Unless you live inside an air-conditioned bubble, you’re likely to find yourself scratching your skin at some point throughout the year as you come into contact with different varieties of biting insects. Both indoors and outdoors, and especially during the summer, you might have run-ins with fleas, mosquitoes, horse flies, black flies or even—shudder—bed bugs. Bed bugs can be very difficult to get rid of, so finding suspicious, itchy welts on your skin can cause momentary panic as you try to figure out the culprit. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to tell the difference between bed bug bites and mosquito bites or the bites of other insects, as long as you know what to look for. Read on to learn about various insect bites and the signs and symptoms that will indicate which pesky pest has taken a chomp out of you.
Mosquito Bites Vs. Flea Bites
Here’s the good news: Most common insect bites are harmless to humans and should heal quickly on their own, without any special treatment. That may not be helpful information at the moment, though, if you’re in the position of having mysterious itchy bites with no idea where they came from. Waking up in the morning scratching at irritated welts on your body can be an especially alarming experience. You might immediately suspect bed bugs, but the truth is that mosquito bites and flea bites are a far more plausible culprit.
This is especially true if you’ve slept in your own bed at home. Unless you’ve just returned from traveling and some unwelcome bed bugs hitched a ride in your luggage, it’s less likely that your home has spontaneously developed a bed bug infestation. When you think more about how you get bed bugs, you realize that it’s much more likely that mosquitoes or fleas are present, and may even be breeding indoors. If you do suspect bed bugs, however, it’s a good idea to do a thorough check of your sheets, mattress and surrounding areas, or better yet, to call in a pest control specialist to assess the situation.
Even if bed bugs are not the issue, a mosquito or flea infestation in your home presents its own problems. Both mosquitoes and fleas can transmit diseases to humans as well as pets, and either insect living indoors is a distinctly undesirable situation that should be addressed as thoroughly and quickly as possible. Before you can tackle the task of getting rid of your insect issue, however, you first have to identify which bug bit you in the first place.
Here’s what to look for when you’re trying to determine whether you have mosquito bites or flea bites:
- Mosquito bites can show up anyplace on the body where the skin is exposed, while flea bites are most likely to show up on the ankles and lower legs.
- A mosquito may bite you only once or twice, while flea bites often show up in clusters of several bites together.
- When mosquitoes are present in your bedroom or living space, you can often see them flying through the air, feel the tickle of their tiny bodies on your skin or hear their telltale whine as they fly past your ear.
- When fleas are present, you may feel a tiny tickle on your skin as they jump onto you. You might also see what looks like a tiny speck of black pepper on your foot or ankle, or spot “flea dirt” (which is actually flea feces—yuck!) in your pet’s bed or fur, on your furniture or wherever the fleas spend lots of time.
- While both mosquito and flea bites are itchy, especially when you get a mosquito bite on your foot, flea bites are more likely to show up as smaller, flat, red circles on your skin, while mosquito bites are more likely to leave larger, raised, pinkish welts that may be hot to the touch.
Both flea bites and mosquito bites can be treated with at-home and over-the-counter remedies to lessen the itch. Hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion are particularly effective; many people also swear by certain home remedies such as applying ice packs, honey or even toothpaste to soothe the bites.
Whatever kind of itchy bites you have, it’s important to scratch them as little as possible. While most insect bites are harmless, scratching them can break the skin, leaving you vulnerable to secondary infections that can potentially become quite serious.
Mosquito Bites Vs. Spider Bites
If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a spider, you could feel very worried, and for good reason: Most spider bites are essentially harmless to humans, but certain types, such as a bite from a brown recluse or a black widow, can be very serious. Fortunately, there are several key differences between mosquito bites and spider bites that will help you determine which type of bite you’re most likely to have.
First, mosquito bites tend to be itchy but not painful, whereas spider bites are the opposite—they rarely itch, but they are usually painful, and the pain may increase over the course of minutes or hours. Spider bites also often have visible puncture marks, while mosquito bites do not. While both spider and mosquito bites typically cause swelling at the site of the bite, spider bites may cause other symptoms like nausea, joint pain or dizziness, while mosquito bites rarely cause anything more than a bit of itching and redness.
If you suspect you may have been bitten by a spider, and especially if symptoms associated with the bite worsen rather than improving after 24 hours, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor.
Mosquito Bites In Bed At Night
One of the best ways to prevent mosquito bites is to stay inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. If you do spend time outdoors, wear long pants and long sleeves, and use bug spray on areas of your skin that are exposed. It’s also important to make sure the window screens and door seals on your home are tightly fitting, and be sure to dump out any standing water in your indoor and outdoor living areas, so mosquitoes won’t have any good spots for breeding.
Even if you do all of the above, you still might encounter mosquitoes inside your home. How? They could slip inside when you briefly open a door to enter or exit, or they can even breed indoors if you have a bit of standing water someplace. Mosquitoes are able to reproduce in as little as a teaspoon of water, and it’s possible to have standing water indoors without realizing it, such as in the U-joint under a bathroom sink, a pet’s water bowl or the dirt of a potted plant.
Unfortunately, all this means that waking up in the morning with itchy bites on your skin is well within the realm of possibility. Bed bugs may be the first thing to come to mind since these pests have become an epidemic throughout the United States and the world. Still, most people do not have bed bug infestations in their homes, so how can you know whether you’ve been bitten overnight by a mosquito, a bed bug or something else entirely?
How To Tell Bed Bug Bites From Other Bites
One way to tell you’ve been bitten by a bed bug rather than a mosquito or a flea is that bed bug bites tend to show up in rows of small, red, itchy bumps. This is because bed bugs take their first bite to feed on your blood before crawling a few millimeters to a fresh spot, where they take a second bite to feed on more blood, then walk another tiny distance and bite again, and so on. The appearance of three red, itchy spots that show up together in a row is such a hallmark sign of bed bug bites that many people refer to these as the bug’s “breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Fleas, like bed bugs, may also bite you several times in the same area, but their bites are more likely to show up in a random scattering or cluster rather than in straight lines. Furthermore, flea bites aren’t likely to cause the blisters that bed bug bites often result in. Bed bug bites are also typically far itchier than either flea or mosquito bites.
ABC Can Banish Those Biting Bugs From Your Home
If you think you may have bed bugs, you can first do a visual scan of your mattress, bedding and nearby areas to see if you can spot any signs. Signs of a bed bug infestation include the presence of the insects themselves (which are usually small, dark-brown, oval-shaped and flat—something like a small apple seed) as well as tiny blood stains on your sheets, mattress or pillowcases, or dark or rust-colored spots on your bed or nearby walls.
If you spot any of these telltale signs of bed bugs, or even if you don’t spot these signs but still suspect you may have a bed bug infestation, your next step should be to call ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our exterminators have extensive experience with bed bugs, as well as many other types of insects. A pest control specialist can conduct a thorough inspection, diagnose the problem and then develop a plan to eliminate any critters once and for all, so you can go back to enjoying your home and outdoor spaces bug-free.