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  • Writer's pictureNoel McCarthy

Bed Bugs v. Scabies - 5 Simple Ways to Tell The Difference

Updated: Mar 25

This is an updated version of an article that was originally published Nov 8, 2021.

Discovering pests in your home can be alarming, but it's crucial to accurately identify the culprit. So before you start searching Google desperately for tips on how to get rid of bed bugs, you want to make sure that bed bugs are indeed the pest on hand. For example, scabies are often confused with bed bugs. These two common pests both cause issues, but they require different approaches for eradication.

Here's how to differentiate between scabies and bed bugs, plus pro tips on what to do if you've found them at your home or office. Once you know who you're up against, you can start getting rid of the buggers!

how to tell bed bugs and scabies apart

While bed bugs and scabies both feed on your blood, bed bugs attack externally, while scabies burrow under your skin. (We agree it's pretty gross.) And while bed bugs are small, they are visible. Scabies on the other hand are microscopic in size, which means you can’t see them.

Let's take a closer look at the differences.

A Microscopic Menace: How To Tell If You Have Scabies

Scabies bites can look very much like bed bug bites. For details, see our Guide to Common Bug Bites. Unlike bed bugs, however, scabies mites are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. These tiny mites dig themselves under the skin, leading to intense itching and a rash-like appearance. If your not sure if it's scabies, look for raised red bumps and visible burrows under the skin, often found between fingers and toes, in armpits, and under nail beds.

Found the culprit? Now learn more about getting rid of scabies.

Identifying Bed Bugs: Visible and Voracious

Bed bugs, on the other hand, are visible to the naked eye and feed on blood from outside the skin. Their bites result in raised, flat red welts, usually in rows of three. Bed bug bites are commonly found on areas of skin that are exposed during sleep, such as the shoulders, arms, legs, back, and face.

Learn more about how to get rid of bed bugs.

5 Key Ways to Tell Scabies and Bed Bug Bites Apart

Here are 5 pro tips to help you differentiate between scabies and bed bug bites:

  1. Bed Bug Bite Appearance: Bed bug bites are raised, flat red welts, characteristically in rows of three.

  2. Scabies Bite Appearance: Scabies bites look more like a rash.

  3. Burrow Visibility: Scabies burrows are grayish-white and appear in raised lines. Scabies mites tunnel under the skin to lay eggs, which is what causes the itching.

  4. Swelling or Papules: Scabies can quickly turn into reddened, swollen contusions known as papules, which can fester.

  5. Bite Location: Scabies can occur on wrists, joint areas, finger webs, and the back, while bed bug bites are typically found on exposed skin during sleep.

Taking Action: How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs and Scabies - for Good!

If you suspect scabies, a quick trip to your primary care doctor is in order. Scabies rash can be easily treated with prescription medications. You will also want to treat your home with a powerful insecticide, spraying linens, bedding, curtains and rugs.

For bed bug infestations, thorough cleaning, vacuuming, and professional pest control may be necessary to eradicate the pests completely. Topical, over the counter creams such as Cortaid or Benadryl can be applied to the bites, but the bites will resolve on its own once you've gotten rid of the bugs themselves.

Sterifab Insecticide Get Rid of Scabies bed bugs

Treating and Eliminating Scabies

As we said, when it comes to scabies, the first sign of infection is almost always intense itching. What may look like a rash on your skin is in fact a collection of tiny red bumps.

scabies rash or scabies bites on a right hand

If you think are you are infected with scabies, your doctor can easily confirm it and provide treatment. There are a number of medications ̶ including anti-inflammatory drugs ̶ that can be used to successfully treat the infection.

If you don’t seek medical help, the rash can turn into unsightly yellow crusting, scaling and skin lesions that can spread across your body without treatment! Scabies has an incubation period of 2 to 6 weeks. Once these nasty insects have infested your body, they can lay two or three eggs inside your body every day.

Read more about how to get rid of scabies - for good.

Let’s Not Forget the Bed Bugs!

With bed bugs, the bites will also likely be your first warning that these pests have invaded your bedroom. Bed bugs usually like to bite those areas of skin that are exposed during sleep, typically the shoulders, arms, legs, back and face. Bed bug bites also tend to be in a row.

bed bug bites in rows

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Without treatment your bed bug problem will get worse. If you don’t take steps to kill the pests, they will multiply and continue to bite. So, kill bed bugs immediately! electrical sockets and laptop When cleaning your house or office, be thorough. Bed bugs can be found almost anywhere, from inside electronics, within the folds of your curtains, clustered in the seams of chairs and couches, in book cases and even in pictures and wall hangings. 

Follow these pro steps to learn more about how to get rid of bed bugs.

Want a spray that can get rid of both bed bugs and scabies?

(Sterifab works on both!)


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