You might be wondering why a site on bed bugs would have an article on mite bites. The answer is simple, mite bites look very similar to bed bugs bites, and as a result, people are often confused on exactly what type of problem they may have: mites or bed bugs.
Both mites and bed bugs leave red marks on your skin, and these groups of bites, often resemble a rash due to the density of the bite marks.
This article will go into some detail on mites, and then discuss how to tell the difference between mite bites and bed bug bites. We'll even provide some tips on how to get rid of mites in your home and how to treat mite bites.
Mites and Mite Bites
Mites are small insects, specifically a type of arthropod, and are closely related to ticks. The majority of mites are very small, at less than 1mm.
Today, more than 48,000 different types of mites have been identified, and experts expect that there are still a million or more additional species that remain undescribed and cataloged.
Over a million types of mites? Yes, scary, but the good news is that only a very few are problematic to humans, and most of them are pests to plant life instead of people. A good number of mites are even beneficial to the environment.
The mites that do present problems for people, generally colonize on human skin and produce itchy skin rashes, such as grain itch, grocer's itch, and scabies.
Other mites that bite and cause problems are Chiggers and House-Mites. If you've ever had Chiggers, you know exactly what we're referring to, they are miserable.
While nearly all mite bites on humans can resemble bed bug bites, the most common mite bite mistaken for bed bugs is scabies.
Scabies bites form small and closely located bites that form welts, similar to bed bug bites. Chigger bites also closely resemble bed bugs bites but are more often found on your legs and in your groin area.
Mites that Bite Humans
While most mites don't present problems for humans at all, there are a few that do. These are called parasitic mites and include the following types of mites:
- Chiggers (also called red bugs) - Usually encountered outdoors in overgrown grass and weeds, these are very small mites. Most active in the spring, bites from chiggers show within 24 hours as red welts which cause intense itching. Common bite areas are feet, legs, waist, and groin/genital areas. Learn more about Chiggers.
- Human Scabies - Scabies is caused by the Sarcoptic itch mite. Scabies mites are incredibly small, and seldom actually seen. These mites burrow into the skin, and within a month begin to cause irritation. This results in intense itching. The bites look like bed bugs, and scabies is also generally transferred by being close to someone infested, usually by sleeping in the same bed with them.
- Bird and Rodent Mites - While they prefer bird and rodents, these mites can also infest humans when looking for additional food sources. Bites from Bird and Rodent mites are very small, and their bites cause moderate to intense itching. While small, they can generally be seen with the naked eye, and are about the size of the dot above the letter i.
- Itch Mites - Itch Mites can be found in straw, grass, hay, and leaves that contain them. Their bites cause a rash, less severe than Chiggers but itching can be just as intense. They do not survive well indoors, so, fortunately, they don't last long.
Dust Mites are microscopic mites that have a number of myths associated with them. Dust Mites do not bite, nor do they infest human skin. Dust Mites are problematic due to inhaling their shed skin or feces when dust is inhaled. They do not cause bite marks, itching or rashes.
Treating Mite Bites
Treating mite bites is a little different than treating bed bug bites. Bed bug bites are actually bites and bites alone. By the time the bite mark is noticeable on the human, the bug is long gone. Mites are different, since some are parasitic and burrow into your skin or colonize it.
Mite bites must be treated by using prescribed insecticides that are safe for humans. Mites can live for a few days in a home, including on furniture and in beds. Once you show signs of mite bites, you should:
- Immediately wash any clothing or bed sheets that came in contact with the person in soapy hot water immediately.
- Furniture, beds, and cars should be thoroughly vacuumed using a vacuum with a HEPA filter (failure to use a HEPA filter will just result in spreading them around).
- Treatment of the bite and affected area.
Treatment of mites and mite bites is best handled by a physician, as a prescription cream is required to penetrate the skin and kill the mites.
Over the counter medications, like Cortaid can be used to treat symptoms, like itching and swelling, however, this should be done based on recommendations from your doctor, as these creams can make the prescription creams less effective, and change the appearance of the bites.
Mite Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites
Since mite bites look very similar to be bed bug bites, how do you tell the difference?
Fortunately, it's not too difficult. Bed Bug bites (above) are raised red welts, typically in rows, and often rows of three welts. Depending on the person's reaction, only areas around the bite will be red and inflamed, while on some the area of inflammation can be larger.
Mite bites (above), in particular, scabies, the most common, has grayish/white lines at first, that later develop into red, inflamed bumps that often fester.
Initially the two bites can look very much the same, however, bed bug bites will not fester unless scratched. Bed Bug bites will also not have the signature gray/white line associated with Scabies and caused by the mites burrowing into your skin.
If left untreated, scabies bites will spread and the bite area will get a yellow crusting.
Another way to tell the difference is in the location of the bites. Mites prefer warm/moist areas of your body and will migrate to these locations. Common bite areas include:
- Waistline/panty/underwear line
- Between fingers, near the webbing
- Groin and genital area
- Behind knees
Bed bugs prefer areas where your body meets your bed since they generally feast at night. This will include your shoulders, back, sides, arms, and legs.
Bed bug bites may not itch at all, and if they do, it's generally moderate. Mite bites and Scabies itch intensely, and constantly, even during the night.
>> Learn more about Mites vs Bed Bugs.
What should you do if you have bed bug bites or mite bites?
In either a case of mites or bed bug bites, you should visit your physician to be sure of the type of bites you have, and get the appropriate treatment. Guessing wrong can lead to weeks of miserable itching, and significant risk of infection due to scratching.
Here are two side by side images to help you compare the two. The mite case on the right is severe.
How to Get Rid Of Mites
In general, mites cannot live or thrive in your home, although it is possible. Mites are generally brought into your home by yourself or your pets. While they may cause temporary bites, the mites often die off, or move outdoors.
However, there have been instances where mites have built nests, and infested homes. If you think this is the case, you'll want to immediately contact a professional exterminator to confirm your infestation and begin treatment of your home.
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In most cases, bites from mites will be temporary, and you can best avoid future mite bites by avoiding areas infested with mites, and also by wearing protective clothing (long sleeves, long pants, boots, etc.) and wearing a DEET based bug repellent.
We also recommend that after being in an area infested with mites, that you remove your clothing immediately in your laundry room and washing it, followed by an immediate hot shower to wash off any mites on your body.
As we discussed, dust mites, which are found in everyones home, and in particular mattresses, don't bite. They can however cause significant respritory problems and allergies. You should always protect your mattress and box spring with covers.
Mite bites are miserable, and cause some of the worst itching and rashes you can get, especially chiggers. Chigger bites are easy to treat, and the best way to avoid getting bit is to avoid mite infested areas. Biting mites seldom infest homes, so your risk of a home infestation is rare.
Bed bug bites and mite bites can look similar to the untrained eye. We reviewed the differences and even provided pictures to help you tell them apart. This will allow you to take the appropriate next steps.
Remember, if you have bed bugs, or even think you might, it's critical to begin treatment right away!