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Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites on Humans

This article discusses flea bites vs bed bug bites on humans. When more than a few red bumps start popping up on your skin, and it seems that mosquitoes can no longer be to blame, you might start to ask yourself if something else is causing the irritation.

Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites on Humans

Could it be a different type of bug? Your concern might grow as you realize that, if it’s not happening on the outside, it might be happening in your home.

You woke up and noticed weird bites on your body. You look pointedly at Fido as he scratches behind his ear with a little more fervor than usual. Does he have fleas? Or maybe you have bed bugs? How would you know if you have bed bug bites versus flea bites, anyway?

If you’ve struggled to determine exactly what type of bug bit you, you are not alone. Most insect bites result in itching, and many leave a little bump or red mark where you were bitten. Why would it even matter which creature is biting you?

For starters, bed bugs and fleas can pose different risks for you, your family and your pets. In this blog post, we’ll review the differences between these bugs’ feeding patterns, what their bites look like and how to treat a bite once you have settled on which creature is responsible.

Similarities between Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites on Humans 

There are some key similarities between these bites, so you can tell you really do have bug bites and not something else like chicken pox or hand, foot, and mouth disease (Google with caution).

If you have either flea or bed bug bites, the small red dots will be focused in specific areas, instead of all over the body. They’ll also be simple red bumps without any pus or fluid in them, but they can bleed with excessive scratching.

Difference between flea bites vs. bed bug bites

Flea bites will often appear as small clusters of dots that are red, hard, and swollen – similar to a mosquito bite. Fleas tend to bite the human host randomly, whereas beg bugs bite strategically in a linear row.

Flea bites are often found on the legs and ankles, the easiest access points for the insects. Bed bug bites can be found anywhere on the body.

Both types of bites cause itchiness and swelling and can be a nuisance for both human and animal hosts.

How To Tell Flea Bites From Other Bites

Are flea bites distinct? Well, yes and no. Flea bites typically:

  • Occur around your lower extremities (i.e., the feet, ankles, legs and knees). That being said, they can be found on the rest of the body—especially on a person who’s been cuddling a flea-infested pet.
  • Appear as a small, red, itchy bump.
  • Have a red “halo” at the center of the bite.
  • Are in a haphazard pattern, since these bugs commonly jump from one feeding spot to another. However, this is not always the case. The bites may appear as a linear group of three to four bites.
  • Are quite itchy. (But don’t scratch, because this can lead to secondary infection of the bite!)
  • Though flea-borne diseases are quite rare in the U.S., a flea bite can transmit quite a number of deadly diseases, including Bubonic plague, murine typhus and Tularemia.


The most common type of fleas found on pets are cat fleas, comprising about 90 percent according to the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control by Arnold Mallis. These types of fleas are adaptable and move easily from cats or dogs to humans.

When determining whether you have flea bites or bed bug bites, the first thing in your house you might want to inspect is your dog or cat. However, as this population grows they can be found throughout the home.

Some fleas live on their host and are called host fleas. Others, called nest fleas, rest nearby their food source during the day and feed at night. Many nest fleas can be found outdoors, particularly under porches or decks where they are protected from the sun.


Bed bugs have rightfully earned their name and are typically found either on or near the bed area, although they may also take cover in upholstered furniture. Bed bugs are small, about three-sixteenths of an inch, and often use small crevices at the edges of mattresses, chairs or sofas to hide.

When trying to determine whether you have bed bug bites or flea bites, it is also a good idea to check for signs of bed bugs behind furniture, and along baseboards, floors and carpeting.

How To Treat Flea Bites

Once you’ve determined that your red dots are, in fact, flea bites, it’s time to treat them. First, make sure you wash the area regularly with soap and water to maintain sanitation. Treatment can include an oral antihistamine like Benadryl to reduce any swelling or itching.

Next, you should get any soothing antipruritic (anti-itch) cream to help with the itching, which will also make sure you don’t get a secondary bacterial infection. Third, visit you doctor for a topical steroid to use to decrease inflammation. If your bites persist or become worse, visit your doctor for an antibiotic.

Some more natural forms of treatment include using Aloe vera for redness and itchiness, or washing the bitten area with black or green tea, which will help it to heal.

You’ll probably want to take extra safety precautions to make sure your home is flea free. We suggest you sweep and mop your floors, spray your carpets and upholstery, and even fog your home. Using a fogger tackles all life stages of fleas because the treatment can be effective for up to 7 months, and it’s pretty affordable too.

How to prevent flea bites and bed bug bites on humans

Preventative measure for flea bites include:

  • Consume garlic as flea hate garlic.
  • Make a citrus-infused spray bottle to spray on your legs and ankles.
  • Spray or dab on essential oils like lavender onto legs and ankles.
  • Fill a glass with water and apple cider vinegar and leave it where fleas are the most problematic. This concoction will trap them as they are attracted to the odor.
  • Have your pet treated for fleas.
  • Vacuum regularly.
  • Wash your pet frequently.

Preventative measures for bed bug bites include:

  • Wrap your mattress in a protective casing.
  • Tape up any holes in the mattress or bed frame.
  • Eliminate clutter around the bed.
  • Always inspect luggage and clothing when returning from a trip.
  • Wash all clothing after purchase or returning from a trip.
  • Get rid of infested mattresses or box springs.
  • Regularly wash your bedding.
  • If all else fails, try pesticides.

Final Thoughts on Flea Bites vs Bed Bug Bites on Humans

By following these preventative measures for bed bugs and fleas, you can lower your risk of being bitten.

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