Disclaimer: These protocols are the result of one person’s experience and study. The protocols were not developed in a controlled fashion to demonstrate their safety and efficacy. Be aware that if you use these protocols, you do so at your own risk. Follow all directions on products you choose to use, and consult your physician regarding your health issues. Consult with a licensed pest control expert regarding environmental treatments that are legal in your community.
Introduction: I became heavily infested with D. gallinae in the Fall of 2009 from baby chicks raised in the family home. Our older house with its wood paneling and carpet turned out to be “mite heaven,” as Vector Control called it. I was more affected than other family members, and spent many nights that winter trying to sleep in the car.
Eventually the population skyrocketed and we moved out of our home. Specimens from the chickens were identified as D. gallinae in all life stages by a veterinary school parasitology lab, and we had the chickens put down.
Eliminating the source did not solve the problem immediately. That took over a year and a lot of work. Ending a mite infestation requires creating an environment that is so inhospitable to mites that you get rid of them faster than they can reproduce. And it starts with getting rid of the source host.
Here’s the advice I wish I’d had at the outset:
- Inform Yourself and Your Team: What is now known about parasitic mites may be different from what your doctor and pest control expert were taught in school. Educate yourself and share information with professionals, your spouse and family to improve your chances of getting good support.
- Log onto the Parasites and Vectors Print and read the 2015 article, “Should the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae be of wider concern for veterinary and medical science?” The article summarizes what is known about the ability of D. gallinae to switch host species, the human diseases it carries, and the underdiagnosis of the infestation in humans. This is a good reference to provide to your team.
- If you can, also buy a copy of Control of Poultry Mites (Dermanyssus) by Dr. Olivier Sparagano. Published in 2009, this book contains a wealth of information about everything from pesticide resistance, to mites as vectors of human diseases, to which essential oils work best as repellants.
- Get Rid of All Possible Source Hosts: Your pet bird, the pigeons under your balcony, the bird’s nest in your child’s room, the mice in your basement, are all possible sources. Get rid of them all.
- Get Rid of Most of Your Belongings:
- Move into a place with no carpeting and no drapes (get blinds).
- Get rid of your carpeted car and get a Jeep, or a Honda Element.
- Look up the 5S system (which originated in Japan) for a method to pare down belongings. Get rid of your upholstered furniture, or if you must, have plastic, not cloth, upholstery. Throw out your books and get a library card. Throw out most of your clothes.
When everything you own becomes a fomite (an object that transmits an infection, in this case mites), it’s easy to let go of your possessions.
- Cool Down Your Environments: Mite are more active and reproduce more rapidly in a warm environment. Keep your home, car and office cool.
- Dry Out Your Environments: Mites are susceptible to desiccation (drying out). This is an effective way to interfere with mites that involves no toxic chemicals. Go to a major hardware store and buy dehumidifiers to run in every room. DO NOT run humidifiers in your home while you have mites.
- Keep It Clean:
- Use ammonia — not bleach — to wash your floors. Bleach corrodes surfaces and provides hiding places for bugs. And NEVER use ammonia and bleach together! That combination produces toxic gas.
- Wash your laundry after each use, including sheets, on hot water, with detergent, Borax and ammonia. Dry on high heat. Thin clothes are easiest to wash thoroughly; avoid fuzzy clothes.
- Wear washable shoes and wash them with your laundry every day.
- Clean the inside of your car every day with antiseptic wipes.
- Keep Your Body Mite-Unfriendly:
- Keep your hair as short as you can stand it. Wash whatever hair is left with a sulfur or tar dandruff shampoo at least once a day. Follow up with a conditioner with essential oils.
- Shower at least once a day, scrubbing with a rough washcloth. Use liquid soap that contains mite repellent natural ingredients such as neem, tea tree, eucalyptus, and/or lavender. Wash your face with a cleanser that contains eucalyptus, or use an apricot scrub. A battery operated face brush that cleans in a circular motion is helpful. Try using peppermint lotion. Clean your shower after use, and dehumidify the bathroom.
- Keep the following homemade mite repellants with you. Use as needed: a) Lotion to which you have added essential oils and neem; b) a spray bottle containing witch hazel to which you have added essential oils plus neem. Remember to follow label directions regarding amounts. You’ll find these two repellents are useful at different times.
- Keep Your Bed Mite-Unfriendly: Wrap masking tape around the legs of your bed, sticky side out, to keep mites from climbing up from the floor. Cover your box spring, mattress, and pillows with plastic bed covers and wipe them down with antiseptic when you change bedding.
- Use Pesticides and Mite Growth Hormones as Directed: Your pest control professional will likely need to identify the species before using these products on your home. Mites evolve pesticide resistance; so discuss the choice of products with your pest control specialist.
- Believe in Your Senses:
- If you are a favored host, your experience may be different from others in your family. Parasitic mites are known to choose favorites in a flock to feed upon.
- Good diagnostic tools are being developed but are not widely available, so underdiagnosis is still a problem.
- The best way to know if treatment of an environment works is whether mites still affect you after the environment is treated.
- Get Out of Your House and Swim: The more you are at home, the more you are exposed to the mites in your environment. Get out and swim in a chlorinated pool every day. Then sit in a chlorinated Jacuzzi and power wash your feet. If you can’t do that, at least exercise (and work up a sweat) every day.
- Own the Problem: Become your own expert. If you want to understand why nobody else in your family is being bitten the way you are, read about host selection. If you want to understand why your new bites are less visible than the first bites you received, read about immunosuppression by ectoparasites. More is known every day about parasitic mites. The more you learn, the better you can solve this problem.
Best of luck. You can reclaim your life from this infestation. You and only you can make it happen.