Uh oh. Did you (or someone you know) wake up with small, itchy, red bumps all over? Are you wondering if they’re flea bites or bug bites, and if so, how to tell the difference between them?
While neither flea nor bug bites are fun by any means, proper identification will help you get on a path to recovery. Not only will the following info help you treat the bites, but it’ll also give you insight into how to get rid of these pesky pests once and for all.
Bed bug vs flea bites – know what you’re dealing with.
Visually, it’s often tough to decipher the difference between a bed bug bite and a flea bite. It mostly comes down to context.
Symptoms of bed bug bites
Generally speaking, bed bug bites are found on the neck, arms, shoulders, and legs – basically any part of the skin that’s exposed while you sleep. They may be accompanied by a slight burning sensation and can appear up to 2 days after you’ve been bitten.
These bites are usually very itchy, and they might form a pattern. Look for groupings, zig-zags, or bites in a line. You may also want to check your sheets for clues. There could be spots of dried blood or stains from bed bug droppings.
Treating bed bug bites
Bed bug bites usually disappear within a week, with the redness and itchiness calming after a day or two.
Just be sure to keep the skin clean and apply an antihistamine if the itching gets to be too much.
Bed bug bites can range from mild dots to serious welts. They may swell and/or blister. If the skin is broken and the pain becomes intense, seek medical help as there’s a risk of infection.
Preventing bed bug bites
If you’re sure those bites are bed bugs, it’s time to take action.
Thoroughly treat your mattress and clean all bedding (on a very hot cycle). If you’ve picked up the bites while traveling, remember to clean your luggage and all clothing that came with you. Put pillows and duvet covers in the dryer on high heat.
Unfortunately, bed bugs don’t just live in the bed. These opportunistic parasites can also hide out in the cracks and crevices of your furniture, floors, and walls, so consider steam cleaning your furniture and sealing up any cracks.
Signs of a flea bite
Flea bites are very similar to bed bug bites. While the bites are similar – small, red, itchy, bumps – there are a few ways to spot the difference.
One such difference is typically when and where you’re bitten. While bed bugs almost always bite in bed, fleas will bite at any time and are usually carried into the home via pets.
If you have a pet and notice itchy red bites, it’s always important to go directly to the source. Check your pet! We have some treatment options a few paragraphs below (under flea bite prevention), but if you’re unsure how to safely rid your pet of fleas, vets are always happy to assist.
Fleas like to bite around the legs and ankles as this is often their first point of contact on a human. You might find multiple bites in one place, forming a cluster.
Flea bite treatments
As with bed bug bites, flea bites usually resolve on their own.
Try soothing the skin with ice, aloe vera, or topical antihistamine cream.
If you notice spreading redness, fever, or other severe symptoms, seek help. It’s rare, but some people are allergic to flea bites.
Flea bite prevention
As previously mentioned, the most common cause of fleas is the furry members of your household. Any pet with fur can bring them in, so regularly check your dogs and cats for bugs.
Fleas are fairly easy to spot thanks to their distinctive jump. If you see something small nestling in your pet’s fur and it springs away quickly, that’s almost certainly a flea.
And that means it’s bath time for Fido. All good pet stores carry flea shampoo, so grab a bottle and lather up!
To prevent further outbreaks, you may want to treat your pet with a vet-approved topical or oral deterrent.
If you’d prefer a natural option, look into making your own spray with essential oils. Just be very careful – not all essential oils are safe for our furry friends.
Treat your pet, and then treat your house. Flea populations grow very rapidly, and they can happily live in your carpet, furniture, and bedding. Wash everything thoroughly on high heat and consider a pet-safe spray to prevent them from returning.
And if that’s not enough, don’t forget the yard! Your pet likely tracked the fleas in from outside, so they may very well be hanging out in your grass. The last thing you want after all that cleaning is for your dog or cat to head outdoors and pick up some more unwelcome guests.
What’s the difference between a flea bite and a bed bug bite? Here’s a quick summary
- Look like small, red bumps
- Come in clusters
- May have a red halo around them
- Usually found around the ankles and legs, but could also appear in the groin, elbows, or knees
- Are typically caused by animals in the home
Bed bug bites:
- Are red, itchy, and come with a burning sensation
- May present as round red dots with a clear or dark center
- Usually form lines or groups
- Occur on any skin that’s exposed while sleeping, such as the arms, legs, neck, or shoulders
- Happen while you sleep and may leave a mark on bedclothes
Bed bug bites and flea bites vs mosquito, scabies, or spider bites
Of course, there’s always the possibility that your bites aren’t from fleas or bed bugs at all.
There are lots of sneaky critters that like to bite. Let’s look at a few other likely culprits:
- Mosquitos – these flying pests are a nuisance in the summer. Everyone reacts differently to a mosquito bite, but they’re generally large, raised lumps that are intensely itchy.
- Spiders – most are harmless, but some house spiders can bite. When they do, it looks much like any other insect bite. They’re usually not a cause for concern, but if you’re worried or live in an area with dangerous spiders, get them checked out.
- Scabies/chiggers – these are mites. They cause itchy red rashes and can burrow into the skin. Scabies is highly contagious and can be passed via contact, bedding, or clothing.
Around one in five Americans have experienced a bed bug bite. These parasitic insects are most active at night and the early morning, when their human victims are fast asleep and blissfully unaware that they’re sharing a bed with tiny invaders.
Flea bites are even more common. These occur mostly in homes with pets and are more of an issue during the warm weather when fleas breed.
Either way, the best treatment is prevention. Make sure you regularly clean bedding with high temperatures and keep your floors and furniture sparkling. Don’t forget to seal up any cracks and crevices where bugs can hide.
You may also want to consider using an all-natural pest deterrent made from essential oils (pet safe, of course!). An easy DIY recipe can banish bites for good and ensure you have a beautiful-smelling, pest-free home.