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Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites (Explained)

Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites (Explained)

A detailed guide on how to tell the difference between bed bug bites vs flea bites.

Bugs are a menace, but to make matters worse, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re dealing with. Whether it’s fleas or bed bugs that are giving you those little red dots on your skin, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we explain how to tell the difference between the two bites, how to treat them, and how to prevent them in the future.

If you’ve noticed a group of small, itchy, red dots on your skin, it could really be a whole host of things. Arguably, the worst possible causes could be from flea or bed bug bites, because it means there’s bugs in your home that you need eradicate. It can be even more frustrating to not know exactly where your bite came from, since you probably want to take care of the problem as soon as possible. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up several tips and tricks to help you differentiate the two, and how to get rid of them for good.

What Are The Similarities?

There are some key similarities between these bites, so you can tell you really do have bug bites and not something else like chicken pox or hand, foot, and mouth disease (Google with caution). If you have either flea or bed bug bites, the small red dots will be focused in specific areas, instead of all over the body. They’ll also be simple red bumps without any pus or fluid in them, but they can bleed with excessive scratching.

Major Differences Between Bed Bug vs Flea Bites?

Fleas actually prefer animal blood to human blood, but they’ll drink either. Bed bugs almost exclusively drink human blood. And because fleas usually find us through our pets and the carpet, their bites are usually found on the lower half of our bodies, like the ankles and calves. They also like warm and moist areas, like the bends of the elbows and knees. Bed bugs live mainly in mattresses, and their bites are usually focused around the upper half of the body, like the neck, shoulders, back, and arms.

Also take note of the pattern of the bites. Fleas tend to bite their host randomly over the body, and sometimes grouped together in threes. Bedbugs are looking for a vein when they bite you, and if they don’t find one, they move on to the next centimeter of skin. Therefore, bed bugs tend to bite in strategic, linear rows. It’s not uncommon to have a group of 10 bed bug bites or more. They’ll also have a darker red spot in the middle of the bitten and raised area of the skin. The last thing that you want is to deal with bed bugs in your RV mattress.

More About Flea Bites

Most of the time, we get fleas from our pets. Thankfully, fleas can’t fly, but unfortunately they can jump up to 18 centimeters. As soon as they land on a host, they start biting. If you happen to be allergic to flea bites (fleas’ saliva can be very antigenic), the bitten area can become worse with hives or swelling and blistering. This can lead to broken skin and infections, so it’s important to treat your bites properly to avoid further problems.

Even though fleas typically target our furry friends instead of us, be very cautious, as they can spread disease and can infest your skin. Burrowing fleas can cause tungiasis, which is a skin infection where the flea digs under your skin to feed on your blood. It happens usually around the feet and toes. The flea dies in two weeks, but it can still lead to skin infections and complications.

To prevent flea bites on humans, take these steps: Make sure that your pet has proper flea medication, and consider restricting their outdoor access during flea season (warmer months). Also make sure to vacuum carpets and clean your pet’s bedding regularly, as well as combing and cleaning your pet. Fleas also hate garlic, so try to consume high quantities of it.

Other Signs Of Fleas

One way identify where your bite(s) came from is to look out for other signs of the bug. If several of the other indicators are there, there’s a pretty good chance you found your culprit. Like we mentioned earlier, humans usually contract fleas from animals such as house pets, and there are a few clues to look out for to find out if your pet has them.

  1. Excessive scratching or biting — If you notice your animal scratching or biting themselves more often than normal or erratically, it may be a sign they’re suffering from flea bites.
  2. Red patches on skin — Some animals can be allergic to the flea’s saliva, causing irritation and red patches on their skin. They can appear anywhere on the animal’s body, not just where they were bitten.
  3. Hair Loss — This could be an indicator that your animal is having a bad reaction to flea bites, or it could be from excessive licking and scratching from a flea bite.

If your animal is experiencing a combination of these signs, and you also have bites that look like our earlier description, you might want to talk to a doctor or look into different treatments.

How To Treat Flea Bites

Once you’ve determined that your red dots are, in fact, flea bites, it’s time to treat them. First, make sure you wash the area regularly with soap and water to maintain sanitation. Treatment can include an oral antihistamine like Benadryl to reduce any swelling or itching. Next, you should get any soothing antipruritic (anti-itch) cream to help with the itching, which will also make sure you don’t get a secondary bacterial infection. Third, visit you doctor for a topical steroid to use to decrease inflammation. If your bites persist or become worse, visit your doctor for an antibiotic.

Some more natural forms of treatment include using Aloe vera for redness and itchiness, or washing the bitten area with black or green tea, which will help it to heal.

You’ll probably want to take extra safety precautions to make sure your home is flea free. We suggest you sweep and mop your floors, spray your carpets and upholstery, and even fog your home. Using a fogger tackles all life stages of fleas because the treatment can be effective for up to 7 months, and it’s pretty affordable too.

More About Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown and oval-shaped bugs that like to live in your mattress and furniture and bite you while you’re sleeping. They’re attracted to body heat and carbon dioxide. Don’t worry, they prefer to feed on you over your pets. And unlike fleas and ticks, bed bugs don’t carry any diseases, but you can still experience swelling or hives from their bites, just like flea bites. Bed bugs are often found in heavily populated areas like hotels, hospitals, and apartment complexes.

Bed bugs’ main form of transportation is simply crawling. But, they can crawl into your luggage, clothing, and even migrate through holes in the walls, water pipes, and gutters. Most of the time, you won’t ever feel a bed bug biting you, because their saliva numbs your skin before they strike. However, some people report they had restless sleep after sleeping on an infested mattress. If you have bed bug bites, try not to scratch them, as they’ll usually heal up within a week or so. If you scratch or irritate them, the bites can remain on your skin up to several months later.

To prevent bed bugs, make sure that you’re checking your mattress and furniture regularly for a rust color or tiny red brown dots, or wrap your mattress in a protective casing. Make sure to inspect your luggage and clothing while traveling, and keep them in airtight packaging while on planes, trains, and buses. Vacuum regularly and wash your bedding on hot, as well. Bed bugs can’t survive in high temperatures.

Other Signs Of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are sneaky, and often come out at night while you’re sleeping. But they do leave a few identifiable traces you can look for.

  1. Red/Brown spots — Those rust color dots we told you to look out for are traces of blood (likely your blood) from bed bugs being popped. If you see them on your sheets, mattress, clothing, or furniture, there’s a good chance your bite came from a bed bug.
  2. Scaly Skins — Bed bugs shed their skin as they get older, and it almost looks like a miniature transparent leaf — a 2.5 mm, scaly leaf. So if you have bites you suspect are from bed bugs, keep your eyes peeled for them on your mattress.
  3. Musty Odor — If your house is also the home to many bed bugs, you might notice an unusual odor coming from their sweat glands. It’s musty, and slightly resembles of the smell of when you walk into a stuffy old house.

How To Treat Bed Bug Bites

Let me repeat, bug bug bites get worse if you scratch them. Treating bed bug bites is similar to how you treat flea bites. Take an oral antihistamine or use a topical anti-itch cream to help combat itchiness and swelling. From there, you’ll need to contact your doctor for a topical steroid. Contact your doctor again if the bites haven’t gone away after about two weeks (this is after you’re sure you’ve eradicated them from your home), or you develop a secondary infection. Your doctor may have to prescribe you an antibiotic.

If you want to take a more holistic approach that you can do at home, mix water and baking soda to make a paste. Apply it directly to the bite, and then rinse it off an hour later.

Removing them from your home is easier said than done, and unfortunately can end up being a little pricey. That’s why it’s important to take care if it sooner rather than later, before they have the chance to multiply. Look through reviews of local terminators in your area, and find someone who’ll be thorough enough to spray the tiniest nooks and cranny’s in your home. It’s much harder to remove them without the help of a professional, but if that’s not an option for you, rubbing alcohol kills bed bugs on the spot. Fill a small spray bottle with it, and spray areas of your home, or directly on a bed bug if you spot one. Your home may smell a little like cleaning supplies, but it sure beats losing sleep because you have bed bugs in the back of your mind.

It’s also important to treat the rest of your home, so spray rubbing alcohol in the little crevasses of your home, and take your laundry to a laundromat where you need to wash/dry your clothes on high.