Scabies vs. bed bugs: identification and treatment


Bed bugs and scabies mites are often confused. After all, they’re both irritating pests that are known to cause itchy bites. The bites can also look like eczema or mosquito bites, which can increase confusion.

However, it is worth noting that beetles and scabies mites are different organisms. Each pest requires a different method of treatment and removal.

Because of this, it’s important to know the differences between scabies and bedbugs. By properly identifying the pest, you can determine how best to treat your bites and control an infestation.

Read on to learn more about these two pests and how to tell the difference between them.

Here are the main differences between bedbugs and scabies mites, and the infestation they cause.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are tiny parasitic insects. They feed on human blood, but can also eat blood from other mammals, including cats and dogs.

The physical properties of bed bugs include:

  • flat, oval body
  • wingless
  • six legs
  • 5 to 7 millimeters, about the size of an apple core (adults)
  • white or translucent (babies)
  • brown (adult)
  • dark red after feeding (adults)
  • sweet, musty smell

Bed bugs do not affect human skin. Instead, they invade dark and dry rooms, like the seams of a mattress. It can also affect crevices in the bed frame, in furniture, or even in the curtains.

The main sign of an infestation is the presence of bed bugs. Other indications are:

  • reddish spots on the litter (from crushed bedbugs)
  • dark spots (bug droppings)
  • small eggs or eggshells
  • yellowish skin of babies

Bed bugs cause an infestation by traveling with objects. They “hitchhike” things like luggage, furniture and used clothing.

But while a nuisance, these living things are not known to spread disease.

Scabies mites

Scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) are tiny insect-like organisms. They are related to ticks and other arthropods. The type that typically infects humans is called Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis, or the human itch mite.

The mites attack and eat human skin tissue. Their physical characteristics include:

  • round, baggy body
  • wingless
  • eyeless
  • eight legs
  • microscopic size (invisible to the human eye)

In the event of an infestation, an impregnated female digs a tunnel into the upper layer of the skin. Here she lays two to three eggs a day. The tunnel can be between 1 and 10 millimeters long.

After the eggs hatch, the larvae migrate to the surface of the skin, where they grow and spread to other parts of the body.

“Scabies” refers to an infestation with scabies mites. This usually happens through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies. Sometimes the mites can spread to clothing or bedding.

Share on PinterestScabies mites are invisible to the human eye. This is a microscopic picture of one.

The bites of bedbugs and scabies differ in many ways.

Symptoms of bedbug bites

Bug bites cause:

  • itchy, red welts
  • Welts in a zigzag row
  • Build-up of bites (usually 3 to 5)
  • bites all over the body

However, some people do not respond to bedbug bites. The bites can even look like mosquito bites, eczema, or hives.

It’s also possible to develop an allergic reaction to bedbug bites. This can lead to symptoms such as swelling and pain.

Symptoms of scabies bites

On the other hand, signs of itch bites are:

  • severe itching
  • Itching that gets worse at night
  • small bumps or blisters
  • blotchy rash
  • scale
  • thin, raised, irregular rows
  • whitish-gray or skin-colored rows

Sometimes scabies and eczema are confused with each other.

The mites burrow in the irregular rows or tunnels. This usually includes wrinkles in the skin, including:

  • between the fingers
  • inner wrists
  • inner elbows
  • Nipples
  • Armpits
  • Shoulder blades
  • waist
  • knee
  • buttocks

Treatment of bed bug bites

Bed bug bites usually go away on their own in 1 to 2 weeks. Here are some ways to treat symptoms:

  • Hydrocortisone cream. Over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream can relieve swelling and itching caused by insect bites.
  • Antihistamines. OTC antihistamines or creams might also help.
  • Prescription drugs. If you experience severe itching, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication.

It is best to avoid scratching the bites, which can lead to infection. In this case, you may need an antibiotic.

Scabies bites treatment

Scabies requires prescription treatment, such as:

  • 5% permethrin cream. This cream is applied topically once a week for 2 weeks.
  • Crotamiton cream or lotion. Crotamiton is used once a day for 2 days. This medication often doesn’t work and may not be safe for some.
  • Lindane lotion. If you’re not a good candidate for other treatments or they don’t work, you can get lindane topically.
  • Oral ivermectin. If you don’t respond to topical medications, you may be prescribed oral ivermectin. However, it’s not specifically approved by the FDA for scabies.

These treatments are designed to kill the scabies mites and eggs. The itching lasts for a few weeks. You can use the following to relieve the discomfort:

In addition to treating the bites, it’s also important to remove the infestation. Each type of pest requires a different approach.

Bed bug infestation

To get rid of bed bugs, you need a holistic approach. This is because bed bugs infest the dark, dry areas of a house.

Here’s how you can stop a bed bug infestation:

  • Wash all clothing and bed linen in very hot water (at least 49 ° C).
  • Dry-clean washed clothes and linens in a high heat dryer.
  • Vacuum your mattress, sofa and other furniture.
  • If you can’t remove bed bugs from a piece of furniture, replace it.
  • Seal cracks in furniture, walls or floors.

You may need to call a pest controller. You can use a strong insecticide spray to kill the bedbugs.

Scabies infestation

The scabies are removed from the skin during the treatment. There are things you can do to remove scabies from your home to prevent re-infestation.

Machine wash and dry your things on high heat. This includes elements such as:

Even without human skin, itch mites die in 2 to 3 days. Hence, you can remove scabies from objects by avoiding physical contact for at least 3 days.

Bed bugs affect mattresses and furniture. To get rid of them, you need to decontaminate your home.

Scabies mites attack human skin. This requires medical treatment.

Both types of pests can bite and irritate the skin. Your doctor can recommend the best treatments and remedies to help you find relief.


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