Difference between Flea Bites and Bed Bug Bites

Oups! You woke up to see some weird red spots on your skin and you vaguely remember having had a difficult night tossing and turning, scratching and feeling generally uncomfortable, like you were not alone in bed? Then you need to consider the possibility of having a bed bug or a flea infestation. There is some good news on this, though. You can analyze the bite marks to tell which type of pest you are dealing with.


Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites
Image of flea bites on human skin

Flea bites are usually something you wake up with after having rested on a place where fleas have started nesting. These are red spots surrounded by red haloes, itchy and sometimes slightly swollen. They can usually be seen in clusters. Bites from fleas coming from your pets can usually be spotted below the knee, most often on the ankles, but they can also be found on the feet and in skin creases such as at the armpits or on the waist. Human fleas leave groups of two, three or more bites, whereas pet fleas leave marks which can be identified as areas of red spots.

Only a few people have severe allergic reactions to flea bites. There is no specific type of treatment recommended, nor is there a need for medical intervention. Ointments can be used to soothe the itch as constant scratching can irritate the skin and do more damage than the flea bite itself. Instead of scratching, try applying cold water and ice to reduce the swelling and to stop the itching. Do not apply warm or hot water because this will aggravate both sensations. If you believe you may be suffering from an allergic reaction, talk to a doctor about the possibility of taking some antihistamine based drugs. Do all you can to avoid scratching the itchy areas.

Fleas can come from pets, from the yard grass or from other people or infested textiles such as clothes and bed linen, blankets, carpets and furniture. They tend to jump on whatever host is available and they are not necessarily a sign of dirtiness. You can only get rid of them for good by calling the professionals and having the house sprayed.

bed bug bites
Image of bed bug bites

Bed bug bites usually look like small, flat or swollen red blotches. They can become itchy, blistered and inflamed. Some people also experience a burning sensation. When they bite, bed bugs inject an anticoagulant substance to thin the host’s blood and to make feeding easier. Also, you may not feel a bed bug biting you since they secrete a small amount of anesthesia. The skin’s reactions to bed bug bites may vary. They need to feed every time they go through a life cycle. Females need to feed before they lay eggs.

In order to find a blood vessel to feed on, a bed bug will bite its host more than once. Also, if the host moves during sleep, the bed bug will try again on another body part. Therefore, the number of bites is not indicative of the number of bugs which have fed during the night. It is very important to keep these bites clean and not to scratch them. There is a very high risk of infection involved.

Bed bugs make their way to your bed, carpet and furniture. They are very hard to spot, so the bites are one of the most important telltale signs. These bites will most likely appear in areas of the body which are not covered by the blankets, such as hands, legs, face. You may also find them clustered if the bed bugs are living in a lining of the mattress next to which you are sleeping.

Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites

So what is the difference between flea bites and bed bug bites?

Although they are both just as annoying, there are differences between the bites of these two pests. First of all, flea bites have the small red dot in the center and may be more clustered. In most cases, you will get them on your ankles but other body parts are not excluded. Bed bug bites are inflamed red bumps which can appear lined up in a row.

Secondly, fleas will feed on a host continually, although only once a night. Bed bugs, on the other hand, can bite a host several times a night until a blood vessel is found. Afterwards, they can go for several days before having to feed again, making their nuisance more periodical.

Although these bites are itchy in both cases, scratching is highly discouraged. Breaking the skin by scratching involves a high risk of developing an infection in both cases. However, you must be even more attentive in this respect when talking about bed bug bites.

There are no specific treatments in either case, although people with allergies may be given antihistamines. Ointments, tea baths and cold towels may be used to relieve the itchiness and the swelling. However, urgent measures must be taken to take care of both kinds of infestation. Fleas may carry diseases. Bed bugs are not known to carry any known pathogens.

Comparison Chart

Flea bite Bed bug bite
Repeated Occasional
A red dot with halo A red lump
Clustered and itchy Lined, itchy, swollen
Can cause allergies in some people Can cause allergies in some people
Usually goes away by itself but must not be scratched Usually goes away by itself but must not be scratched; has a higher chance of getting infected if scratched
Caused by fleas living on pets, in the yard or in the furniture Caused by bed bugs nesting in the bed
Fleas may carry diseases Not known to carry pathogens