Fleas and bed bugs can negatively impact your health by decreasing your quality of sleep and leaving you with red bumps that can itch or burn painfully. Fleas and bed bugs have different bites, but everyone reacts to them differently, and you should know how to identify them when possible.

Flea and bed bug bites can be annoying to discover and can also have symptoms that can further add to your distress. Some bites will itch while others will be just little red bumps on different parts of the body.

Whether its fleas or bed bugs, chances are you’ll be very keen to get rid of them as quickly as possible as they can cause hives or a rash like mark for those who are allergic. Even if you aren’t allergic, fleas and bed bugs aren’t great for your health and can cause infections.

Identifying Flea Bites And Bed Bug Bites

Knowing how to identify flea bites vs. bed bug bites can help protect your health and ensure that you aren’t at risk for infections, rashes, or hives. Some adults and children don’t know that they are allergic to fleas or bed bugs until they’ve been bitten several times overnight.

Proper identification of both kinds of bites can be a challenge even for medical professionals because each person will react differently to the bites. Some individuals will merely develop small red bumps, while others may have a stronger response that develops into hives or an unsightly rash.

Rashes and hives can frequently be treated and will often go away on their own, but they can require medical treatment if the response is severe enough. If you develop a rash or hives and are unsure of the cause, it’s a good idea to see medical attention.

Fleas are more likely to bite around the ankles and the general foot area, and it's not unheard of for certain species of fleas to burrow into the feet and cause infections. The burrowed fleas will only live for about two weeks, but their bodies that are left behind can cause an infection that often develops between the toes.

insect on skin surface

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Bed bugs are typically much more difficult to get rid of, and you may need to hire a professional to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Bed bugs can leave itchy red bumps on the skin that are larger than flea bites, but they do not transmit any known diseases.

Bed bugs in your bed can negatively impact your sleep and your health as you are bitten throughout the night, and it is easy to spread the infestation to other parts of the house. If you discover bugs in your bed that have a flat-shaped body, this is likely a bed bug.

Fleas have a body shape that is more oval and may appear to look more like a tiny beetle. Both bugs are brown, have long antennae, and feed on human or animal blood.

Bed bug bites will often form a kind of zig-zag line, and the bites may not immediately be sensitive. As the number of bites increases, the sensitivity of these bites may also increase. Bed bugs can bite on the neck and face area as well as the arms, legs, and even the shoulders.

Flea bites are typically smaller red bumps than bed bugs, and they may be in groups or just a single bite on its own. Flea bites don't always follow a pattern and may span larger areas of the body even though there are fewer bites.

Where Are Fleas And Bed Bugs Found?

Bed bugs are most often discovered near beds and the area surrounding the bed as that is where their primary food source, humans, can reliably be found. Bed bugs can also find their way into furniture, clothing items, and other soft goods such as pillows and sleeping bags.

A bed bug measures only about 3/16ths of an inch which makes them small enough to hide in small cracks and crevices such as around the edge of a mattress, or the stitching of a chair cushion.

If you are unsure which type of bug you have, you can try to search and find the tiny critters, or you can look for “bug dirt” or their feces that is left behind. A flea will leave behind bug dirt that is reddish-black in color and may have larvae in it that give it the appearances of salt and pepper mixed together.

If you find this reddish bug dirt but aren’t sure, you can try adding a few drops of water. When water is added the bug dirt will form a reddish stain.

Bed bugs can leave similar bug dirt, but it is typically blacker and often found on surfaces where humans normally sleep. You may also find the skins of these bugs which are light brown or greyish in color.

How To Treat Bites

It's important to remember that flea and bed bug bites will affect everyone differently and some people will have virtually no reaction while others can suffer reactions that are quite severe. Keeping that in mind, there are a few things that you can try to treat a flea or bed bug bite if they are mild and there aren’t any severe symptoms.

Severe reactions may include the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Nausea or flu-like feelings
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
 bed bugs feeding on human skin

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The first thing you can try is to clean the spots with mild soap and water to ensure that the red bumps are clean. After that, you can try an over the counter cream called hydrocortisone which you can purchase at any local pharmacy. It's a common cream that works to fight the inflammation and also help reduce the itchy or burning feeling.

You can also try other anti-itch creams by following the instructions on the label. There are a variety available for bug bites and other skin irritations, so read the label carefully to ensure you get an appropriate product. Calamine is another type of cream or lotion that is popular for resolving itchiness.

Antihistamines can also be used to help reduce inflammation and ease the itchy and burning feeling of the bumps. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergies, but it's possible to use them to find relief from other insect bites such as fleas and bed bugs.

The red spots from both kinds of bugs should fade within one to two weeks, but if they don't, you'll want to see a doctor. If your symptoms persist or get worse, you should also seek medical attention.

If you have a severe reaction, you may have an allergy to these pests, and it's likely you'll need to see a doctor for further treatment. Treatment can include stronger antihistamines or an injection of corticosteroids. In some cases, a medication containing epinephrine may also be administered.

If any of your bites get infected, you may also be prescribed antibiotics to help resolve the infection and prevent it from spreading. If your itching is severe, you may end up with multiple infections or scarring from excessive scratching.

Preventing Bites

To prevent getting bitten by fleas or bed bugs there are a few measures that you can take that will save you potential itchiness and complications. Since these bugs like areas where humans are often found, you’ll want to clean these environments thoroughly including upholstered furniture and any kind of cracks in fabric or other surfaces.

These insects are masters at finding hiding spots, and it's pivotal that you clean areas such as bedrooms appropriately. Bed bugs can survive in vacuum cleaners for quite some time and have even been known to crawl out.

The best way to avoid bites is to avoid areas where infestations commonly exist such as apartments, office spaces, hotels, cruise ships, daycares, college dormitories, and furniture in second-hand stores.

Professional Help

It's not possible to avoid all of these places all of the time, and if you find bed bugs or fleas in your home, you always have the option of calling an exterminator who is specially trained and equipped to handle these types of insects.

An exterminator will first evaluate the areas that are infested, and will then go over with you a plan for eliminating these bugs from your living quarters. Keep in mind that this plan may include several rounds of treatment before the bugs are completely gone.

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