Bedbug bites vs. flea bites

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insect bites on skin

Bedbugs and fleas can both bite and leave behind itchy, irritating marks, but there are key differences between the two. Knowing how to tell them apart helps you identify the pest you're dealing with and take the appropriate steps to eliminate it.

Key insights

  • Bedbug bites often appear in a line or zigzag pattern, while flea bites are scattered and often around the ankles and legs.
  • Bedbug bites may not appear immediately and can vary in reaction, while flea bites are extremely itchy and can blister if scratched.
  • Bedbug bites are not dangerous but can lead to an infection if scratched, while flea bites can potentially transmit diseases and tapeworms.
  • If bites are identified, it's crucial to check for an infestation and take appropriate action, which may involve DIY treatments or professional pest control services.

How to tell the difference between bedbug bites and flea bites

visible bedbug bites on the back of a woman standing in a room
Bedbug bites typically appear in a line or zigzag pattern.

When you notice insect bites on your skin, it can be difficult to determine the culprit. Both bedbugs and fleas leave distinctive marks, but there are differences that can help you identify them.

What bedbug bites look like

Bedbug bites typically appear as small, inflamed, itchy red bumps. They often occur in a line or zigzag pattern on exposed skin during sleep. Common areas include the face, neck, hands, shoulders, arms and legs. It can take a few days for the bites to become visible, and the reaction can vary from person to person.

» DISCOVER: What does a bedbug look like?

What flea bites look like

Unlike bedbug bites, flea bites are usually scattered randomly on the skin instead of appearing in a line or zigzag pattern. They are small, red bumps that are extremely itchy. Fleas often target the legs and feet, and the bites can turn into blisters if scratched.

Key differences between bedbug bites and flea bites

While both bedbug and flea bites can cause red, itchy bumps, there are a few key differences to know if you’re trying to identify what bit you. The key differences include:

  • Bedbug bites often appear in a line or zigzag pattern, while flea bites are more random.
  • Flea bites are often found around the ankles and legs, while bedbugs will bite any exposed skin.

Are bedbug bites or flea bites dangerous?

Both bedbug bites and flea bites can cause discomfort, but the health risks associated with these bites differ.

extreme case of flea bites on human ankle
Flea bites are typically random and are most likely to appear on your ankles and legs.

Bedbug bites themselves are not considered dangerous — there's no evidence that bedbugs spread disease to people. The bites can be itchy and uncomfortable, though, and if you scratch a bedbug bite enough to break the skin, it could lead to an infection.

Some people may have allergic reactions to bedbug bites, which can lead to more severe skin inflammation or systemic reactions in rare cases. If you develop a rash after being bitten by a bedbug or if the itchiness doesn't subside, it might be a good idea to seek medical attention.

Flea bites, on the other hand, can potentially be more harmful. Some people may be allergic to flea bites, experiencing hives and swelling. In severe cases, an allergic reaction can lead to difficulty breathing, though this is rare.

Unlike bedbugs, fleas can transmit diseases. In certain parts of the world, fleas carry diseases such as plague and typhus. While these diseases are rare, especially in developed countries, they can be serious. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms to pets, which can then be passed on to humans.

In both cases, the psychological stress of dealing with an infestation can also impact your well-being. The knowledge that your home is infested can lead to anxiety and sleeplessness. It's important to address any infestation promptly to minimize its impact on your health and quality of life.

» TIME TO CALL THE PROS? Best pest control companies

What to do if you have bedbug bites

If you've identified bedbug bites, you should immediately check your home for an infestation. Bedbugs can hide in various places, including mattresses, furniture and cracks in the walls. They're nocturnal and very good at hiding, so they can be difficult to spot.

Once you've confirmed an infestation, it's time to take action to get rid of the bedbugs. This often involves a combination of cleaning, heat treatment and possibly professional pest control services.

What to do if you have flea bites

If you've identified flea bites, the next step is to check for a flea infestation. Fleas often live on pets and in carpets or upholstered furniture. They're tiny and fast, making them hard to spot. A common sign of a flea infestation is your pet scratching excessively. You might also see tiny dark specks in your pet's fur or your carpet, which could be flea droppings.

Once you've confirmed an infestation, it's time to take action to get rid of the fleas. This often involves treating your pets with a flea treatment product, thoroughly cleaning your home and possibly treating your home with a flea control product. Remember, it's important to treat both your home and your pets — fleas can jump back and forth between the two.

» LEARN MORE: How much does an exterminator cost?

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    Can bedbug bites and flea bites appear on any part of the body?

    Both bedbug bites and flea bites can appear on any part of the body. However, bedbugs tend to bite any exposed skin, while fleas often target the legs and feet.

    Can I have bedbugs or fleas even if I keep my home clean?

    Cleanliness does not necessarily prevent a bedbug or flea infestation. These pests can enter your home through luggage, clothing, used furniture or, in the case of fleas, on pets.

    Can I treat bedbug or flea bites at home?

    Over-the-counter creams and ointments can help relieve the itching and inflammation caused by these bites. However, it's recommended to seek medical advice if the itching is severe or persistent.

    Can pets get bedbug bites like they do flea bites?

    While bedbugs can bite pets, they prefer human hosts. Fleas, on the other hand, primarily target animals like dogs and cats. If your pet is scratching excessively, it could be a sign of a flea infestation.

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