Bed bugs and bites

Bed bugs and bites

Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood by biting the skin. They do not live on or under human skin, but rather in the furniture or structures that are in a home or hotel.

They commonly feed during the night and so tend to live in your bed or the surrounding furniture. You may not be able to tell if you have bed bugs in your home as they are small, hard to see and are nocturnal (active at night). A bed bug is around 4-7 mm long – about the size of an apple seed.

Bites of bed bugs are small, red, itchy bites that are usually on areas of skin that are exposed when you are sleeping (head, neck, arms and shoulders). Bed bugs are found all over the world. Generally, bed bugs do not pose serious health threats and are more of a nuisance to get rid of than a major health issue.

Where do bed bugs live?

They live in houses, hotels and shelters and are often found in bed mattresses, headboards, in between cracks in furniture, behind wallpaper, in the walls of houses and in clothes. They can even be found in movie theatres and on aeroplanes. Bed bugs usually bite humans when they are sleeping or resting (most commonly at night time). They can also bite other warm-blooded animals such as dogs but prefer humans. Bed bugs can spread quickly, causing new infestations to form. They can survive for months without a blood meal.

What do bed bug bites look like?

Bed bug bites don’t really have any distinguishing signs or symptoms from other insect bites. You may not notice straight away after being bitten by a bed bug. Most people don’t feel it, as bed bugs inject an anaesthetic when they bite (as well as an anticoagulant). The bites may not show up on your skin immediately. In some people, the bites are only obvious up to 9 days after being bitten.

The bites look like red, small areas of skin that are swollen. They can be in a row or line and are often very itchy. They can be on the face, neck, arms and hands or other body parts that are not covered when sleeping. New bites are often noticed in the morning.

Some people have an allergic reaction to the bites and suffer from intense itching and hives (urticaria). The bites usually go away between 1 and 2 weeks after you’ve been bitten.

How do I know if I have bed bugs in my home?

Bed bugs are reddish-brown and are oval in shape, roughly 4-6mm in length. After biting a human and having a blood meal, they may turn a black colour. Bed bugs are hard to spot as they are less active during the day time.

Signs of a bed bug infestation in your home include:

  • Live bed bugs
  • Shedding of the skin of the nymph phase (immature bed bugs)
  • Bed bug eggs (which look white or semi-transparent in colour and are 1mm in length)
  • Blood spots on the bed sheets
  • Rust-coloured marks or spots of bed bug excrement on bedding
  • A sweet smell may accompany heavy infestations.

Risk factors

Anyone can get bed bugs, but there are a few factors that make you more likely to get a bed bug infestation, these include:

  • Living in short-term accommodation or other places where people come and go regularly, such as backpacker hostels, trains, hotels, motels, boats and homeless shelters
  • Having travelled recently
  • Having second-hand furniture, especially mattresses, in the home.

Bed bugs are transported from place to place in people’s luggage, bedding and furniture and start new infestations as they travel. They don’t fly, but once they have been spread to a new building they can crawl about fairly easily, sometimes moving between floors or rooms.


Although bed bugs can be frustrating and cause problems, they rarely transmit any diseases. If the bites are causing a lot of irritation and discomfort, they may lead to a loss of sleep. If the bites are severe and you scratch them too much, it may cause your skin to become infected. If this happens, you should see a doctor, and they will help you to treat the skin infection. If you have asthma, bed bugs may be a trigger for worsening symptoms.

Can you test for bed bug bites?

There is no test to specifically identify if an insect bite on the skin was from a bed bug. Bed bug bites may look like the bites from other types of insects, bugs and other diseases. From a detailed history and inspection of your skin, your doctor may suggest the likely cause as bed bug bites. However, if you collect some evidence of bed bugs, such as eggs or live or dead adults, a laboratory can identify the bugs by looking at them under a microscope.


To control bed bugs, your doctor will treat the symptoms of bed bug bites and also advise you to clear the infestation to avoid recontamination.

Treatment of the bed bug bites is usually with an anti-pruritic (an anti-itching) agent. Anti-histamines may also be recommended to help reduce the itch. If your bites become severe, a steroid cream can be used in the short term to reduce the itching further and speed up the resolution of the rash. If the rash becomes infected, then your doctor will prescribe you an antibiotic to clear the secondary skin infection.

Clearing the infestation in the house can be a serious challenge. Generally, the first measures are cleaning the entire home, including washing clothes and bedding, vacuuming furniture and examining and potentially disposing of any contaminated mattresses. Often professional cleaning and pest control/extermination is necessary. Following extermination, to ensure the bed bugs are eradicated you must treat all bedding and cloth items (e.g. blinds, clothing, towels) in water greater than 55 degrees C or put items in a hot air drier for longer than 30 minutes. If clothes are heat sensitive, you can freeze them below -20 degrees C in the freezer to ensure the bed bugs are gone.

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What type of doctor should I see about bed bugs?

Usually, your general practitioner (GP) will be the one to help you with bed bug bites. They may advise you on pest control companies that specifically deal with bed bugs to help you clear the infestation.

Support, where to get help

You can contact your landlord or local council for advice on treating bed bug infestations or a licensed pest control service for help with eradication of the bed bug infestation. Many bed bugs are now resistant to the insecticides used to treat them, so it’s essential to use a reputable service.


Keeping your living space clean and tidy and minimising cracks and spaces where bed bugs can hide can prevent further infestations. For a heavy infestation, it may be difficult to totally clear the house of bed bugs on the first treatment. However, with regular follow up and further extermination treatments, eradication can be achieved.


To prevent getting bitten by bed bugs, you must get rid of the bed bugs living in your home. You should also avoid sleeping or staying over at places that you know have bed bugs.

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent getting a bed bug infestation in your house and to prevent getting bed bug bites.

If you are having guests stay at your home/accommodation, you can:

  • Ask if they have had bed bugs bites or other unidentified insect bites. If they have, kindly ask them to inspect their belongings for any signs of bed bugs and treat them.

To control infestations, you can:

  • Look in hiding places for bed bugs, e.g. in cracks and crevices, in walls, in between bed mattresses and in the coils
  • Reduce the number of cracks and crevices in your house by sealing them up
  • Clean all areas of your home by thoroughly vacuuming and removing unnecessary clutter
  • Wash all bed sheets regularly in hot water and dry in a heated dryer
  • Dispose of all bed bug-infested contents in a sealed bag to prevent spread.

When travelling, you can:

  • Check your hotel room or other new places where you are staying for any signs of bed bugs
  • Avoid placing your luggage close to the bed, on the bed, or on the floor, when travelling and store it away in a high spot, such as on a luggage rack
  • Regularly inspect your luggage for signs of bed bugs.

SCABIES VS BED BUGS – Bites, Symptoms and Treatments

Scabies is a contagious skin condition characterized by itching. It is caused by microscopic parasites scientifically known as Sarcoptes scabiei. These parasites are also commonly called the “itch mite.” Bed bugs are also parasites that suck the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. Two species of the insect Cimex are responsible for bed bug bites.

If you feel an itching sensation, you might be confused about whether it’s scabies’ bite or a bed bug bite. In this article, we will give you a comparative analysis of both kinds of parasites, what do they and their bites look like, how they can be treated and what preventive measures can be taken for their treatment.

What do Scabies’ mite and Bed Bugs look like?

The Scabies’ mite Sarcoptes scabiei is a tiny arthropod. It is an eight-legged microscopic parasite. The naked eye cannot detect the “itch mite.” It is often confused with a bed bug bite. This mite has the same lineage as spiders, ticks, etc. It causes an infestation, not an infection on the human body. Sarcoptes feeds on blood from the inside of the body, since it burrows in the skin layer.

Bed bugs are white to reddish-brown in color. Once fed, they turn into a rusty-red shade. They have an oval-shaped body and are visible to the naked eye on close examination. Bed bugs feed on blood from outside. They usually bite at night and then return to their hiding spots, including mattresses, nooks, and crannies.

Do all Scabies’ mite or Bed Bugs Bite?

In most types of bites, the female is responsible because it needs blood for its life cycle. In the case of scabies and bed bugs, it differs due to the type of parasite.

The female Scabies’ mite lays eggs by “burrowing” under the dermis skin layer. It lays 2-3 eggs every day. The incubation period of Sarcoptes mite is 2-6 weeks after infestation. The female mite feeds on the blood. The larvae hatching from the eggs crawl into the skin’s hair follicles to feed and molt. The itch mite usually burrows in warm, moist areas of the skin. It can be found on wrists, joint areas and finger webs, etc. These parasites cause red white grayish lines on the skin. They live on human blood, therefore building burrows in the dermis layer of skin.

Both the male and female Bed bugs bite. A female bed bug mates via traumatic insemination with the male. The female on average can lay up to 1-12 eggs per day but usually lays 5-7 eggs per week. It is dependent on the blood for reproduction. Bed bugs usually bite during the night and hide during the day. They bite on the exposed area of skin like shoulders, arms, legs, back and face. Bed bugs cause swollen bumps or welts on the skin. They feed on blood and return to their hiding spot.

Since both types are parasites, therefore, they need blood as an essential part of their reproductive life cycle. This does not always affect their survival rate though.

Does a Scabies’ mite or Bed Bug bite hurt?

The bite of both the “itch mite” and bed bugs causes intense itching, uncomfortable sensation and a constant urge to scratch. The itching characteristic often leads to the confusion between these two different types of bites. The painful bites lead to a disturbed sleeping pattern, poor work performance, etc.

What does a Scabies’ or Bed Bug bite do? Is it harmful?

Both types of bites can cause harmful conditions if left untreated for too long. It is better to identify if the bite is from Sarcoptes or a bed bug. This can help in getting the probable treatment.

Scabies is itself an uncomfortable skin condition. It is contagious, thus any person with Scabies can cause the disease to another. A Scabies’ mite can bite and cause the following symptoms:

    Intense Itching Rashes, red bumps or bites Lesions or papules Sores due to scratching Irritability, fatigue or fever (in severe cases)

A bed bug’s bite can cause the following:

    Skin rashes or welts Psychological effects (anxiety, stress or insomnia) Anemia Anaphylaxis

These symptoms vary on the basis of the intensity of infestation. If the person has a chronic or prolonged period of infestation, then these symptoms become more severe.


Preventive Measures for Scabies or Bedbugs:

As the saying goes, it is better to prevent a disease rather than cure it. This is because preventive measures can help you in staying healthy. Thus, we have listed some important precautions below:

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-Always air your bed sheets, mattresses, and foams. Wash and dry all clothes, towels or bedding with hot water and high heat.

-Keep your bedrooms and furnishings clean, free of dust and moisture. Vacuum all nooks and crevices, mats, rugs, carpets and upholstered furniture. This will reduce the number of bed bugs if any.

-Take a bath on a daily basis. A clean body is a key to maintaining your health.

-Avoid using second-hand furnishings. In case you buy any second-hand furniture, always check for bed bugs. Get rid of them if there are any.

-In the case of bed bugs, you can call pest controllers to identify and remove bed bugs from your house. Heat is an essential factor in getting rid of these pests.

–Scabies is a skin condition, therefore, consult a dermatologist for treatment. Do not expose a patient with Scabies to another human, since the disease is contagious.

-Do not use topical solutions like creams, lotions or gels for itching, without prescription for treating these bites.


Even with all the cleanliness and health measures, there is no foolproof method to prevent Scabies or bed bugs. But it is always better to take precautions and prevent the disease.

Hence, Scabies’ mites and Bed bugs are different from each other. We have listed the factors that can help identify the variant nature of their bites, reproductive cycle, and helpful preventions.

Scabies vs Bed Bugs – Skin Burrowing and Bite Marks

Note: Bed bug and scabies bites are two different outbreaks. While a professional exterminator can treat the former, the latter would require immediate medical assistance.

Experiencing red welts and itchy skin is not the best feeling. What makes it worse, is not knowing what is causing this irritation.

Scabies and Bed Bug bites cause itchy rashes that worsen at night, and both are equally problematic and irritating. However, before you work on getting rid of the symptoms and eliminating the insect, you must first be able to identify whether bed bugs or scabies have infested you.

What are scabies?

Contrary to what many believe, scabies is not an infection. In fact, it is an infestation. Tiny mites (called Sarcoptes scabiei) take up residence in the outer layers of the skin. Since each mite measures less than half a millimeter in length, spotting one with the naked eye is quite tricky.

To the naked eye, these mites just might seem like small black dots on the skin. However, under a microscope, these appear to be round in shape with eight legs. A microscope can also identify the mites, fecal matter, and eggs from skin scrapings.

While many people believe that the reason behind their itchy rashes on their skin is due to bed bugs, the truth is, the rashes could also be because of a microscopic bug, known as scabies.
However, there is a clear difference between the appearance of the rashes and bite marks. Primarily, both the insects feed on human blood. However, while bed bugs feed on the outside, scabies mites burrow themselves inside the skin.

Where do scabies live?

Similar to ticks, female mites burrow themselves under the skin’s uppermost layer to feed on blood and lay eggs. While doing so, these mites leave behind track-like burrows in the skin that appear as raised lines that are either skin-colored or grayish-white accompanied by red bumps. These burrows can measure anywhere from 3 millimeters to 10 millimeters and have a very small papule at the open end.
Since the skin reacts adversely to any invasion, you experience a rash. As the mites continue to burrow and lay eggs, the infestation grows and eventually leads to an angry rash and relentless itching.

While scabies can be found anywhere on the body, they are most commonly spotted between the fingers, in armpits and toenails, around the navel and waistline, the folds of the knee, elbow, and wrist, and on the genitals or breasts. At any given time, people with only scabies carry around 10 to 15 mites.
In young children, these mites are found on the soles, palms, head, face, and neck.

What are Bed Bugs?

Bedbugs are small, oval-shaped insects that feed on the blood from animals and humans. Bed bugs cannot fly and measure 5 millimeters to 7 millimeters in length.
Once they infest your home, you’ll find bedbugs anywhere. They can live in different types of textiles, cracks in the furniture, and even in upholstered furniture. However, most commonly they are found in bed frames, box springs, and in the mattress.

These pesky bugs are most commonly active at night and tend to bite any exposed skin while the individual is sleeping. They usually bite the arms, hands, neck, and the face. The bite is generally painless and is not really noticed. In fact, the bite may also be mistaken for a rash caused by something else. The bites appear as small, raised, or bumps on the skin accompanied by symptoms like itching, redness, and swelling.

Scabies vs. Bedbugs – Main Difference

Scabies Bed Bug
Appearance / Classification Type Human itch mite (microscopic) Parasites belonging to the Climex species
Infestation Areas Finger nails, armpits waistline, toenails, groin area Furniture, sofas, cracks, and crevices, bedding
Exposure Human contact, environment Spread mostly via secondhand furniture and luggage from the time spent in a hotel
Bite Appearance / Symptoms Grayish-white burrow that may carry a disease Multiple bites around body in clusters of two or three
Treatment Seek medical assistance Eradication

While both the insects feed on your blood, there are major differences. Primarily, bed bugs feed on blood externally, while scabies burrow underneath the skin to live and suck blood. Both the insects can be identified based on their appearance and bites.

Scabies vs Bed Bugs – Appearance

Bed bugs are small in size, and this size helps them to hide in cracks and crevices. However, you can still spot these insects without using a microscope. On the other hand, scabies is microscopic parasites that are hardly visible to the naked eye and would appear as black dots at best.

Scabies vs Bed Bugs Bites

Bites from bed bugs are characterized by flat and raised red-colored welts. These usually appear in a cluster of two to three bites. On the other hand, checking for a single scabies bite is quite difficult. These bites occur as burrows with raised lines and are grayish-white in color. With time, these turn into inflamed and red bumps.

Bed bugs tend to bite exposed skin while the victim is sleeping. Bed bites particularly bite in places where the bed sheet or the mattress meet the body surface. Therefore, the bites are highly concentrated around the face, back, arms, shoulders, and legs. Meanwhile, scabies loves to dig into the moist and folds of the skin which is why you’ll find bites in sensitive areas, around the waist, between the toes and fingers, or in the armpits.

Bites by bed bug start to itch after one to two days of the initial bite. In some cases, it might take some weeks for the itching to surface. On the flip side, if you have scabies for the first time, there you will observe the symptoms of the bite such as itching and rashes two to six weeks after exposure. However, if you become a victim of re-infestation, then it might only take up to four days for the itching and swelling to occur.

Symptoms of bites

While bites from both bed bugs and scabies are itchy, other symptoms can help you pinpoint the cause of the bite.

Scabies Symptoms

  • Scabies often occurs with various skin eruptions. These include:
  • Burrows: Burrows is the easiest way to recognize scabies. These characteristic lesions are made by adult female mites so that they can lay eggs under the skin. However, they might not always occur.
  • Excoriations
  • Crusting of the skin
  • Itchy bumps or nodules in the groin or armpits
  • Red and scaly patches
  • Rashes look like pimples or blisters. They are pink-colored raised bumps that have a liquid-filled clear top.
  • In babies, the scabies rashes can develop into lesions, urticarial, papules, etc.

Bedbugs Symptoms

Individuals often don’t develop any symptoms to bed bug bites. However, some are allergic to the protein present in the bugs’ saliva, thus resulting in the development of the following symptoms:

  • Itchy, red-colored welts on the skin
  • The bitten area appears swollen with the epicenter of the bite surrounded by a red halo
  • Bites appear in a linear pattern and can get extremely itchy at times

Prevention of Bites – How to Handle an Infestation

Before you treat yourself, you must know how to handle a bedbug and a scabies infestation so that it does not reoccur once you are on the road to recovery.

Scabies Prevention

To avoid scabies, you need to avoid making direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or using the items of the infected individuals such as bedding or clothing. Moreover, the treatment of scabies is recommended for all the members of the house, particularly to those that have had prolonged skin on skin contact. Treating all potentially exposed persons helps prevent re-infestation and re-exposure.

Both clothing and bedding that has come into contact during the three days before the start of treatment must also be machine washed and dried with hot water and hot dryer cycles. Or they can also be dry cleaned. Meanwhile, items that can’t be laundered or dry-cleaned must be stored in a closed plastic bag for at least three to four days. Scabies mites are typically unable to survive for more than three days away from the skin.

The room of a patient diagnosed with crusted scabies must be rigorously cleaned and vacuumed. Environmental disinfestation with pesticide fogs or sprays is not only unnecessary but is discouraged as well.

Bed bugs Prevention

Inspect all used couches, beds, and furniture for signs of bed bugs before you bring them home.
Make use of a protective cover that encases both the box springs as well as mattresses to cover up many hiding spots of these bugs. Plus, the encasement’s light color makes it easy to see the bed bugs. Make sure you purchase a high-quality encasement that is resistant to tearing. Frequently check the encasement for holes.

Remove the clutter from your house in order to eliminate the hiding places for these bugs. Make sure you regularly vacuum to remove hitchhikers too.
Be extra careful when using shared laundry facilities. Put the items that must be washed in plastic bags and remove the clothes directly from the dryer into the bag and fold them at home to reduce the chances of catching bed bugs.

In case you live in a multi-family home, you should try to isolate your unit. This can be done by:

  • Getting door sweeps installed on the bottom of the doors to discourage the bugs’ movement into hallways
  • Sealing the crevices and cracks around light sockets, baseboards, etc. to discourage the bugs’ movement through wall voids

Scabies treatment

Treating scabies involves more than just cleaning your house. It also involves taking medicines.
For most people, medicine applied to the skin can cure scabies. Such creams are applied to the whole skin from the neck down. Meanwhile, young children and infants need to get treatment for their face and scalp as well.

The medicine is usually applied at bedtime and washed off once the patient wakes up. The process must be repeated after one week as well. Medicines prescribed by scabies include:

1% lindane lotion – used when all other treatment options fail to work

  • 5% permethrin cream – this kills the scabies mites and eggs
  • 5-10% sulfur ointment – used in people that can’t use the other treatment options
  • 10% crotamiton cream – lotion based medicine that helps to kill the mites

To get rid of itching, your dermatologist may prescribe antihistamines and will recommend you to keep your skin cool by soaking it in cold water.
Widespread as well as crusted scabies usually needs stronger medicine. Therefore, patients with such kinds of scabies might be prescribed ivermectin. While some patients might only need one dose, some may also need to take two to three doses to get rid of scabies. Similarly, ivermectin pills are taken once every two weeks.

Treating bed bugs

Of course, cleaning up the infested areas is helpful for controlling bedbugs, however, getting rid of bed bugs completely also requires chemical treatments. Since treating your bedroom, as well as your furniture with insecticides, may be harmful, you must use such bed bug sprays that can be safely used in bedrooms.
Make sure you don’t treat bedding and mattresses unless the label specifies that you can use the product on bedding.

Generally, it is not only effective, but also safe to hire a pest control expert for extermination for bedbugs.
As far as treating bedbug bites goes, your dermatologist will prescribe you prescriptions to tone down the itching and swelling. You can also use home remedies such as tea tree oil to reduce the rashes and swelling.

Scabies vs Bed bugs – Wrapping Up

After spotting a rash on your skin, you might be compelled to think that it might be because of bed bugs. However, before you start any treatment, make sure to look at the rash closely and see if it looks like a burrow or a cluster of pimples. Similarly, check your bedding and furniture to confirm if bedbugs or scabies have infested you. Finally, make sure to seek medical assistance from a doctor to help treat the rash and clean up your space to get rid of these pests.

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