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Bed Bug Bites Vs Flea Bites – How to Quickly Tell the Difference

Let’s get straight to the facts about bed bug bites vs flea bites:


    • Bed bug bites are usually much more painful than flea bites.

    • Bed bug bites can also be itchy, while flea bites typically don’t itch.

    • Bed bugs typically leave a smelly trail of blood – a tell-tale sign of a bed bug bite; however, there is no such thing with fleas.

    • Not all insect bites are dangerous. Both bed bugs and flea bites are not particularly dangerous to humans. Although in some, an allergic reaction can occur.

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What’s The Difference Between Bed Bugs And Fleas?

What are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood while they sleep, making them nocturnal insects.

Cimex Lectularius is the most commonly known species of bed bug found worldwide.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, it is estimated that there are about 3.5 million people in the United States who have bed bug bites each year.

The adults lay eggs in cracks and crevices so it’s not always easy to get rid of them without using pesticides or other extermination methods. Most bed bugs are exterminated either through chemicals or by fumigation by professional pest control services.

What are Bed Bugs

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are small, wingless insects that can infest carpets, furniture, and even clothing. They feed on the blood of their hosts and leave behind itchy bites in their wake.

Fleas are incredibly difficult to control with traditional methods like dusting or spraying because they’re difficult to see and leap out of sight when disturbed.

They are common parasites that live on domestic animals and humans and can cause significant discomfort or illness. They’re also known to jump from host to host.

There are several species of fleas, but only two species of fleas – the cat flea and dog flea – are known to transmit diseases through their bites.

Fleas are usually found living on the bodies of their hosts for one to two months before they die off or jump onto a new host. Learn more about fleas here.

What are Fleas

Differences Between Bed Bug bites vs Flea Bites

It is important to know the distinction between bed bug bites vs flea bites so you can properly treat them, so I’ve broken down the differences in their bites according to the size, colour, location and time of the attack.

Differences Between Bed Bug & Flea Bites

Size & Color

Size and colour are important factors in determining any kind of insect bite and although the symptoms they cause might seem similar, some subtle differences will help you distinguish a flea bite from a bed bug bite.

Flea Bites


    • Flea bites are small, bright red, and usually occur in clusters.

    • These bites are so closely grouped that they might even form patterns across your skin.

    • Flea bites can have a small black dot near the bite.  

    • Scabs take about two weeks to form and can be treated with antibiotic ointments or hydrocortisone creams.

Bed Bug Bites


    • Bed bug bites are usually the red, itchy, bites that you get in your sleep with overwhelming itchiness.

    • Other symptoms you might experience before getting bitten by bed bugs include red spots on the skin or rashes in your sleep.

    • Bed bug bites are not complex in their pattern and can seem more random than flea bites.

    • Bed bug bites often look like reddish welts but are slightly larger.

Location of the Bites

Bed Bugs Bites

Bed bug bites are usually found on your upper body because bed bugs often make their nests in or around bedding material like sheets and mattresses, thereby bringing them closer to the head of the bed where they seek blood sources.

Flea Bites

Flea bites however, are predominantly found on the legs, but they often show up in clusters that are usually around the ankles. This is because your legs are typically within leaping distance of fleas that are coming from the ground.

Fleas can’t fly, so they find hosts to feed off of by jumping. Fleas can jump up to 35 centimeters/ 13 inches and they normally use their long, whip-like hind legs to take flight.

The Time of Day They Bite

Bed bugs and fleas have different feeding habits that allow you to easily identify the culprit.

Bed Bugs


    • Bed bugs are nocturnal creatures, so they’re often active at night.

    • During the day, they gather together in secluded hiding places. They typically take shelter in secluded, dark places during the day and then come out to feed in the evening.



    • Bed bugs are nocturnal creatures, so they’re often active at night.

How to Treat Flea Bites?

What should you do if you find yourself with a flea bite?


    • The first step is to remove the flea from the skin as soon as possible. Do this by using rubbing alcohol or soaking in hot water.

    • Then, place a small amount of petroleum jelly (or other natural oil) on the skin, and cover it with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes.

    • After about 10 minutes, remove the plastic.

There are a number of other methods you can also use:

Over-the-Counter Treatments

If you’re looking for a way to quickly and safely treat the discomfort of a flea bite itch, then oral antihistamines and topical antihistamine creams might be the answer.

Oral antihistamine pills can help to reduce the itchiness of your skin but also have the side effect of making you feel drowsy.

Topical creams can also provide relief from the itchiness of flea bites.


Skin lotions can be used for some relief of itchiness.

Many people use Aloe Vera gel or Calamine lotion. Their cooling properties reduce swelling and inflammation, and the minerals and vitamins found in them moisturize the skin and promote healing.

Home Remedies

Flea bites are pesky, itchy bites that can cause intense discomfort. But there are plenty of natural remedies you can use to treat your flea bites without having to resort to over-the-counter medications.

Cold compresses and liquid astringents, such as Witch Hazel or Apple Cider Vinegar, are 2 commonly used home treatments that can help ease the pain and itchiness in your skin.

How to Treat Bed Bug Bites?

Bed bugs can make you feel like your skin is on fire and overall, it’s not a pleasant experience.

Bed bug bites will naturally heal after 1-2 weeks, but there are effective treatments for bed bug bites that don’t involve a visit to the ER.

You can treat bed bug bites at home with natural remedies, such as Baking soda, Calamine lotion and Tea Tree oil.

For at-home treatment, quickly wash the bite with soap and water to help reduce itchiness.

If the bite still itches, use a weak form of corticosteroid cream for the bite that can you can easily get from a local drugstore without a prescription. Stronger formulations require a prescription.

Reducing the effects of the symptoms means you’re less likely to experience skin irritation, which reduces the risk of infection or other harmful symptoms.