What Is the Difference Between Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites?

Published on: June 26, 2021
A person with flea or bed bug bites on their back.

Do you have insect bites all over your body? If you are getting bites while indoors, it is likely you have fleas or bed bugs in your house. Both insects can bite your skin and leave behind small sores. To determine the best way to rid your home of these biting insects, you need to discover which type of bug you have. Here is the difference between flea bites and bed bug bites and how to tell which types of bugs you have in your house.

What Do Fleas Look Like?

Fleas are parasites that are common pests for cats, dogs and other mammals, including humans. There are over 2,000 different types of fleas and 300 fleas in the U.S., but two of the most common are cat and dog fleas. These parasites may prefer a cat or dog as their host, but they can also bite humans. Fleas are very small, about the size of a pinhead, and live through four life stages in a short period of time: egg, larva, pupa and adult. During their adult stage they feed on mammals, breed and lay eggs to make more fleas.

What do fleas look like? Fleas are reddish-brown and winged. If you have fleas in your home, you may see tiny brown insects that may jump onto your skin, or you may see them on your pet, furniture or clothing. Fleas can jump about eight inches; although they have wings, they do not really fly, only jump long distances compared to the size of their body.

What Do Flea Bites Look Like?

If you have flea bites, you will have small, red bumps on your skin. Cat and dog fleas do not prefer humans to feed on, but they will bite you before finding a furry friend to nest and lay eggs on. In most cases, flea bites come in groups of 3-4 and usually will be on your lower legs or ankles, but they can be on other parts of the body. Most people have fleas jump on them from the carpet or floor, feed on their lower legs and then jump off to find a better host. Symptoms of flea bites include:

  • Red, swollen bumps
  • Very itchy skin
  • Possible rash or hives from the bites
  • Skin can be painful or infected from scratching

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Fleas can transfer diseases when biting – that is how the bubonic plague was spread – but flea-borne diseases are rare in the U.S. You can treat the symptoms of flea bites with anti-itch cream, but if you have a severe reaction, you should see a doctor for treatment.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

If you are not sure whether you have fleas or bed bugs in your home that are biting your skin, there is a big difference in these parasites. Bed bugs are much larger than fleas and much easier to see when they are adults. Young bed bugs are clear or white-colored, which makes them harder to see, but once they feed, they become reddish brown. They can be up to a 1/4 -inch long and are usually oval with a head and two body sections. Bed bugs are flat if they have not recently fed or rounder if they are full.

Bed bugs tend to live in beds where they have sleeping hosts to feed on, but they can infest couches, chairs and other household items. They tend to hide in the seams of mattresses and box springs or crevices in couches or upholstered chairs.
A person with a magnifying glass scanning the bed for bed bugs.

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

If comparing bed bug bites vs. flea bites, there are few differences from the bites alone. Bed bug bites, like flea bites, tend to be small, red bumps that are itchy. They are also in linear patterns like flea bites. Bed bug bites can be larger and firmer bumps than flea bites, but not always. Fleas do tend to bite the lower legs and ankles and bed bugs will feed anywhere on the body. Bed Bug bites can be treated with similar medications like anti-itch creams, but you may need to see a doctor if you have a skin infection or allergic reaction.

Once you determine which type of bug bite you have, you can research the best way to rid them from your home. Both parasites can infest homes and cause very irritating bites that may cause rashes or skin infections, so it is important to remove these pests from your home.

The differences between flea bites vs. bed bug bites are few but the bugs that cause them are very different. Whether you have fleas or bed bugs biting you, if you have ongoing skin symptoms, visit your doctor or dermatologist for medical treatment. Your doctor can prescribe a treatment for relief from your bug bites, but you will need pest control to rid your home of bugs prevent further bites.

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