavities of innerspring mattresses and box springs.

Other habitats can include carpets, your children’s soft toys, curtains, soft furnishings, rugs, and clothing.

What Are the Dangers of Dust Mites?

Dust mites can’t bite you.

The main problem with dust mites is that some people are allergic to the proteins in the waste they produce.

A dust mite allergy can produce symptoms similar to that of hayfever, such as a runny or blocked nose, itchy eyes, and even exacerbate other conditions like eczema, asthma, or sleep apnea.

And as I said in my guide to sleeping better with allergies, an adverse reaction to dust mites can ruin your sleep – resulting in daytime sleepiness, and other health complications such as the triggering of asthma attacks.

How Do You Get Rid of Dust Mites?

You can’t totally eliminate dust mites from your house.

However, one of the most effective steps that you can take to reducing your symptoms if you have a dust mite allergy is to clean your mattress properly and regularly.

This isn’t as daunting as it sounds.

Check out my complete mattress cleaning guide for the exact step-by-step instructions to spruce up your mattress and slay the dust mites that are causing your flare ups – without damaging your mattress with harmful chemicals.

Also, having a mattress with a machine-washable cover – like some of the Tempur-Pedic Mattresses – can make it a lot easier to remove dust mites and other allergens.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that a HEPA-filter-equipped vacuum cleaner can do a more effective job of removing particles from your mattress, carpet, and other materials when compared to a standard vacuum cleaner – removing 99.97 percent of all particles that are 0.3 microns in size that pass through it [3].

Other steps that you can take to combat dust mites is to limit the amount of loose materials in your bedroom such as decorative pillows and even switching out your curtains for blinds.

You’ll also want to minimise humidity in your room by removing flowers, drying your clothes elsewhere, and using a dehumidifier.

How Can You Prevent Dust Mites?

Regular cleaning of your mattress and bedding is one of the best ways to control dust mites and prevent severe allergic flare ups.

But you can do more.

More specifically, a hypoallergenic mattress is constructed in a way so that the dust mites will have a harder time penetrating the outer layers of the mattress and thus make it very difficult for them to set up home.

The best types of these hypoallergenic mattress are usually made out of memory foam and latex because they typically lack the under cavities present in traditional innerspring mattresses that are the perfect home for dust mites.

So if you’d like to clamp down on dust mites – click the button below.

Where you can see the top hypoallergenic mattresses that you can buy online now.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small insects that can live under your mattress, furniture, and other dark places.

And unlike dust mites, bed bugs are big enough to be seen with the naked eye – potentially measuring up to 5 mm in length.

Bed bugs are actually parasites and will bite you so that they can feed on your blood – before detaching and wandering off once they’ve had their fill.

Although they cannot fly, bed bugs can cover a lot of ground crawling around each night whilst you’re asleep.

You can identify an adult bed bug by its brownish appearance, whilst the younger bed bugs may appear to be white – you may also be able to see eggs, egg shells, droppings, and exoskeletons that are the result of molting.

To find bed bugs, you should look in the cracks and crevices surrounding your bed – even going as far as taking your bed apart to inspect the interior and/or box spring.

You may also find the little beasts inside your closet, under furniture, beneath cushions, near plug sockets, behind wall paper, in your headboard, and other places that tend to be dark.

It’s also possible to inadvertently bring bed bugs into your home after travelling – so be sure to check your luggage BEFORE you enter your house.

What Are the Dangers of Bed Bugs?

Unlike dust mites – bed bugs can bite you.

The result is often red and itchy bites that are typically benign but in some rare cases may result in anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) [4].

The bites often appear in clusters, a line, or some sort of pattern. Also, bed bug bites do NOT have a red spot in the center like flea bites do [5].

Bed bug bites will often go away after a week or so, but you should keep the area clean and avoid scratching to avoid an infection.

You can treat bed bug bites by applying a clean, damp cloth to soothe the itching and help with the swelling [6].

Alternatively, you can visit your pharmacist and ask about using a mild hydrocortisone cream – although children under 10 and pregnant women should see their doctor first [7].

Antihistamines may also help reduce the itching if you’re struggling to get to sleep.

How Do You Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

Getting rid of bed bugs can be tricky.

The most comprehensive solution is to hire a professional exterminator who can use the right chemicals to get rid of the infestation for you.

However, steps that you can take yourself for getting rid of bed bugs can include:

  • Washing infected bedding, linen, curtains, clothing and other suitable items on a hot temperature (place items in bags so that you don’t spread the infestation on the way to the washing machine).
  • Scrub your mattress with a stiff brush before vacuuming.
  • Vacuum your entire room.
  • Place the vacuum bag in a sealed bag and bin it outside.
  • Encase your mattress in a bed bug cover and leave it there permanently to starve them.

How Can You Prevent Bed Bugs?

According to Rentokil, some of the steps that you can take to prevent bed bug infestations include [8]:

  • Washing and drying clothes on a higher temperature.
  • Keeping your bedroom and house tidy.
  • Frequent vacuuming.
  • Checking clothing and items that you’ve taken to other places before allowing them back into your house.

Dust Mites vs Bed Bugs – What Are the Differences?

The above descriptions should have given you a good idea as to what the differences between dust mites and bed bugs are.

But just to clarify, here’s a handy table that highlights how these pests differ and how to get rid of them.

Dust MitesBed Bugs
Microscopic – cannot be seen.Visible – brown and 5 mm in length.
Doesn’t bite – feeds on dead skin.Bites – feeds on human blood.
Found mainly in mattresses, bedding, and upholstery.Found in furniture, under mattresses, cushions, and other dark places.
Cause allergic reactions.Cause bites and itching.
Remove with vacuuming, hot water, sunlight, and certain chemicals.Remove with vacuuming and specific chemicals.
Can be partially prevented with hypoallergenic mattresses and bedding – plus regular cleaning.Can be prevented with regular cleaning and checking for infestations.

Is it Time For a New Mattress?

If you have an innerspring mattress that’s more than 5 years old and non-hypoallergenic – then you could be harbouring a massive amount of dust mites.

And if you’re frequently waking up with symptoms of a dust mite allergy – even after you’ve cleaned it – then it might be time to get a new mattress.

In which case, I recommend that you click the button below to take a look at some of the best hypoallergenic mattresses that could help you sleep allergy free right now.

Sources and References

[1], [2] HealthLine – What Dust Mite Bites Look Like and How to Get Rid of Them. Accessed 26/12/19.

[3] Molekule – HEPA Vacuum: What It Can and Cannot Do. Accessed 26/12/19.

[4], [6], [7] NHS – Bed Bugs. Accessed 26/12/19.

[5] WebMD – Bed Bugs. Accessed 26/12/19.

[8] Rentokil – How to Prevent Bed Bugs. Accessed 26/12/19.


No part of this post or website should be interpreted as medical advice – always speak to your doctor first when purchasing items related to your health condition.

Image Attribution and Licencing

Main image: ‘Lens With Bug Against Bed’ by Sementsova Lesia (Getty Images) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.