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What is the Difference Between Bed Bugs and Scabies?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The primary difference between bed bugs and scabies is that bed bugs are a kind of insect, while scabies are small mites. Bed bugs and scabies both eat by feeding on human blood, but they do it in different ways. Scabies mites are too small to see with the naked eye, and they will burrow into a person’s skin for the purpose of laying eggs and feeding. Bed bugs generally hide in a person’s furniture and come out after dark to feed. The symptoms of bed bugs and scabies on the skin are also very different from each other, with scabies targeting very specific areas and bedbugs biting any area on the body without a preference.

When bed bugs bite someone, they generally inject the person with a numbing agent. Most people are allergic to this substance, and this allergy is normally what causes the bumps to appear. After being bitten by bed bugs, there will often be a pattern of bumps over a relatively wide area of the skin. Bed bugs have very soft bodies that easily bust, especially when they’re full of blood, and this can leave behind small blood spots on a person’s mattress.

Scabies tend to target certain specific zones on the body. They are particularly common on a person’s wrist and in the creases between the fingers. It’s also common for people to have scabies sores under the area of the stomach, around the genitals, on the elbows, and between the toes. At the beginning of the infestation, the scabies sores will often look like white lines in the skin, but over time, they will generally become inflamed red bumps. These bumps tend to itch pretty badly, and people will often scratch them aggressively enough to open up the skin and possibly cause additional skin infections.

The treatments for bed bugs and scabies infestations are very different from each other. Most doctors prescribe medicated creams for scabies rashes. Without these medications, a person may not be able to get rid of scabies. Scabies is also contagious, so there are often a lot of precautions taken to avoid passing the infestation on to other people.

In the case of bed bugs, all that is generally required is to kill the insects. There are pesticides that can do this, but they generally aren’t recommended because of the potential dangers of such substances. Most solutions for dealing with bed bugs revolve around dealing with the infested furniture or linens. Bed bugs have a low tolerance for heat, so many experts recommend washing linens at an especially high temperature and sealing off the area in furniture where bed bugs may be hiding.

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Discussion Comments

By pleonasm — On Nov 04, 2013

For a few days last week I was sure that I had bed bugs, because a rash I had never seen before started popping up on my stomach. It didn't look quite like the pictures online of the bug bites, but it was itchy and it always showed up in the morning.

I realized after a few days that it was actually an allergy to a new detergent. So, before you attempt to get rid of bed bugs, make sure they are the problem you actually have.

By lluviaporos — On Nov 03, 2013

@croydon - Bedbugs are pretty terrible, but I think what always freaked me out about them is that they are practically invisible and yet they invade your personal space so much.

Which is why I think scabies are worse, because they are inside your body. It's really gross finding out that you're basically infested with insects.

My sister managed to get scabies from school one year when we were kids and the only thing that stopped us from being complete outcasts was that it seemed like half the school had also got them.

By croydon — On Nov 02, 2013

I really hate bedbugs. I was staying in a small apartment that had some once and it drove me absolutely insane trying to get rid of them.

My landlady decided that the only way to get rid of them was to steam clean the mattress, which is all very well if they are in the mattress, but they sometimes hide in the walls.

I also had a very untidy roommate at the time who would sleep over at other people's homes and I'm sure she's the one who ended up bringing them back and reinfecting my room over and over.

In the end I managed to bribe the caretaker to go over my room with bed bug spray so that took care of them. Normally I'd be opposed to using chemicals but they were driving me crazy to the point where I was ready to try anything.

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