Scabies vs. Bed Bugs: Similarities and Differences

Although scabies and bed bugs are very similar and irritating, they aren’t the exact same pest. Let’s examine what scabies and bed bugs are, and how to deal with each.

What Are Scabies?

Unlike bed bugs, scabies is an infection of nearly microscopic mites with the scientific name Sarcoptes scabiei. The term scabies is used for both the infection and the mites, generally. They do look very insectoid when you peer at them with a microscope, though. They have eight legs and typically burrow under the skin to lay eggs. Naturally, this can cause itching and other signs of irritation in the poor host. Sometimes scabies can also bite you, leaving distinctive marks.

Scabies bites can be identified with their rash-like appearance. They also leave burrows in your skin that look like white lines atop your skin’s surface. These marks can quickly become red or swollen, especially if the young laid there start to hatch. Usually, scabies bites are near your joints or wrists.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are insects that you can actually see with your naked eye. Rather than burrow under your skin and lay young, bed bugs suck the blood from atop your skin after emerging from hiding places in your bed or headboards. They find you by being able to sense your odor as you sleep.

Their bites are also fairly distinctive, causing itching and irritation. The bites usually look quite blotchy, and oftentimes bed bugs will “hibernate” and going to hiding to make you think they’ve left. Bed bugs will bite you anywhere, rather than congregating in certain areas.

What Are Their Similarities?

Both bed bugs and scabies feed on your blood, either for nourishment or for mating purposes. Both are very small and difficult to spot without first spotting the symptoms of their infestation.

They also tend to enjoy infesting beds and bedrooms, usually because these are the areas where you lie immobile for long periods of time.

They both bite in sudden spurts, and an infection from either will spread in no time if you don’t start taking care of it quickly. Bed bugs and scabies bites will also spread or develop into more harmful lesions if left untreated.

What Are Their Differences?

Despite their similarities, both of these pests have some major differences.

For instance, bed bugs feed on the surface of your body while scabies burrow beneath your skin to suck your blood and lay their eggs. This is because bed bugs have specialized mouths that can penetrate your skin, whereas scabies mites must dig deeper to bite.

You can also see bed bugs with the naked eye, but scabies is essentially invisible. It is possible to occasionally see some male scabies scurrying about, but it’s very difficult.

There are also differences in the appearances of both species’ bites. Scabies bites look like raised white lines that eventually become inflamed bumps. These papules will fester, especially as young scabies mites grow and continue to infect you.

Bedbug bites are red and alarming immediately. They also usually show up in patterns of three in a row, as the bug moves from spot to spot to feed.

Bite symptoms vary as well. Scabies infestations will eventually cause yellow crusting and scaling of the bites, and eventually lesions will grow from them. These lesions will spread over huge portions of your skin and things will only become worse. The infection also progresses quite quickly since scabies babies grow every 2 to 6 weeks. The newborns will lay eggs only a few days later. Bleh!

Meanwhile, bed bug bites will only become more numerous as new bed bugs are born and continue to nibble on your body while you sleep. These don’t normally develop as badly as an untreated scabies infection, but we still wouldn’t recommend letting bed bugs remain as the little vampires they are.

Do you feel itchy reading this yet?!

How Do You Treat Scabies or Bed Bugs?

Thankfully, you can treat scabies or bed bugs very consistently.

Scabies

To treatise a scabies infection, you need to visit your doctor to get diagnosed properly first. They’ll be able to tell right away if you actually are infected with scabies or if you are suffering from a different condition.

After diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe several medications that can reduce the intensity of your symptoms and get rid of scabies over time. These medications will frequently be creams or lotions, which you will then apply all across your body. The lotions will remain on your skin for up to 8 to 10 hours and may require more than one application.

But these lotions are excellent at killing all scabies mites, even those burrowed into your skin. Be sure to avoid contact with other humans while your infection progresses, as you can easily spread mites to your family members if you aren’t careful!

Even with medication, you might find that you still itch for a few weeks afterward. This is normal, and the itching will go away eventually.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs must be killed! Like many other insectoid pests, they love to hide in dark and cramped areas. Due to their small size, they can be particularly hard to root out. You’ll need to check all the nooks and crannies of your bedroom and furniture to find where they’re hiding.

That includes:

  • Your electrical sockets
  • Your couch and chair seams
  • Your curtain folds
  • The edges of pictures
  • Bookcases
  • Your bed, of course

If all that sounds like a lot of work, you might consider calling a bedbug exterminator. Specialists who know exactly what to look for might have more immediate success when hunting down your bedbug infestation.

But you can kill the bugs using bleach and standard rags, as well. You can also vacuum bed bugs away. Just expect to feel a bit squeamish while you work. Remember to wear protective clothing and wash it right away after wiping the invaders from your home.

Conclusion

Regardless of their differences, both scabies and bed bugs are harmful pests that you could always do without. Be sure to stay on the lookout for signs of an infection and take steps to get rid of them ASAP if you ever suspect their presence. Good hunting!

Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham
Hello, Andrew is the co-founder and lead editor for DailyPest.

More Reading