Symptoms of Dust Mite Eczema Exposure

Mites are a potential trigger for eczema symptoms

Dust mites, the microscopic creatures that survive off of dead skin cells, are one of the most common indoor allergens. These tiny pests thrive in warm settings like your mattress, bedding, carpets, and furniture and are found in roughly 4 out of 5 homes in the United States.

For some people, dust mites prompt an allergic reaction. However, dust mites can trigger an itchy rash for those living with eczema (atopic dermatitis).

This article discusses dust mite–triggered eczema, treatment tips, and household cleaning measures.

Man with eczema scratching his arm

Tanja Ivanova / Getty Images

Dust Mites May Exacerbate Eczema Flares

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes a dry, scaly, inflamed, itchy rash. In general, it’s triggered by factors such as: 

While dust mites don’t cause eczema, these tiny creatures are a common trigger. About one-third of people living with eczema and a dust mite allergy report that their eczema symptoms are exacerbated after dust exposure.

Symptoms of an eczema flare-up after dust mite contact might first feel like very itchy, dry skin. Soon after, a rash usually erupts that may be rough, cracked, crusting, red, or discolored with small fluid-filled blisters.

Other Aggravated Symptoms

In addition to itchy rashes, an eczema flare triggered by dust mites can come with other respiratory symptoms, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Itchy, irritated, or watery eyes

People with other conditions like asthma might also experience more intense symptoms like wheezing, trouble breathing, or chest pain.

Emergency Eczema Symptoms

Eczema can be serious when the skin becomes infected, increasing the risk for a skin infection known as cellulitis. Seek emergency medical attention if you notice symptoms such as: 


  • Hot or swollen skin
  • Fever, chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that worsens or doesn't go away
  • Blistering
  • Numbness

Common Locations of Dust Mites

Experts estimate that dust mites are present in most households in the United States. Dust mites thrive in environments warmer than 70 degrees F and have a humidity higher than 75%. They're usually found in locations such as:

  • Pillows
  • Mattresses
  • Blankets
  • Carpeting
  • Curtains
  • Upholstered furniture

Unlike other airborne allergens, dust mites settle into fabrics and make their nests there.

Treating Eczema and Allergy Symptoms

Eczema can’t be cured, but there are treatments to help control it. This can include a combination of home skin care and prescribed treatment options, including:

  • Keeping skin moisturized
  • Relieving itch with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, cool compresses, or an oatmeal bath
  • Managing your triggers (like stress and product use)
  • Being gentle with your skin
  • Using topical medications (like a corticosteroid cream)
  • Taking oral medications that target the immune system
  • Trying phototherapy (light therapy) procedures

Dust allergy treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. This can include OTC or prescribed medications such as:

Dust-Clearing Tips to Reduce Exposure

In addition to treating the symptoms that might come with a dust mite eczema outbreak, there are steps you can take to control some (but not all) exposure at home.

Consider the following tips to help reduce dust mites in your environment:

  • Use allergen covers on pillows and bedding.
  • Wash bedding weekly in 130-degree F water.
  • Vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Remove rugs, carpets, curtains, and drapes from bedrooms.
  • Wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Keep humidity levels lower than 50% by using a dehumidifier.

Using at least three dust mite–reduction measures at home is recommended to target the problem from all angles. This might include removing carpets, using allergen covers, and investing in a HEPA vacuum cleaner.

As you're implementing these measures, keep in mind that some dust mite eczema or allergy symptoms might temporarily worsen before they get better. That's because the process of vacuuming, sweeping, or dusting can stir up the dust mite particles in the air and lead to easy allergen inhalation.

Summary

Dust mites are microscopic pests that live off dead skin cells and thrive in warm home environments like bedding, carpets, and furniture. In addition to causing allergic respiratory symptoms, dust mites can also trigger eczema outbreaks in some people. To prevent an itchy rash from forming, experts recommend taking thorough cleaning steps to help reduce household dust mites and following an eczema treatment plan to relieve any symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Exposure to dust mites is, unfortunately, inevitable for most households. If you have a family member or roommate who has eczema and/or a dust mite allergy, it's a good idea to look at how you can limit the mites' presence in your environment. But for those who aren't particularly sensitive to the pesky creatures, experts say there's probably no need to drive yourself crazy with dust mite removal tactics. Check with a healthcare provider if you have questions about dust mites and eczema.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do dust mite eczema rashes look?

    An eczema outbreak triggered by dust mites can look like an itchy, dry, inflamed, and discolored rash. The rash may have tiny bumps that look like bites or crack open and ooze—especially if the rash is scratched excessively.

  • Does household dust cause skin problems?

    Dust particles, especially when they contain particles of pollen, mold, fabric fibers, or detergents, can affect your skin. Exposure to a variety of indoor pollution particles seems to intensify skin aging, moisture levels, and inflammation, but experts are still studying the specific mechanisms.

  • Can you spot signs of dust mites?

    Dust mites are too small for us to see. Most people rely on physical symptoms—like sneezing, congestion, coughing, and itchy skin—to assume the presence of dust mites. These signs may be more noticeable at nighttime during longer periods of exposure to pillows and bedding.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cristina Mutchler
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.