It's often difficult to tell the difference between flea bites and bed bug bites; when you see the itchy red spots on your body and freak out about them, and after you overcome the initial desire to scratch, how do you know which of these insects has infested your home? You certainly should know, in order to properly fight against the infestation. Let's look at some common traits of both, and see if you can define your enemy more easily.
Fleas will come to your home thanks to your pet, or thanks to your friend's pet (you can freely use this as an excuse to get rid of unwanted "friends"). They hide in the pet's fur or in your carpet, so the flea bites will usually be located on your feet and around your ankles, or on your arms and elbows (if they jump on to you while you're holding your pet). The bite looks like a small red dot, sometimes surrounded by a halo of redness. They may cause infection, especially if you scratch a lot, but even if you do not, fleas can be vectors for other diseases, so if you see anything unusual happening with the bitten area, go see your doctor.
Bed bug bites
Bed bug bites are often mistaken for mosquito bites. They happen during the night, because bed bugs are mostly nocturnal insects, so if you wake up in the morning and discover reddish spots on your body, it's probably bed bugs. They are bigger than fleas, and you can spot them more easily. Bed bug bites are often multiple, and not limited to one part of your body: you can easily discover them on your arms, legs, belly, back – and very inconveniently, on your head (the forehead is their favorite target). They can often be found in the hotel rooms, and apparently, this little trick will help you discover whether there are bed bugs in your bed: put a bar of soap on the sheet, and wait to see if anything happens.
So, what are the main differences?
You can not be sure which one has bitten you, because they can look very much alike. You can however make an educated guess:
– Bed bug bites look like mosquito bites, and are grouped in clusters. Sometimes flea bites can be grouped in rows of two or three, but if it's more than that, it's definitely the first kind.
– Flea bites will be grouped around your ankles and on your forearms, bed bugs can bite anywhere on your body.
– If you got bitten during the night, it's probably bed bugs. Also, if you do not have pets in your home, if you have not had friends with pets coming over, or if you're staying in a hotel room, it's them again.
– Both kinds are itchy, and you can use some ice, calamine lotion or alcohol to reduce the itching; if all is well and you do not scratch too hard (ideally not scratch at all), they will disappear by themselves within several days. However, while bed bug bites are not dangerous, flea bites can cause severe allergic reaction, or can transmit a disease. Not to alarm you, but fleas are known as vectors for tapeworms, murine typhus and, in some parts of the world, for bubonic plague, so it's best to pay a visit to your physician if the skin around the bitten place starts acting funny.
Hope this helped a bit!