Scabies Vs Bed Bugs: What’s the Difference?

Scabies Vs Bed Bugs What's the Difference

Scabies and bed bugs are both irritating pests that cause itchy bites. Since these bites appear the same and cause itching and irritation, they are often mistaken for each other. Sometimes, these bites also look like mosquito bites, increasing the confusion even more. 

It is when having detailed insight between the two and comparing scabies vs. bedbugs under different aspects helps. 

In this article, you will learn how these two parasitic insects differ from each other. By the end of the article, you will also learn how to treat their bites effectively. 

Difference Between Scabies and Bed Bugs 

What Is Bedbugs?

What Is Bedbugs

Bed Bugs are small parasitic insects with flat and oval bodies (1). They do not have wings but six legs through which they crawl and reach the human body to feed on their blood. Besides humans, bed bugs also feed on the blood of other mammals like cats and dogs. 

These tiny insects stay hidden between the seams of your mattresses and upholstery where the place is dark and dry. If you see any of the below, it could indicate bedbug infestation-

  • When bed bugs get crushed, they leave reddish marks on the bedding 
  • Bedbug excreta may leave dark brown spots 
  • Small eggs or eggshells 

They make their way to the human body by traveling on used clothes, furniture, luggage, etc. Luckily, other than causing itchy skin, these bed bugs do not cause any other disease. 

What Is Scabies?

what is SCABIES

An infestation of scabies mites is called scabies (2). 

Scabies mites are very tiny (microscopic) mites that are not visible to the naked eye. They are often termed ticks and have a round sac-like body. They are also wingless like bedbugs but have eight legs. Also, scabies do not have eyes. 

An impregnated scabies lays 2 to 3 eggs daily in a burrow that it creates on the upper skin surface. Once hatched, these larvae travel to the skin, where they grow and spread to other body parts. Scabies mites can spread from skin-to-skin contact or by using clothes or bedding for people with scabies mite infestation.

Symptoms of Scabies Vs Bed Bugs

When the bedbug bites, the skin develops itchy and red welts in a cluster that usually appear in a zigzag row. You can see 3 to 5 clusters of bites in the body part. Sometimes, these bites look like mosquito bites or hives. They also overlap the symptoms of eczema

Some people develop allergic reactions to bedbug bites, leading to pain and swelling in the bitten areas (3). 

On the other hand, the bites of scabies mites will cause severe itching that will get worse over time. You will see tiny bumps and patchy rashes on the skin surface. These bumps appear in irregular skin-colored rows that are the tunnels where mites lay eggs.  

Scabies mites form tunnels in the skin folds (4), such as-

  • between fingers
  • inner wrists
  • inner elbows
  • nipples
  • armpits
  • shoulder blades
  • waist
  • knees
  • buttocks

Below is the table differentiating scabies and bedbugs under different heads for better understanding-

AspectScabiesBed Bugs
CauseInfestation by the Sarcoptes scabiei miteInfestation by the Cimex lectularius insect
Bite AppearanceSmall, red bumps or blisters, often in a line or clusterRed, itchy welts or bumps, often in a linear pattern or clustered
Bite LocationCommonly found between fingers, wrists, elbows, armpits, waist, genital area, and buttocksCommonly found on exposed skin areas, such as face, neck, arms, and hands
Time of ActivityMore active at night when the host is sleepingMore active at night when the host is sleeping
TransmissionDirect skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or sharing infested clothing or beddingInfestation occurs through contact with infested furniture, luggage, or clothing
SymptomsIntense itching, especially at night, rash, small bumps, sores from scratchingItchy skin, red welts or bumps, allergic reactions, anxiety or sleep disturbances
DiagnosisSkin scraping examination under a microscope, sometimes clinical diagnosis based on symptomsVisual inspection of bedding, furniture, and skin, and identification of bed bug bites
TreatmentPrescription topical creams or oral medications to kill mites and eggs, thorough cleaning of bedding and clothingInsecticide treatment, vacuuming, laundering bedding and clothing in hot water, professional extermination may be required
PreventionAvoiding direct contact with infected individuals, practicing good hygiene, avoiding sharing personal itemsRegular inspection of bedding, furniture, and luggage, sealing cracks and crevices, using mattress and pillow covers

Treatment  options of Scabies and Bed Bugs

The symptoms of bedbugs can be managed by using antihistamines and over-the-counter creams to reduce swelling and itching. If the discomfort and swelling is severe, you can visit a doctor to get prescription medicines. 

Avoid scratching the sites of bites as it increases the chances of infection.

There are no home remedies or over-the-counter medications for scabies. Therefore, visit a doctor to get prescription medicines. 

How Do You Remove Scabies or Bed Bugs?

Removing infestation is the first step to prevent bites. 

For bedbugs, you need to manage your home and bedding. For instance, washing clothes, upholstery, and bedding in warm water is essential, as these are the places where bedbugs hide. 

Vacuum your furniture and seal their cracks. You may also need to check the cracks in walls and floors and seal them. In case of severe infestation, call a professional pest removal service. 

For scabies, wash your clothes, bedding, towels, and other fabrics in warm water. Dry them under the sun or on high heat. 

When scabies do not get human skin to live and feed, they die within 2 to 3 days. So, try to avoid physical contact with the things that you believe are infested with scabies mites.


Comparing scabies vs. bedbugs based on symptoms is a little tricky as some of them overlap. However, this article has provided a number of differences between scabies and bedbugs that will help you differentiate the two. 

If you are still not able to identify the cause of your itchy skin, visit a doctor for the right diagnosis and treatment.

Image Source : canva

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