Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites: Different Symptoms, Treatments

Flea bites vs bed bug bites

Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites: What is the Difference?

There’s an old phrase that people say to their loved ones: “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite”. However, you can’t always blame the bed bugs.

But, when you see more than a few red boils on your skin, you can’t blame the mosquitoes either, especially if this is happening inside your house rather than outside.

There are a few insects that feast on human blood. The two most common insects are fleas and bed bugs. Fleas are tiny insects that live on pets and animals.

Fleas jump up to 18 centimeters, as they can’t fly. They are a threat to your pet, as well as you and your family members. Bed bugs are mostly found in beds and mattresses.

Similar to fleas, bed bugs can be a threat to your entire family, including your pets. Because of the many similarities, it’s a little tricky to gauge flea bites vs bed bug bites.

Related Reading: How To Treat Horsefly Bites

Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites: What’s the Difference?

Flea bites vs bed bug bites

There is a real challenge when deciding flea bite vs. bed bug bite because everyone reacts differently when bitten. Your skin can develop small, round, and red boils when bitten by either of these insects.

Studies reveal that fleas tend to bite around lower legs or ankles, randomly, and form small clusters. Bed bugs, on the other hand, bite creating a line and can bite anywhere on the body.

The bites from both insects cause itchiness and swelling. You need to figure out how to identify the culprit if you are pondering about flea bites vs bed bug bites.

One way to confirm what is breeding in your house is to hunt for bug dirt or feces. Flea dirt appears as reddish black, and if combined with developing larvae, its appearance will resemble salt and pepper.

If you pour water on the flea dirt, you will see a large red stain formed. Bed bug dirt is more like tiny black seeds, and you can often find it under your mattresses or inside pillow-case covers. Bed bugs also get rid of the old skin or light brown body cover via shedding.

Symptoms of Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites

Confused about the symptoms of flea bites and bed bug bites? Let’s help you understand how to identify flea bites vs bed bug bites.

bed bug bitesSymptoms of flea bites include severe itching due to small red boils.

You will notice the bites in groups of three.

Within half an hour of the bite, you will notice a red, puffy lump on the area where the flea attacked.

The bump may turn into a blister after a day or so.

Bed bug bites don’t always show up immediately. The symptoms from their bite may take a few days to be noticeable.

Symptoms of bed bug bites include intense itchiness and red bumps with a darker red mark in the center of the bite. The bite marks are rough and appear in a line.

Some victims may not get any boils while some may develop blisters.

Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites Chart

OccurrenceLight to deep brown, wingless, oval-shapedSmall, flat, reddish-brown
Size / Dimensionaround 2 to 8 mm long4 mm long and 3 mm wide
Breeding areaPets and upholsteryAround cracks in bed frame, piping, corners of mattress and pillows, cardboard boxes
ReactionBite can be sensed, swelling, scratchy sensationBite is not sensed, Itchy can lead to a rash
Disease transmissionCan spread diseaseDoes not spread disease
IdentificationCan be spotted on pets, fecal matter inside pet fur, fabricsDark spots on bedding, eggs and rust stains on sheets or the bed frame
PreventionClean and wash pet bedding, pet cloth accessories each week. Vacuum daily.Lessen clutter, use protective casing on mattress, check used furniture before bringing into home
TreatmentVacuum upholstery beat rugs outdoors, treat petsClothing and upholstery should be heated, use pesticides


How to Treat Flea Bites and Bed Bug Bites?

Once you have identified the culprit, you can begin the right treatment.

After a flea has bitten you, if you refrain from scratching the bite, you will protect yourself from further infection.

Below, are products beneficial in relieving the itching:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Alcohol
  • Vinegar
  • Calamine lotion

You may use ice or cold water as both tend to soothe the itching as well as prevent swelling. When using the above products, try to massage them gently into the skin.

flea bitesOtherwise, you may affect the wound more if you rub it hard.

Don’t forget to clean the infected area with an antiseptic soap.

This will help protect your body from other contaminations.

Consult a pharmacist or a doctor before you use any antihistamine medicines to lessen the swelling.

A doctor may also help you with treatment for potential tapeworm infection, as fleas can pass on this parasite through their bite.

Visit a doctor if your symptoms worsen or the infection triggers a secondary infection such as the release of pus.

For treating bites from a bed bug, mix baking soda with water and make a paste. Apply the paste to the infected area and allow it to dry. After an hour, gently rinse it off.

You may also dab some lemon juice, with the help of a cotton ball, on the affected area.

Another option is to use 100% pure aloe vera gel salve or gel from the plant itself. Aloe vera is a medicinal plant and has both antibiotic and anti-fungal characteristics.

You can also use creams like Cortaid that contains hydrocortisone, or cortisone which can reduce irritation and itching.

Based on your symptoms, your doctor can suggest the cream that will work best for you. If you suffer from a severe allergic reaction, your doctor might recommend an injection of corticosteroid, antihistamine, or epinephrine (adrenaline).


If you haven’t been traveling and you still manage to get bitten by bed bugs, it may be time to treat your home.

To get rid of bedbugs:

  • You should clean and vacuum your floors.
  • Put your furniture fabrics, bed linens, covers and any such material through the regular laundry. The use of a washer and dryer, with hot water and high heat, is beneficial for killing the bugs.
  • Discard any affected items from your indoor space.
  • Regularly bathe your pets.
  • Check your pets for fleas and treat accordingly.
  • Vacuum your house as many times as possible every week.
  • Consume garlic; fleas hate garlic.
  • Use essential oils like lavender or tree tea, spraying or dabbing them on your ankles and legs.
  • Have your house treated by a pest control service.

Now that you understand the difference between flea bites and bed bug bites, we hope we have given you adequate information in this guide.

Read Next:

Olesen, J., “Flea Bites on Humans – Flea Bite Symptoms,” Flea Bites, last accessed January 2, 2018; http://www.fleabites.net/flea-bites-on-humans/.
Silver, N., “What’s the Difference Between Flea Bites and Bedbug Bites?” Healthline, July 5, 2016; https://www.healthline.com/health/flea-bites-vs-bed-bug-bites.
“Fleas,” Better Health, January 9, 2016; https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fleas.
“Bed Bug Bite v.s. Flea Bite: Four Checks to Determine That,” Terminix website, last accessed January 2, 2018; https://www.terminix.com/pest-control/fleas/bites/flea-vs-bed-bug/.

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