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

How do you tell the difference between a flea bite and a bed bug bite? Knowing one from the other poses a great challenge to many of us. This distinction also brings a lot of challenges when identifying bite marks from other types of bugs.

Even so, it is still important that you are in a position to tell which bite is which. The main purpose of this is to allow you to get the appropriate medical treatment if need be. The other reason is to help you identify which kind of pest infestation you may have in your house.

Perhaps what is more intriguing is that bite marks from the two insects look pretty much the same. You’d have to have lots of experience in handling pests to be in a position to tell them apart.

Also, the effects you’ll get from the bites are again similar. Look out for itchiness, redness, irritation, and a bit of swelling in some cases.

So, the question here is, how do you differentiate the characteristics?

Find that out below..!

Flea bite vs. bed bug bites 101

To begin with, what is a bed bug or flea bite?

Bed Bug Bites

First off, a bed bug bite takes time before it becomes visible or you feel its effects. After you get the bite, it can take up to 24 hours before you can see the marks on your skin. During that time, you may also start experiencing irritating welts, itching, or swelling.

One of the scariest things about bed bugs is that they can ‘feast’ on your blood without you noticing. This is because bed bugs inject a type of anesthesia into the blood when they take a bite. This anesthesia prevents the victim from feeling the pain and remain oblivious of the bugs’ activity.

Bed bugs also release an anticoagulant that prevents the host’s blood from clotting as they feed. They like feeding at night and go back to hiding by the time you awake. What’s more, they track their victims by tracing the carbon dioxide and heat emissions from their bodies.

Bedbugs like attacking exposed parts of your body like the arms, legs, face, and hands. Another thing is that bed bugs like to administer their bites along a line as they move. The bites show a swelling with a raised middle point where the bite went in. These swellings can be either red or purple.

Now, bedbugs are very small, oval-shaped, and like to hide into tight crevices. Again these reddish-brown, flat, and flightless bugs are masters at hiding in couches and mattresses. You can also find them inside curtain folds and in between your sofa cushions. [1]

Flea Bites

Fleas are small insects that have the reputation of being quite the high jumpers. They can leap up to heights of 6 inches from the ground. This unique ability makes them able to climb onto new hosts with ease. Their common victims include home pets like cats or dogs but can also attack human beings.

Now, fleas have much smaller bodies. If you compare them to bedbugs, they can be really difficult to spot. If your pet has fleas, you’ll find them crawling around in the animal’s underbelly and inner joints.

On human beings, they like attacking the lower regions of the body. These include your lower legs and ankle area. Fleas also like attacking areas with folded skin like the crevice of your elbow or behind your knee.

Flea bites tend to look more like mosquito bites and have pink bumps with red bite centers. And unlike bedbugs, you can see a flea bite anywhere from an hour after the bite. The attacked sites will swell and develop sparse clusters and not linear as seen with bed bugs.

Signs and symptoms of flea bites vs. bed bug bites

Let us separately look at the symptoms of bites from each of the 2 bugs below.

Flea bite symptoms

Steri-Fab says that you can tell that the bumps you have are flea bites if:

  • They manifest as small, red bumps that itch a lot
  • The swelling has a pink color with a pointy red center at the middle
  • The bumps have an inflammation
  • The bite marks do not follow a specific pattern
  • You find the bites across your ankles or lower leg areas
  • You keep finding new bite marks throughout the day (bed bugs only bite at night)
  • The bites turn into infections from continuous scratching

Bed bug bite symptoms

On the other end, you can tell that the bites are from a bed bug if:

  • The affected areas produce a burning sensation even before the swellings appear
  • The bites look like flat, raised red bumps
  • The bites appear after 24 – 48 hours and may or may not itch
  • The bites seem to be in a line or a sort of pattern
  • You find the bites along your neck, shoulders, arms, and upper body areas
  • The bites turn into harsh blisters from continuous scratching

Risk factors from Flea bites

Now, if, by any chance, you have allergic reactions to flea bites, then you may get rashes or hives. In addition to that, the swelling or blisters could grow out of hand and thus require special attention.

Flea bites tend to always come with an itchy sensation that tempts you to scratch for relief. If you go at it for long, you will end up damaging your skin by breaking it open.

Another danger you must look out for with fleas is that they can also infest your skin.

Some types of fleas can burrow deep into your skin to feed on the depths of your body. These kinds of fleas will burrow around your feet or toes and can stay inside for 2 weeks. After this time elapses, they die off and can leave you with terrible infestations like tungiasis.

Ever heard of jiggers?

Risk factors from a Bed Bug bite

As with fleas, some people may get a serious reaction from bedbug bites. In most cases, the swelling from a bedbug bite turns into nasty blisters. This transformation happens when an allergic victim keeps scratching the bumps for long.

On top of that, you may end up developing some severe rashes or ugly hives in the process.

Now, there is a study that concluded that bedbugs carry a total of about 40 different pathogens. [3] Also, despite that astonishing number, these pathogens are not likely to cause any diseases to humans.

How to treat a bed bug bite vs. a flea bite

If the bites from either fleas or bedbugs look moderate, then the effects could fade after a short while. You’ll also find that the treatment procedure meant for both are somehow similar.

The treatments available are there to help you soothe the irritations arising from the bites. Let us dive into the most promising treatment plans for the separate bites below:

How to treat a flea bite

The first line of defense with flea bites is to resist the urge to scratch as much as possible! From there on, you can use a pair of tweezers to pull the flea out if it’s still clinging onto your body.

Before getting on with anything else, ensure that you have cleaned the site with soap and water. You can also use approved antiseptics to clear the bite of any fecal matter or bacteria. This is an important step in sterilizing the wound before administering any medical ointment.

In the next step, you may apply an anti-itch cream to reduce the urge to scratch. Another method you can use to alleviate itching is by bathing in lukewarm water with oatmeal.

If you are an allergic person, then you should take antihistamines to prevent a reaction.

Important: Bathing or showering with hot water will only increase the itching sensation. Avoid hot water clean-ups if you can.

How to treat a bed bug bite

Again here, the first thing you must do is to clean the bitten area with soap and water. Antiseptics can also help you stave off infections, bacteria, and reduce the itch. Now, for the itch, you can ask your doctor to prescribe you some corticosteroid cream.

Avoid scratching the bitten area and use antihistamines if you also suspect that you’re allergic. In the case that you already have an infection, ensure that you take antibiotic drugs without fail.

The good news is that bedbug bites rarely pose any danger to human health. The bites will go away in about 2 to 3 weeks if treated and protected properly.

Signs that you may have a flea or bedbug infestation in your house

The fact that you have bedbugs or flea bites on your body doesn’t have to mean that you have an infestation in your house. In some cases, you may get bites from either hotels or lodges. You can also get bitten when you visit a house that has a flea or bedbug problem.

If this happens, then you have to assume that you might have carried the parasites back to your home.

Signs of bed bugs in your home

CDC has listed the signs below as the main evidence that you have bed bugs in your house. They include:

  • Visible bedbugs. You may have a bedbug infestation if you come across tiny bugs resting in your mattress seams. They may look like small moving dots on clothes, sheet folds, or pillowcases.
  • A strong, foreign smell. If you pick up a sharp, musty smell, then you may have bedbugs in your house.
  • Bedbug fecal matter. Bedbug feces look like tiny spots having a rusty color. You may come across them on your beddings or in the corners of your wooden furniture.
  • Discovery of exoskeletons. If you find small oval-shaped exoskeletons around your bed or furniture, then you might have an infestation.

Signs of fleas in your home

Signs that you may have fleas in your home include:

  • Flea eggs. Flea eggs look like yellow or transparent flecks. If you notice them on your pet’s fur, then you have cause to worry.
  • Visible fleas. Though hard to detect, fleas look like very tiny dots that move fast and ‘disappear’ when they jump. If your pet seems to have these on any part of its body, then you may have an infestation.
  • Flea feces. Check for black specks on your pet’s beddings or fur.
  • Strange pet behavior. If you notice your pet scratching or looking more anxious than usual, investigate it for fleas.
  • Change in your pet’s health. The most telling sign of a flea problem in pets is if they develop anemia. Anemia strikes when there is a severe blood loss resulting from flea bites. An anemic pet will have very pale gums.

Getting rid of fleas and bed bugs from your home

To get rid of bedbugs and fleas from your house, you should:

  • Keep your clothes, beddings, furniture clean using a vacuum
  • Steam-clean your carpets to destroy the pests and eggs hiding within the fabric
  • Keep your lawn mowed to discourage flea presence
  • Wash yourself and your pets regularly
  • Keep your windows and doors shut during summer and spring as fleas thrive during this time
  • Use bedbug or flea repellents to keep the bugs away from you or your pet
  • Call a professional pest exterminator to purge your house

When should you visit a doctor?

As little as these suckers may be, they can sure cause big problems in some tragic cases.

One symptom that you are more likely to feel over the others is the feeling of itchiness. If you fall prey to the urge and embark on the wild rush of scratching, you’re bound to damage your skin.

Why is that dangerous?

Constant scratching on your skin creates little cuts and lesions that expose your softer tissues. As that happens, you become more vulnerable to pathogens like bacteria that cause infections. If by bad luck, you get attacked by a highly potent bacteria, then the resulting infection could be so bad.

According to MedicineNet, signs of and infection that you should look out for include:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Blisters
  • Pus in the bite site
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hot redness at the location of the bite
  • Any other type of discoloration where the bite happened

If you experience any of the above symptoms, then that could be a sign you need a doctor. If in any case, you are still not sure of the symptoms, contact your doctor all the same. He or she will be in a better position to diagnose and propose accurate treatment for your wounds.


Knowing the difference between flea bites vs bedbug bites can be a real challenge. Luckily, they both have almost similar treatment plans.

Even when you can’t tell which bite it is you’re dealing with, just avoid scratching the bitten area. Instead, clean up with soap and water first. Afterward, apply an anti-itch ointment to reduce the itchiness. Normally, the effects from these bites will go away in a matter of weeks in most cases.

Also, check whether you have a flea or bedbug infestation if you notice any signs in your home. Dealing with them earlier prevents future inconveniences that may arise from their bites.

I hope this article has answered your queries.


Do you want to ask a question or share anything? Feel free to engage me in the Comments Section below.


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