No one wants to share their home with a parasite. Pests are bad enough, but parasites actually feed on you and you need to get rid of them – fast! Bed bugs and scabies are, unfortunately, relatively common invaders of our space. Though equally unwelcome, you need to be able to tell them apart if you are going to eliminate them. The symptoms of bites and itchiness may be in common, but that’s where the similarities end.


What are bed bugs?

Adult bed bugs are small apple seed-shaped and colored insects that love to hide in nooks and crannies and come out at night to feed on your blood. Although they feed on you, they don’t live on you, preferring to find dark dry spaces where they can breed in peace. These include the seams of your mattress, bed linen, clothing, and any crevices they can find.

You’ll know if you have an infestation by these signs:

  • Small raised reddish bites on your skin that itch (though a few people do not react to being bitten), often in groups of three to five.
  • Small specks of blood on your sheets.
  • Bed bug excrement which looks like tiny black specks.
  • Some people notice a musty smell, usually in the bedroom.
  • Presence of the adults – adult bed bugs can be up to 7 mm long so are perfectly visible if you can find them.

It is important to note that while a small minority of people are hypersensitive to the bites of bed bugs these insects do not transmit disease to their human hosts. Adult bed bugs vary in size but are usually 5-7mm in length.


What is scabies?

Scabies mites are also small critters, but are arthropods, related to ticks and spiders, and have eight legs rather than six. This is rather academic as they are microscopic and can’t be seen by the naked eye. The mites live and feed on you and in you. The pregnant females burrow under your skin to lay their eggs and the larvae make their way back to the surface to grow and spread. Scabies is the term used for an infestation of the scabies mite.


How To Tell If You’ve Got Bed Bugs or Scabies

The bites are the easiest way to differentiate these two parasites:

  • Though both bites will usually get red, scabies bites are usually accompanied by pale grayish or skin-colored lines – made by the burrows.
  • Bed bug bites are usually in small clusters while scabies bites usually appear as patches, rather like a rash.
  • A bed bug bite is raised like a mosquito bite while those of scabies are more like raised lines, blisters, or scales. In fact, scabies can be confused with eczema.
  • The bites of scabies usually cause more extreme itchiness than bed bug bites, particularly at night.
  • Bed bugs can bite you anywhere on your body and while that is also true of scabies the mites tend to favor folds in the skin – like elbows, armpits, between the fingers, and the waist, for example.

Treatment for Bed Bugs vs Scabies

It is important to know which you are dealing with as the treatments are so different. While a bed bug professional will be able to help rid your home of bed bugs with a heat treatment, the same cannot be said of scabies.

If you suspect you’re dealing with scabies, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible. They will prescribe one of a number of proven topical medications that will get rid of the problem quickly. Often, anyone who has been in close contact with the sufferer will also need treatment.

If you aren’t sure but worry it is scabies, ask your doctor to take a look for you. They’ll be able to help you know whether you need medication or to contact a bed bug professional. If you need the latter, click here to find a bed bug specialist near you.