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What happens when mites bite humans?

Mites are tiny arachnids, related to spiders and ticks. There are many different types of mites that can bite humans and cause discomfort, irritation, and symptoms. When mites bite, they often cause itching and skin irritation as the body reacts to the mite’s saliva. Mite bites usually clear up on their own, but in some cases they can lead to infections or allergic reactions. Knowing what to expect when mites bite can help you determine if medical treatment is needed.

What are mites?

Mites are eight-legged arachnids that are related to spiders and ticks. There are over 48,000 known species of mites. Many mites are so tiny they can only be seen under a microscope. Mites live in a wide variety of environments and habitats.

Some types of mites bite humans to feed on skin cells, while others pierce the skin to consume blood. Mites that bite humans include:

– Scabies mites: Burrow into the skin to feed and lay eggs. This causes an intensely itchy rash.

– Chigger mites: Bite to feed on skin tissue which causes red welts. They do not burrow or live on humans.

– Bird and rodent mites: Bite humans when their normal hosts die or abandon nests. This can cause itchy red bumps.

– Straw itch mites: Live on plants and cause dermatitis when contact is made with humans.

– Dust mites: Common in homes, they don’t bite but can cause allergic reactions.

Not all mites bite or cause issues for humans. But mites that do bite can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and skin irritation.

What happens when mites bite?

When mites bite they use their sharp mouthparts to pierce the skin. As they feed they inject saliva into the bite wound. The saliva contains digestive enzymes that break down skin cells or blood. It also contains antigens that provoke an immune reaction. This is what leads to the irritating symptoms associated with mite bites.

Reactions and symptoms can include:

– Itching: Mite bites usually become very itchy within hours of the bite. This is due to the body’s immune response.

– Red bumps: Small red bumps form at the bite site as the skin reacts to mite saliva. Bumps may look like pimples or blisters.

– Rash: Some mite bites can cause a raised itchy rash as the mites move across the skin. This is common with scabies infestations.

– Hives: Large red, raised, itchy welts may develop due to an allergic reaction. This is more common in people with chronic mite exposure.

– Skin inflammation: The bite area may become inflamed, red, and swollen as histamines are released.

– Skin irritation: Scratching can cause the bite area to become scaly, sore, and leathery.

The type of reaction and severity of symptoms depends on the type of mite and sensitivity of the individual. Bites usually clear up within 1-2 weeks, unless secondary infections develop.

Why do mite bites itch?

Itching is the most common symptom of mite bites. This is caused by the body’s immune response to mite saliva. When mites bite, they inject saliva that contains antigens and proteins the body recognizes as foreign invaders. This triggers immune cells like mast cells to release histamines and other inflammatory chemicals.

Histamines dilate blood vessels and make them more permeable. This allows immune cells to rush to the bite site. But it also leads to fluid leakage and swelling that stretches nerve endings. The nerve fibers react by transmitting itching and irritation signals.

Other immune chemicals like leukotrienes also increase itching by modulating nerve fiber responses. As the inflammatory reaction progresses, the bite area continues itching. Scratching provides temporary relief but also damages the skin, keeping the cycle of itching and irritation going.

The histamine response varies between individuals. Those with more sensitivity may react with larger, itchier welts while others have milder symptoms. But itching almost always occurs because mite saliva is designed to provoke this protective inflammatory response.

Can mite bites spread?

The ability of mite bites to spread depends on the type of mite. Not all mites that bite humans can spread across the body. However, some mites like scabies burrow into the skin and spread through contact.

Scabies mites burrow tiny tunnels where they poop, lay eggs, and die. This causes an extremely itchy rash that often spreads as mites move to new sites. Scabies is very contagious through close personal contact and can spread quickly between family members, sexual partners, and dorm mates.

Chigger mites do not spread from person to person. The rash is limited to where the mites bite. But one chigger can bite multiple times, leading to clusters of welts.

Bird and rodent mites also don’t spread extensively once on a human. But they can bite repeatedly if living in someone’s home. Reducing nesting sites and rodent infestations can limit bites.

Overall, scabies presents the most risk for spreading mite bites across the body via burrowing. Other mites tend to cause localized reactions without significant spread.

Can you get sick from mite bites?

In most cases, mite bites do not make you sick. They cause localized skin irritation and itching but no systemic infection. However, there are some exceptions where mite bites can contribute to illness:

– Bacterial infections: Scratching mite bites can allow bacteria like Staph into the skin, causing secondary infections. Look for signs like oozing pus, redness spreading from the bite, fever, and fatigue.

– Allergic reactions: People with dust mite allergies may develop system-wide allergy symptoms when exposed. Severe dust mite allergy can trigger asthma exacerbations.

– Scabies infestations: When scabies spreads across the body in thousands of burrows, it can make those with weaker immune systems sick with rashes and skin irritation.

– Mite-transmitted diseases: In tropical regions, mites can transmit scrub typhus and other infectious diseases. This is rare in the U.S.

Talk to your doctor if your mite bites are associated with infection, extensive rash, or illness beyond localized itching and skin irritation. You may need antibiotics for secondary infections or prescription anti-itch creams. Otherwise, good hygiene and home treatment usually relieve discomfort.

How long do mite bite symptoms last?

In general, symptoms of mite bites resolve on their own within 1-2 weeks. The timeline varies based on the type of mite and individual response.

– Chigger mites: Red welts and intense itching peaks around 3 days after bites. Symptoms typically resolve within 1-2 weeks.

– Bird/rodent mites: Bites cause mild itching and small bumps that clear within 5-10 days in healthy individuals.

– Scabies: Rash, burrows, and itching persists 4-6 weeks without treatment. Scabies must be treated with prescription medications.

– Allergic reactions: Hives and itching may come and go for several weeks after exposure in those with dust mite allergy.

While symptoms usually run their course within a couple weeks, severe itching can lead to scratching that damages the skin. This may prolong healing or increase risk of secondary bacterial infections. See your doctor if mite bites don’t start to improve within a week or two.

How to treat mite bites

Most mite bites can be safely treated at home using the following methods to ease symptoms:

– Anti-itch creams: Over-the-counter hydrocortisone or antihistamine creams reduce inflammation and itching.

– Cool compresses: Applying cool cloths or an ice pack can soothe itchy, inflamed bites.

– Oral antihistamines: Non-drowsy antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin) relieve itching and swelling.

– Antibacterial soaps and creams: Use antibacterial soap and apply antibiotic cream to prevent secondary skin infections.

– Steroid creams or shots: For severe swelling and rashes, doctors may prescribe topical or oral steroids to reduce inflammation.

– Scabies prescription treatment: Products like permethrin cream, ivermectin, and benzyl benzoate are needed to eliminate scabies mites.

Avoid scratching mite bites as this damages skin and increases irritation. Trim fingernails to reduce injury from scratching. See your doctor promptly if bites worsen or become infected.

Natural home remedies

There are also some natural remedies that can help soothe mite bite symptoms, in addition to over-the-counter medications:

– Oatmeal baths: Colloidal oatmeal steeped in bath water helps relieve itching and inflammation. The starch has soothing properties.

– Baking soda paste: Make a thick paste with baking soda and water and apply to bites to reduce swelling and itching.

– Aloe vera gel: The cooling gel from the aloe plant provides relief for inflamed skin. Apply several times a day.

– Apple cider vinegar: Dab on diluted vinegar to stop itching due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

– Essential oils: Oils like lavender, tea tree, and basil have anti-itch properties when applied to the skin. Mix with a carrier oil.

– Cold packs: Wrap some ice or a cold pack in a towel and apply to bite areas to reduce swelling.

– Honey: Manuka honey has antibacterial properties that can help prevent skin infection when applied topically.

Always rinse remedies off fully after use. Speak to your doctor before using new topical products if pregnant or allergic to ingredients.

How to prevent mite bites

You can take steps to prevent mite bites using these strategies:

– Avoid areas where mites live like bird/rodent nests, prairie grass, poorly kept barns, etc.

– Use insect repellent containing DEET when outdoors.

– Take hot, soapy showers after potential exposure.

– Disinfect or get rid of mite-infested furniture.

– Wash bedding frequently in hot water to kill dust mites.

– Use mattress and pillow covers to block dust mites.

– Treat pets to prevent mites from moving between animals and humans.

– Dry clean or wash clothes after wearing in mite-prone areas.

– Inspect skin regularly to identify new bites and treat early.

– Carefully clean and bandage any bites to avoid infection.

Being proactive about reducing mite habitats and checking for bites can help prevent outbreaks. But mite exposure is difficult to control entirely. See your doctor if you have recurring mite bites for proper diagnosis and advice about prevention.

When to see a doctor

In most cases mite bites can be treated at home without medical intervention. See your doctor if you experience:

– Intense itching or hives that oral antihistamines don’t relieve

– Extensive rash covering large portions of the body

– Signs of skin infection like oozing pus, redness, fever or heat

– Persistent biting or rash lasting more than 2-3 weeks

– Possible scabies infestation with burrows across body sites

– Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing with mite exposure

– Young children or those with weaker immune systems who may be more vulnerable to effects of mite bites

Dermatologists can diagnose the specific type of mite infesting the skin and prescribe stronger medications as needed. Tell your doctor about any medications or skin products used, as these may interact with prescription treatments. Most cases of mite bites resolve quickly with proper care and itch relief treatments. But seek medical advice if bite symptoms don’t start to improve within a few weeks.


Mite bites often cause irritating symptoms but are rarely dangerous on their own. Different types of mites that bite humans include scabies mites, chiggers, bird/rodent mites, and straw itch mites. When they bite, they inject saliva that causes itching, rashes, and skin inflammation as part of the body’s immune response.

This reaction usually resolves within 1-2 weeks with good home treatment like anti-itch creams, antihistamines, cool compresses, antibiotic creams, and avoiding scratching. Natural remedies like oatmeal baths, baking soda, and aloe vera gel can also provide relief. Prevent mite bites by steering clear of infested areas, using DEET, and promptly treating bites. See a doctor for severe reactions, signs of infection, or if symptoms don’t start improving within 2-3 weeks. With proper care, most mite bites can be managed safely at home.