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Scabies and Bed Bugs: Who Is at Risk?

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Scabies and bed bugs are often mentioned in the same breath, not because the insects involved are greatly alike, but because people often confuse the appearance of bed bug bites with the marks left by the scabies mite (or Sarcoptes scabiei, as it is formally known).

scabies vs bed bugs - who is at risk | Sterifab bed bug spray
HI there scabies! I am a bed bug. Nice to meet you.

The confusion between the two pests is easy to understand, but the way in which they are treated is quite different. In fact, they are so dissimilar that an incorrect diagnosis can result in sometimes unpleasant consequences.

So, before we talk about how to eradicate scabies mites and bed bugs, we need a little more information about the two pests.

Scabies: The Equal Opportunity Assailant

Contrary to popular belief, scabies is not restricted to inner-city slums or sub-standard housing. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out:

"Scabies is a common condition found worldwide; it affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies can spread easily under crowded conditions where close body and skin contact are common. Institutions such as nursing homes, extended-care facilities, and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks. Child care facilities also are a common site of scabies infestations.”

To begin with, scabies is caused by small mites, whereas bed bugs are, in fact, insects. Quite different. But they do have one thing in common: they both feed on human blood. However, scabies mites burrow under the victim’s skin to both feed and lay their eggs. Bed bugs, on the other hand, feed on the surface of the skin ̶ and they aren’t particularly choosy which part.

Scabies mites tend to target specific parts of the human body, such as the wrist, between the fingers, the stomach, on the elbows and between the toes.