Dust mite allergy rash

Woman in bed scratching her irritated arm, possibly due to dust mite allergy rash

House dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in most homes but there are fewer at high altitudes or in very dry climates. For most people dust mites aren’t a bother. But house dust mite allergens can trigger atopic dermatitis (eczema) or make eczema symptoms worse.  Avoiding the bugs, moisturizing and medication may help.

If you have dust mite allergy rash, there are steps you can take to reduce the number of dust mites in your home.

In this article we describe what the dust mite allergy rash looks like, outline how to avoid house dust mite waste and offer treatment options.

Dust mite allergy rash and atopic dermatitis

There are many factors that can increase the risk of a person developing atopic dermatitis. To start with, it can run in families, which suggests specific genes pass it on from one generation to another. 3 In other people an overactive immune system or skin barrier disruption could be the main cause.

Researchers have discovered an imbalance of tiny organisms, or microbes, that live on our skin can also trigger allergy symptoms. Usually though, the cause of atopic dermatitis is a combination of all these factors.

So how do house dust mites cause atopic dermatitis or dust mite allergy rash? Well dust mites can be a trigger factor in some people. Allergens can damage the outer layer of the skin by reducing skin barrier function. They can also penetrate at a deeper level, potentially causing inflammation and chronic itching. In both instances, this could leave the skin vulnerable and delay healing and recovery.

What does a dust mite allergy rash look like?

Normal dust mite skin rash symptoms typically include itchy, irritated and swollen skin (from scratching). If dust mite allergies contribute to an eczema flare, symptoms can differ between babies, children and adults. We outline these differences below.

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Dust mite allergy rash in babies

During an eczema flare dust mite allergy symptoms may show:

  • As dry, raw and scaly skin
  • On the scalp and face, especially the cheeks
  • To be weeping fluid and crusting (a tell-tale sign of infection)

Dust mite allergy rash in children

If dust mite allergens have caused an eczema flare, symptoms may appear as:

  • A scaly crusty rash in the creases of the elbows, knees and buttocks, or on the neck, wrists, legs or ankles
  • Swollen, discolored skin – swelling tends to look red on paler skin types and dark brown, purplish or ashen grey on darker skin types
  • Spots – these are more common on darker skin types

Over time affected skin can:

  • Lighten or darken
  • Permanently look like its covered in goose bumps
  • Thicken (to protect itself from scratching)
  • Develop skin knots.

Dust mite allergy rash in adults

Adults with dust mite allergy may have eczema symptoms:

  • On the face and neck
  • Behind the ankles, knees, wrists, elbows and in creases
  • On the hands and eyes

They may also have:

  • Permanently thickened and leathery skin
  • Darker or lighter patches and scaly skin
  • Extremely dry skin

Severe dust mite allergy rash symptoms may affect the whole body.

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Dust mite allergy rash: Why you should try not to scratch

The urge to scratch itchy skin can strike at any time. When babies feel itchy, they might rub against bedding, carpet or other objects to relieve the itch. So you may notice the dust mite allergy rash is more prominent in areas where they have been rubbing, for example the head or arms.

It’s important to resist scratching as it could start what’s known as the itch-scratch cycle. During the cycle skin may grow more inflamed, which often makes the itch worse. Scratching can also break the skin and increase the risk of infection. Continued scratching may also cause skin to thicken. And thickened skin can itch all the time. Read about ways to soothe dust mite allergy rash here.

What causes dust mite allergy rash?

Each house dust mite produces as much as 200 times its body weight in and discarded shell matter during its short 2 to 3.5-month lifespan. It’s this waste that can cause allergy symptoms, including dust mite allergy rash.

Dust mite allergy rash: A Type I allergic reaction

Dust mite allergies are an IgE-mediated Type I allergic reaction. This means your immune system incorrectly interprets dust mites as a threat. And it creates specific Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies as a defense. The next time you encounter dust mites your antibodies alert cells to release chemicals, including histamine. This is what causes dust mite allergy symptoms, such as a rash. An allergic reaction to dust mites usually shows itself within 24 hours.

Diagnosing dust mite allergy rash

Speak to your healthcare provider if you have a rash or itchy skin and aren’t sure what’s causing it. Try to note when your symptoms happen and any other important details. For example, how quickly the rash develops and any relevant medical history, such as other skin conditions or previous allergic reactions.

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They may refer you for an allergy skin test to check whether a Type I allergy is giving you eczema. Drops containing small amounts of the dust mite allergens are put on your skin, which is then gently pricked. If an itchy bump appears, usually within 15-20 minutes, it could indicate that you have dust mite allergy rash depending on the size of the bump.

If the results are inconclusive, you may be referred for a blood test. This looks for IgE antibodies in your blood and shows what you could be allergic to.

How to manage dust mite allergy rash

Here are five simple ways to help control dust mite allergens at home:

  • Keep contact with dust mite allergens to a minimum
  • Tackle your symptoms with drug-free remedies
  • Try allergy medication if you need it
  • Ask about long-term treatment

Make your home dust mite unfriendly

There are four main ways to manage dust mite allergy rash, starting with avoidance and leading into treatment options:

  1. Keep humidity levels down: Dust mite populations thrive in warm damp conditions so consider investing in a dehumidifier or air conditioning unit and keep humidity to a constant 35% to 50%.
  2. Dust mite proof bedding: Mattress, quilt and pillow covers made from tightly woven fibers seal in waste particles, so you breathe less of them in while sleeping.
  3. Wash bedding once a week at the hottest setting available on the machine: Hot water should kill dust mites and their eggs (which are more resistant to heat) within 90 minutes.
  4. Use a HEPA filter for your vacuum cleaner: This will help to trap dust mites and other indoor allergens inside until you empty it.
  5. Don’t stir up a dust allergy: Use a damp cloth rather than a duster. It will trap dust particles rather than putting them into the air.
Man and woman embracing in the forest. Immunotherapy may be able to help you live a life freer of dust mite allergy rash.

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Drug-free remedies for dust mite allergy rash

Managing dust mite allergy rash tends to involve moisturizing as well as medication. It’s important to stop skin from becoming too dry and itchy with a daily skin care regime which can help. Your healthcare provider can help you find the right emollient.

There are home remedies to try too. Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties. When added to a bath, it can soothe skin and reduce itching. Calamine lotion and a cold compress may help too.

Dust mite allergy rash medication

For more severe flare-ups, antihistamines and corticosteroid creams may reduce itching and inflammation.

Creams and ointments which regulate the immune response of the skin (topical immunomodulators) can treat inflammation too. They tend to be prescribed for rashes in smaller sensitive areas, such as the face. Wet bandages can be wrapped over this medication or topical steroids to treat areas of severe eczema (wet-wrap therapy). Another option is light therapy (phototherapy).


Dust mites are a common trigger of eczema. Repeated flare-ups can be very itchy and irritating. The condition can start in infancy and last into adulthood. A daily skin care regime for moisturizing may be enough to keep mild eczema at bay. More severe flare-ups may need medicated creams and ointments or other treatment.

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Last medically reviewed on 12/12/2022