Bed bugs and fleas – how to tell the difference and why it matters.

Bath bed bugs and fleas can leave numerous bite marks. In many cases, these bites can be very itchy and irritating to humans.

Fleas are often found in pets, especially if the pet is not treated prophylactically for fleas. 

Bed bugs are also common, especially in communal housing such as nursing homes and hotels.

The picture on the right is of a bed bug and the picture on the left is of a flea.

Fleas can carry some diseases, such as typhus, while bed bugs usually do not carry diseases. Learn more: Fleaborne Diseases

People with allergies can have severe reactions to the bites and some even develop infections. However, in most households, fleas and bed bugs are a nuisance rather than a real danger.  

Being able to tell the difference between fleas and bed bugs is key to getting rid of them. Read on to learn how to identify different bites and what to do next.

How to identify flea and bed bug bites

Flea and bed bug bites can be very itchy and irritating to humans.

Fleas prefer to live on fur-covered animals such as cats and dogs, usually on the neck and stomach. However, they can accidentally bite people by jumping off the animal. In humans, flea bites usually appear on the shins and ankles.

Bed bugs prefer to feed on human blood. That’s why they live in beds and other places that give them easy access to human blood. They cannot jump or fly.

Bites from bed bugs, fleas, and other insects

Fleas and bed bugs are not the only insects that can bite humans. Here are some signs that someone else may be the culprit:

– There is only one bite mark: a single bite may indicate a spider or ant bite.

– There are several pink, swollen bite marks in different places: these may be mosquito bites. Some mosquitoes, including species that carry the Zika virus, may live indoors.

– The bite area is painful and swollen, or an insect sting can be seen in it: this could be a bee sting or other stinging insect.

How can I tell if you have fleas or bed bugs in your home?

Bed bugs don’t necessarily live in the same house as you. For example, their bites may appear after a trip to a home or hotel where bed bugs live.

However, there is a high chance that if a person has been in some place where bed bugs live, they may have brought them into their home.

Some signs of bed bugs in the home:

– Bed bugs can be seen: they may look like tiny bugs or dots in the folds of sheets or pillowcases, or in the seams of a mattress.

– Bed bug exoskeletons: these crunchy-looking bed bug shells can be seen in or around the bed.

– Bed bug feces: these are tiny rust-colored spots that can be found on sheets or mattresses

– Unusual smell: a sweet or musty smell may come from the mattress or sheets.

In the photo on the left – bedbug eggs, on the right – bedbug larva.

Some signs that there are fleas in the house:

– Fleas can be seen: fleas may be found on a pet or people may notice the tiny insects hopping around the house.

– Flea eggs can be seen: these clear or yellowish crumbs can be seen on the pet’s fur.

– Flea feces: these dark black specks may be found in the pet’s fur or on the pet’s bedding.

– Changes in the pet’s behavior: the pet may become unusually restless or itchy.

– Changes in the pet’s health. The pet may develop anemia due to excessive blood loss from flea bites. In this case, the pet’s gums will be pale and should be seen by a veterinarian.

It is important to note that both fleas and bed bugs can live in the house at the same time.

What to do next

After discovering a flea or bed bug bite, a person may want to treat it. If these insects are living in the home, they need to be eradicated.

Treating Bites

Bed bug and flea bites rarely require treatment. However, some people use over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to relieve discomfort.

You should not scratch the bites, as this can cause additional skin irritation.

It is also important to see a doctor if any symptoms of infection appear, such as fever or severe pain and swelling around the bite site.

Bed bug and flea killers

Insecticides can quickly kill bed bugs and prevent them from coming back. The safest option is to call in a special insect control service. Replacing sheets after treatment can help minimize human exposure to pesticides.

Special services are usually not necessary to eradicate fleas. If you have pets, you should contact a veterinarian to consider options for eradicating fleas and their eggs on your pet.

Because fleas prefer to live on fur-covered animals, they usually die soon after treating the pet. Thorough vacuuming and washing the pet’s bedding in hot water can help kill flea eggs.

If the fleas do not go away after treating the pet, or if there are no pets, a special service should be called in to determine if the fleas are indeed the source of the bites. The professionals will then decide on an appropriate treatment for the home.


Bed bugs are generally harmless to humans and cannot carry diseases. Some fleas carry diseases such as plague or typhus. Both fleas and bed bugs can be a serious nuisance, and many people feel disgusted at the sight of them.

In most cases, a few simple home treatments can rid a home of bed bugs and fleas.

Since eradicating these pests requires the use of toxic pesticides, the safest option is a professional service. Ask your veterinarian about the safest way to exterminate fleas and consult a professional about the safe extermination of bed bugs in the home.

Learn More: Pesticides to Control Bed Bugs

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