Scabies Vs. Mattress Bugs: Identification and Remedy


Bedbugs and scabies mites are often confused with one another. After all, they’re both irritating pests that are known to cause itchy bites. The bites can also look like eczema or mosquito bites, which can increase confusion.

However, it is worth noting that insect and scabies mites are different organisms. Each pest requires a different method of treatment and removal.

Because of this, it’s important to know the differences between scabies and bedbugs. By properly identifying the pest, you can find the best way to treat your bites and manage an infestation.

Read on to learn more about these two pests and how to tell the difference between them.

Here are the main differences between bedbugs and scabies mites, along with the infestation they cause.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are tiny parasitic insects. They feed on human blood, but can also eat blood from other mammals, including cats and dogs.

The physical properties of bed bugs include:

  • flat, oval body
  • wingless
  • six legs
  • 5 to 7 millimeters, about the size of an apple seed (adult)
  • white or translucent (babies)
  • brown (adult)
  • dark red after feeding (adults)
  • sweet, musty smell

Bedbugs do not attack human skin. Instead, they invade dark and dry rooms like the seams of a mattress. It can also affect crevices in the bed frame, in the furniture, or even in the curtains.

The main sign of an infestation is the presence of bed bugs. Other indications are:

  • reddish stains on bed linen (due to crushed bedbugs)
  • dark spots (bug droppings)
  • tiny eggs or eggshells
  • yellowish skins shed from babies

Bedbugs cause infestation when traveling on objects. They “hitchhike” on things like luggage, furniture and used clothing.

While these animals are a nuisance, they are not known to spread disease.

Scabies mites

Scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) are tiny insect-like organisms. They are related to ticks and other arthropods. The type that typically infects humans is called Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis, or the human pruritus mite.

The mites attack and eat human skin tissue. Their physical properties include:

  • round, baggy body
  • wingless
  • eyeless
  • eight legs
  • microscopic size (invisible to the human eye)

During an infestation, an impregnated woman digs a tunnel into the top layer of skin. Here she lays two to three eggs every day. The tunnel can be 1 to 10 millimeters long.

After the eggs hatch, the larvae migrate to the surface of the skin, where they grow and spread to other parts of the body.

“Scabies” refers to an infestation of scabies mites. This usually happens through direct skin contact with someone who has scabies. Sometimes the mites spread to clothing or bedding.

Share on PinterestScabies mites are invisible to the human eye. This is a microscopic picture of one.

The bites of bedbugs and scabies differ in several ways.

Symptoms of bedbug bites

Bug bites cause:

  • itchy, red welts
  • Welts in a zigzag row
  • Groups of bites (usually 3 to 5)
  • bites all over the body

However, some people do not respond to bedbug bites. The bites can even look like mosquito bites, eczema, or hives.

It is also possible to develop an allergic reaction to bedbug bites. This can cause symptoms such as swelling and pain.

Symptoms of scabies bites

Signs of scabies include:

  • severe itching
  • Itching that gets worse at night
  • tiny bumps or blisters
  • blotchy rash
  • Libra
  • thin, raised, irregular rows
  • whitish-gray or skin-colored rows

Sometimes scabies and eczema are confused with each other.

The mites burrow in the irregular rows or tunnels. This usually includes skin folds, including:

  • between the fingers
  • inner wrists
  • inner elbows
  • Nipples
  • Armpits
  • Shoulder blades
  • waist
  • knee
  • buttocks

Bedbug bite treatment

Bedbug bites usually go away on their own in 1 to 2 weeks. How to deal with symptoms:

  • Hydrocortisone cream. Over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream may help relieve swelling and itching caused by insect bites.
  • Antihistamines. OTC antihistamines or creams might also help.
  • Prescription drugs. If you experience severe itching, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication for you.

It is best to avoid scratches, which can lead to infection. In this case, you may need an antibiotic.

Scabies bites treatment

Scabies requires prescription treatment, such as:

  • 5% permethrin cream. This cream is applied topically once a week for 2 weeks.
  • Crotamiton cream or lotion. Crotamiton is used once a day for 2 days. Often times, this drug doesn’t work and it may not be safe for some.
  • Lindane lotion. If other treatments aren’t a good candidate, or they don’t work, you may be given topical lindane.
  • Oral ivermectin. If you don’t respond to topical medications, you may be prescribed oral ivermectin. However, it’s not specifically approved by the FDA for scabies.

These treatments are designed to kill the scabies mites and eggs. The itching lasts for a few weeks. You can use the following to relieve the discomfort:

In addition to treating the bites, it’s also important to remove the infestation. Each type of pest requires a different approach.

Bug infestation

To get rid of bed bugs, you need a holistic approach. That’s because bed bugs infest the dark, dry areas of a house.

Here’s what you can do to stop a bedbug infestation:

  • Wash all clothing and bed linen in very hot water (at least 49 ° C).
  • Dry cleaned clothing and bedding in a dryer on high heat.
  • Vacuum your mattress, sofa, and other furniture.
  • If you can’t get bugs off a piece of furniture, replace it.
  • Seal cracks in furniture, walls, or floors.

You may need to call a pest control professional. You can use a strong insecticide spray to kill the bedbugs.


Scabies are removed from the skin during the treatment. There are things you can do to remove scabies from your home to prevent re-infection.

Wash and dry your things in the machine on high heat. This includes elements such as:

Even without human skin, scabies mites die in 2 to 3 days. Hence, you can remove scabies from objects by avoiding physical contact for at least 3 days.

Bed bugs attack mattresses and furniture. To get rid of them, you need to decontaminate your home.

Scabies mites attack human skin. This requires medical treatment.

Both types of pests can bite and irritate the skin. Your doctor can recommend the best treatments and remedies for you to find relief.