Bed Bugs or Mosquito Bite | How to Identify and Treat the Symptoms

Written by Thomas Matthews

After an exhausting day at work, it is now time for your much-awaited slumber. You hurriedly marched towards your bed and closed your eyes. But soon as you wake up, you find numerous red bumps and markings that looked like insect bites. You are quite sure that those were not present before you dozed off. And you began to think, are these bed bug bites or mosquito bites?

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like Compared to Mosquito Bites?

Bed bug bites appear as red blotches on the skin that look like small pimples. Each bite has a red dot on its center and is usually inflamed and swollen. On the other hand, mosquito bites are red bumps on the skin that appear instantly after the bite. They may either be small or large, depending on the degree of sensitivity of the person bitten. 

In distinguishing the two bites, those from the bed bugs are typically clustered in groups and are patterned either in a straight or zigzag line, while those from the mosquitoes have no specific form or pattern. Also, bed bug bites are usually found in the arms, legs, back, neck, and face, while mosquito bites do not have a definite location.

How Can You Tell if Your Bites Are From Bed Bugs?

How Can You Tell if Your Bites Are From Bed Bugs

You can tell if your bites are from bed bugs if they look like tiny zits, have red dots in the middle of the bite location, and are clustered in a distinguishable pattern.

Why Do Bed Bugs Bite?

Why Do Bed Bugs Bite

Bed bugs bite because they principally feed on the blood of their hosts. They can only do this when they pierce the skin of humans and animals to suck blood. Moreover, they have pointed mouthparts and elongated beaks with the main purpose of puncturing and breaking the skin.

When Do Bed Bug Bites Show Up? 

Unlike mosquito bites, bed bug bites do not show up immediately. They are usually unnoticeable and harmless at the moment of the bite. However, they may become itchy and uncomfortable after a few hours or, in the worst-case scenario, after two weeks. Its effects are usually not felt until tiny red bumps appear on the skin.

Related: Are Bed Bug Bites Itchy? | Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

What Can Be Mistaken for Bed Bug Bites?

The bites of the following creatures are often mistaken as bed bug bites:

  • Ticks
  • Mosquitoes
  • Mites
  • Fleas
  • Lice
  • Carpet beetle larvae

How Long Does It Take for Bed Bug Bites to Show?

Since bed bug bites are imperceptible at first, the redness, swelling, and inflammation on the bite area usually start to be apparent after several hours, days, or even weeks. In some cases, it may take up to fourteen days before symptoms of bed bug bites begin to be observable.

How Do You Tell if It’s a Mosquito Bite?

How Do You Tell if It’s a Mosquito Bite

You can tell that it’s a mosquito bite if the red bumps on your skin are not formed in groups or a specific pattern. Also, you can conclude that the bites are from mosquitoes if they are randomly seen in different areas of the body and not confined to a certain part.

What Does a Mosquito Bite Look Like?

Mosquito bites are red and raised blotches on the skin that appear directly after the occurrence of the bite. They don’t have a specific size because their measurement depends on a person’s level of sensitivity. Their bites are also very random and isolated, which means that a person may have one or multiple bites on various parts of the body.

Related: 8 Tiny Bugs in Bed but Not Bed Bugs | How to Identify and Eliminate Them!

How Long Do Mosquito Bites Last?

How Long Do Mosquito Bites Last

A mosquito bite typically lasts for a couple of hours. However, there are times when the bites of these insects will continue to cause redness on the skin for three to four days.

How Do You Stop a Mosquito Bite From Itching?

If you want to stop a mosquito bite from itching, you may employ the following measures:

  • Wash and disinfect the bite location with soap and water or any antiseptic solution.
  • Place an ice pack on the site of the bite as this will effectively minimize itching and swelling.
  • Use baking soda and water in relieving the itchy feeling of the bite. This can be done by mixing one tablespoon of baking soda in water to create a paste solution. Apply it to the bitten area for at least 10 minutes before removing it.
  • For faster relief, you can utilize anti-itch creams and solutions or take anti-histamine medications.

When Should You Worry About a Mosquito Bite?

You should be worried about a mosquito bite if you experience the symptoms of the following diseases and conditions:

  • Dengue Fever. This is an illness brought by an infected bite from the Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. An estimated four billion people are at high risk of acquiring this viral infection, and at least forty thousand individuals die because of it. Symptoms include fever, nausea, body pains, and rash but may progress into vomiting, abdominal pain, and bleeding.
  • West Nile Virus. This is one of the top mosquito-borne illnesses that have ravaged the continental USA. It is acquired when a mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected bird and bites humans and other animals. Most people do not experience any symptoms, but in some cases, affected individuals may suffer from high fever, headache, muscle weakness, paralysis, loss of vision, and convulsions.
  • Anaphylactic Reactions. This condition arises when a person bitten is severely allergic to mosquito bites. It can be life-threatening if not managed right away as it can lead to hives, tachycardia, confusion, difficulty in breathing, and loss of consciousness.

Bed Bug Bite and Mosquito Bite | Identification

Bed Bug Bite

  • Appearance: Red in color and resemble small pimples with red dots at the center.
  • The pattern of bite: Their bites appear in a distinct and clustered pattern such as a zigzag or straight line.
  • Itch factor: Very itchy, but bed bug bites are usually worst during the morning.
  • Location: Usually found on the skin areas that are exposed to the bed like the neck, back, face, chest, arms, and legs.
  • Time of bite: They are active during the night time, so they usually bite during these hours.
  • Reaction time: Their bites are not typically felt right away as skin reactions may commence after a couple of hours or days.
  • Healing time: Their bite may persist for several days.
  • Capacity to cause disease: They are not known to transmit diseases.
  • Hypersensitivity reactions: Bed bugs and mosquito bites may cause allergic reactions in some people but only in rare circumstances.

Related: Bed Bug Bites: How to Treat Bed Bug Bites and Prevent Them

Mosquito Bites

  • Appearance: Their bites are red bumps that may be small or large, depending on a person’s sensitivity to mosquito saliva.
  • The pattern of bite: Isolated and may be found in random areas of the body.
  • Itch factor: The degree of irritation caused by mosquito bites may vary from one person to another.
  • Location: Their bites have no definite location and may be evenly distributed to the different parts of the body.
  • Time of bite: Usually felt between sunset to sunrise.
  • Reaction time: Their bite felt instantaneously.
  • Healing time: Their bites usually resolve faster.
  • Capacity to cause disease: They can be vectors of various illnesses like Dengue fever, West Nile fever, Malaria, and Zika.

What Is the Best Treatment for Mosquito Bites?

If you are looking for the best mosquito bite treatments, it is advisable to buy the following products:

1. Benadryl Extra Strength Anti-Itch Gel 

If you want speedy relief from the itchy feeling of mosquito bites, this product is one of the top choices. It contains Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride, a topical ingredient that can remove itching by blocking the effects of histamine. Moreover, it is ideal for those ages 2 and up and is a perfect first-aid treatment for camping, hiking, and walking activities.

Benadryl Extra Strength Anti-Itch Topical Gel with 2% Diphenhydramine HCI for Itch Relief of Outdoor Itches Associated with Poison Ivy, Insect Bites & More, 3.5 fl. oz
  • 3.5-ounce tube of Benadryl Extra-Strength Anti-Itch Gel...
  • Topical analgesic gel, works when you need it most and provides...
  • The cooling gel provides the relief of pain and itching...
  • Cooling gel that provides relief from most outdoor itches...
  • Intended for use by those ages 2 and up, soothing gel offers itch...

2. Octagon Hanji Magic Band 

These are adhesive bands that relieve itchiness when applied to the location of the mosquito bite. It is made from natural ingredients, so the absence of harmful chemicals and contents is guaranteed. The bands are also non-irritating and breathable, making them very convenient to use.

INISWILL Bug Bite Itch Relief Patch - (270pcs) Octagon Traditional Korean Paper Hanji After Bite Insect Mosquito
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  • Safety : Because Made of "HANJI" (paper), is ventilated, No...
  • Usage : In the Summer, Especially during Outdoor activities...

3. On The Go Handy First Aid Stick 

This product is a pocket-size and handy stick that is efficient in managing itchiness in the skin. It soothes the skin naturally and contains emu oil, a substance that facilitates deep skin penetration and absorption. Other than that, it can also be utilized for bruises, scratches, sunburn, chapped lips, minor burns, and small cuts.

Emu Joy On The Go Anti Itch Cream Stick - Burn Cream, Bug Bite Itch Relief First Aid Stick for Scratches, Stings, Burns, from Mosquito, Bed Bugs, Bee Sting Relief & Bug Bite Cream Stick (1pk)
  • Effective Itch Relief: Our first aid stick works as an itch cream...
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  • Suitable for Various Skin Conditions: Use this stick for more...
  • Safe and Gentle Formulation: This product is ideal for adults and...
  • Convenient and Easy to Use: Our itch relief stick is compact and...

Does Toothpaste Help Mosquito Bites?

Toothpaste may help in relieving mosquito bites. The menthol found in this product is efficient in calming the itchy feeling, making it a common first-aid treatment in many households.

Treatment for Bed Bug Bites

The treatment for bed bug bites focuses on itch relief and prevention of infection. This can be done by washing the site of the bite with soap and water or pouring a disinfectant solution on the said area. It is also helpful to put cold compress, topical analgesics and steroid creams, calamine lotion, and antihistamine medications on the irritated area to give it a soothing sensation.

What Is the Best Cream to Use for Bed Bug Bites?

Being bitten by a bed bug can be very itchy. To relieve this irritating feeling, use the following creams and solutions:

1. Cortizone 10 Anti-Itch Cream 

This product contains hydrocortisone, an ingredient that is very potent in relieving itchiness and discomfort in the skin. It can last for several hours when applied and helps to soothe and calm the skin with its aloe vera content.

Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength Cream With Aloe, 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, 1 oz. - Packaging May Vary
  • CONTAINS: (1) 1-oz. tube of Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength Cream...
  • FAST RELIEF: This anti-itch cream with aloe relieves itching fast...
  • SOOTHING ALOE VERA: Maximum Strength Cortizone 10 is formulated...
  • STOP THE ITCHSANITY: Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength Anti-Itch...
  • RELIEVES ITCH: Cortizone 10 With Aloe is great for relieving itch...

2. Murphy’s Naturals Insect Bite Relief Soothing Balm 

If you are looking for a soothing solution that is made up of natural ingredients, this product will be one of your best choices. It has sunflower seed oil, olive oil, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, lavender oil, and chamomile that are known to calm and mellow the site of the bite. Moreover, it is very safe to use as it has no harmful chemicals or synthetic fragrances.

Murphy's Naturals Insect Bite Relief Soothing Balm | Plant Based, All Natural Ingredients | Travel/Pocket Sized | 0.75oz
  • Harness the Soothing Power of Nature: Natural soothing powers of...
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  • Recyclable and Reusable Tin

3. Tecnu Calagel Anti-Itch Gel 

This anti-itch gel from the brand Calagel offers maximum relief from insect bites, outdoor itches, sunburns, rashes, and other skin conditions. It is due to the analgesic quality of its contents that provides prompt and instant relief from pain and inflammation. 

Tecnu Calagel Anti-Itch Gel, Maximum Strength Itch Relief for Rashes, Bug Bites, Stings and Minor Burn Relief, 6 oz
  • Quick, effective relief for insect bites, bug bites, sunburn and...
  • Maximum strength pain relief and itch relief
  • Wonderful for sunburn relief
  • Goes on clear - no stains or pink residue
  • Made with diphenhydramine HCl 2%

List of Sources

Mosquito Bite Symptoms and Treatment. (2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mosquito Bites. (2021). U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus.
Bed Bugs FAQs. (2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thomas Matthews
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