Bed Bug Bites or Mosquito Bites?


Is that a bed bug bite or a mosquito bite?

While these bites can look similar, how to tell if those bumps were caused by bed bugs or mosquitoes include: their location on your body, whether they are grouped or appear random, and when you noticed the itchy, red bumps on your skin.

Why you need to know what bit you: A bed bug bite may have you inspecting your home for an infestation, and mosquito bite symptoms may have you concerned about a mosquito-borne illness.

Knowing how to distinguish a mosquito bite from a bed bug bite can help you determine how to treat them, when to see a doctor, and when to call pest control.

Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

What a bed bug bite looks like

A typical bed bug bite is small, flat or raised, and may become inflamed, red, itchy, or blistered. In an extreme case, the bite may become inflamed and blister-like.

Bed bug bites on a leg.
Bed bug bites on a leg. Photo by Simon Berenyi / Pexels

Location: You’ll typically find bed bug bites on parts of the body you expose when sleeping: your hands, neck, face, shoulders, legs, and arms. Occasionally a bed bug can bite around the ankles.

Bites are in clusters: Bed bug bites are grouped where multiple bed bugs have fed. These clusters will likely appear in a line or zigzag pattern.

When bed bug bites appear: A single bed bug can feed on a human host for up to 10 minutes. The bite won’t usually appear right after a bed bug has bitten you. In most cases, bed bug bites become visible a few days after the bite occurs.

Are bed bug bites dangerous?

Bed bugs do not pass diseases to humans. If the bites turn to blisters or become infected, speak to your dermatologist. (See below for How to Treat Bed Bug Bites at Home and When to See a Doctor About Bed Bug Bites.)

Keep in mind: Not everyone reacts the same to a bed bug bite. Some people may have experience no itchiness or redness, while others may have a more severe response.

Bed bug bites are a sign that you may have an infestation in your home. Bed bug infestations are difficult to manage and cause a lot of stress for homeowners. Pest control experts often are called in to help get rid of bed bugs.

Mosquito Bite Symptoms

Mosquitoes have a painful bite that often can be felt immediately, almost like a small prick.

What a mosquito bite looks like

A mosquito bite is a small, round, puffy bump that often becomes red, hard, swollen, and itchy.

Mosquito bites on an arm.
Mosquito bites on an arm. Seney Natural History Association / CC BY-SA

Location: You’ll typically find mosquito bites on parts of the body not covered by clothing: your hands, neck, face, shoulders, legs, and arms. Mosquitoes rarely bite through clothes.

Mosquito bites are random: A mosquito bite can appear as a single bite or several bites scattered on your skin.

When mosquito bites appear: A mosquito bite appears soon after a mosquito has bitten you

Are mosquito bites dangerous?

Mosquitos are one of the most dangerous pests in the world. If you experience extreme redness or itchiness, develop a fever, or are allergic to mosquito bites, you should see your doctor immediately. (See below for How to Treat Mosquito Bites at Home and When to See a Doctor About Mosquito Bites.)

More than 1 million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne illnesses every year. These diseases include West Nile and Zika viruses, yellow fever, encephalitis (brain inflammation), dengue fever, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis.

Nearly 40,000 people in the U.S. have had West Nile virus disease since 1999, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension. More than 17,000 of these people have been seriously ill, and more than 1,600 have died.

Children and the elderly are the most susceptible to these mosquito-borne pathogens.

Keep in mind: Some people make a more attractive mosquito bite target than others.

How to Treat Bed Bug Bites at Home

Bed bug bites will usually heal within one to two weeks. To treat bed bug bites at home:

  • Wash the bites with soap and water, to help prevent a skin infection.
  • Apply a mild corticosteroid cream from your local drugstore if the itch of the bites is uncomfortable, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends.

When to See a Doctor About Bed Bug Bites

The American Academy of Dermatology encourages you to see your dermatologist if you experience the following bed bug bite symptoms:

  • You have several bites.
  • The bites develop into blisters.
  • Infection (bites feel tender or ooze pus). Your dermatologist may prescribe you an antibiotic or recommend an antiseptic medication to treat the infection.
  • An allergic skin reaction (skin turns red and swollen or you develop hives).
  • You have an allergic reaction to bed bug bites. In a severe case, some people may need an antihistamine injection, corticosteroid, or epinephrine (adrenaline).
  • Itchiness. A dermatologist may prescribe an antihistamine pill or liquid.

How to Treat Mosquito Bites at Home

If you’re dealing with a nuisance mosquito bite, the Mayo Clinic recommends these home remedies:

  • Apply a lotion, cream, or paste. Calamine lotion or nonprescription hydrocortisone cream can help stop the mosquito bite from itching.
  • Dab the bite with a paste made of baking soda and water.
  • Apply a cold compress to ease the bite.
  • If you have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites, take a nonprescription antihistamine such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton.

When to See a Doctor About Mosquito Bites

See your doctor immediately if you develop severe symptoms or a fever following a mosquito bite. These could be a sign of a mosquito-borne illness. If you have a severe allergic reaction to mosquito bites, seek medical attention immediately.

When to Call a Pest Control Expert

A pest control professional can provide solutions to help manage your mosquitos or bed bugs.

Call a pest control operator near you when mosquitos keep your family indoors or if you suspect a bed bug infestation in your home. If homemade mosquito repellents don’t work for you or you want an expert to get rid of bed bugs, they can help.

Main Image Credit: Pixabay

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.