The main indicator of bed bug bites vs mosquito bites is the appearance of the bite: red and flat (bedbug) vs raised and clear (mosquito). Mosquito bites can carry serious diseases, making quick identification important.
How to identify bed bugs vs mosquito bites:
Both bed bug and mosquito bites itch. While bed bugs tend to be more of a nuisance than anything else, mosquito bites can present serious health concerns, especially in areas with known outbreaks. Here are the major differences between the two:
- Raised vs Flat: Bed bug bites tend to be flat unless scratched, while mosquito bites tend to form a round, raised bump.
- Clear vs Red: Bed bug bites generally appear red, because bed bugs actually expose blood in order to suck it out. Mosquitoes insert needle-like mouths into the skin resulting in a clear surface unless scratched.
- Itchiness: Mosquito bites generally itch right away. Bed bugs use anesthetic before exposing the skin, resulting in no itch at all or else a delayed itch after the anesthetic wears out.
- Cluster: Mosquito bites will often happen one at a time or in random parts of the body. Bed bug bites almost always happen in clusters or lines as the bed bug works its way across the skin.
- Location and Timing: Bed bugs generally bite in bed while asleep. Mosquitoes almost always bite outside in the night-time hours when they're active.
Where mosquitoes and bed bugs live:
Mosquitos generally live outdoors, near standing water which they need to breed. Breeding takes up much of an individual mosquito's lifespan because these insects live for an average of two weeks with only a few adult days available to fly around and to procreate. Bed bugs can live almost anywhere, but they like to hide in creases and crevices, coming out only in the dark. Bed bugs can live for years without food, waiting for a warm body to feed on.
Avoiding mosquito bites:
Mosquito-proofing a home generally involves putting up barriers and minimizing standing water. Open windows should always have screens in place. Doors should be left closed when not in use. Any cracks in exterior walls or floors should be repaired promptly. While outdoors, deterrents include repellent sprays, citronella candles and minimizing exposed skin. Mosquitos are especially active at night and in wooded areas.
Avoiding bed bug bites:
If bed bugs get into a home, removal usually requires professional intervention by a pest control specialist, because they are hardy creatures. Effective treatments can be dangerous to humans. In order to prevent bed bugs from entering a home, travelers should take care to keep luggage and folded clothes away from beds and carpets. Bed bugs like to hide in any available crevices and hitch rides to their new home.
Bed bug bite treatment:
In most cases, bed bug bites represent a nuisance and nothing more. Bed bugs have no known serious health risks. In rare cases, bites may lead to serious allergic reactions requiring medical treatment for severe swelling or continued irritation. Milder bed bug bite symptoms can be treated with anti-itch medication, such as calamine lotion.
Mosquito bite treatment:
Like bed bug bites, most mosquito bites will fade over time, with no serious reaction apart from itchiness and swelling. In most cases, people can use anti-itch medication and wait for the bumps to disappear. Unfortunately, in some cases, mosquitoes also carry serious diseases. Following are some of the serious contagions that mosquitoes sometimes carry.
Known in North America:
The following mosquito-borne illnesses are known to be carried in North America, including the United States.
- Encephalitis: Although not as common in North America as in other parts of the world, some strains of encephalitis have been found in North American mosquitoes. Encephalitis refers to a broad variety of viruses that cause swelling in the brain. If left untreated, swelling can lead to brain damage and other neurological conditions. Encephalitis types found in North America include EEE or Eastern Equine Encephalitis and SLEV or St. Louis Encephalitis Virus. Most people exposed to these viruses never show symptoms, but in some cases, people develop severe illness. There is no way to predict who will get sick. After exposure, symptoms generally take from five to 15 days to manifest, if at all. Symptoms appear similar to the flu and include fever, headaches, dizziness and nausea.
- West Nile Virus: Like other encephalitis variants, West Nile is fairly rare in North America, but mosquitoes carrying this virus have been found. Most people exposed to West Nile never develop symptoms. Those who do usually experience a fairly mild, flu-like illness. In rare cases, West Nile can cause serious, lasting neurological damage due to its more aggressive nature.
Known outside North America:
Although these illnesses have not yet been spotted in native North American mosquitoes, travelers to and from other parts of the world occasionally bring these diseases back with them.
- Zika: Although localized to South America, scientists remain vigilant in watching for cases of Zika in the northern hemisphere. This virus represents a far more severe and contagious form of encephalitis, especially dangerous to babies.
- Yellow Fever: Another mosquito-borne illness native to South America, southern states such as Florida continue to watch in case Yellow Fever heads north. This disease has symptoms similar to other encephalitis viruses.
- Japanese encephalitis: Asian forms of mosquito-borne encephalitis tend to be far more dangerous than those found in North America, with a 25% fatality rate.
- Malaria: Over 200 million people each year contract malaria, and almost all of these cases occur in Africa, where mosquitoes carry the parasite that causes this disease. In extremely rare cases, mosquitoes travel by airplane to another area causing "airport malaria" in travelers at that airport. Small outbreaks occasionally happen in the United States as a result of carrier insects, usually in the southern states.
Treatments for mosquito-borne illness:
Unfortunately, most mosquito-borne illnesses have no known cure. Doctors can treat severe symptoms, especially if discovered as soon as possible, but they cannot cure the underlying disease. For this reason, the CDC strongly recommends that people avoid mosquito bites when possible, especially in areas of known concern. If bitten by a mosquito that might be carrying one of the above diseases, people should pay close attention for the two weeks following and seek immediate medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms. They should do so both for their own sakes and in order to alert the CDC of a possible outbreak.