You may notice groups of small raised bumps on your skin and suspect that you’ve been bitten by a bug. Two culprits may be bed bugs and chiggers. These two bugs are parasites, living off the blood of people or animals.

Their bites may look similar, but bed bugs and chiggers live in much different environments. Generally, bed bug and chigger bites are irritating and uncomfortable but not a risk to your overall health.

Bed bugs live near sleeping quarters. You may find evidence of bed bugs if you notice brown or red spots on your sheets. You may also smell something sweet and musty if bed bugs are nearby.

Chiggers group in clusters. When they attach to your body, they may feed off of it for several hours or days if you do not wash yourself or scratch them off. You may feel them on your skin and never see them because of their microscopic size.

Physical symptoms of bed bug bites:

  • occur a few days or up to two weeks after the bites
  • look like bites from other bugs like mosquitos and fleas
  • are a bit raised, inflamed, and red in color
  • itch
  • appear in clusters or in a zig zag line
  • show up most often on skin exposed during sleep

You may also find that bed bug bites cause:

  • sleeping trouble
  • anxiety
  • skin irritation

Not everyone will have the same symptoms from bed bug bites. Some people are more sensitive to bed bug bites and their symptoms may be worse.

Physical symptoms of chigger bites:

  • appear as small pimples that are raised and dark red
  • cause itchy skin that gets itchier over time
  • are grouped in clusters around areas of your body where you wear tight clothing, such as the elastic of underwear or around your sock line

You may notice chigger bites change while healing. The center of the bite may appear to have a cap that oozes if scratched.

Some people bitten by chiggers may react more strongly to the bites.

Bed bugs

You may not know that you’ve been bitten by bed bugs unless you actually see evidence of them where you’ve slept. You likely will not feel a bite from bed bugs because they release a substance that numbs your skin and keeps any blood from running out of the bite area.


Chigger bites can last for a range of time, depending on your exposure and how long they stay on you. If you have chiggers on you for a short amount of time, the symptoms may be mild and last only a few days. However, chiggers that stay on you for a longer length of time, such as while you sleep, may cause more severe symptoms for a few weeks.

Both bed bug and chigger bites appear as raised, red, inflamed spots on your skin.

Bed bug bites appear most frequently near areas of exposed skin and may appear in lines or in random clusters.

Chigger bites are grouped together in locations near tight-fitting clothing.

Both bed bug and chigger bites will go away with time. Treatments focus on calming symptoms so you can be more comfortable.

Home remedies

The first line of treatment for both bed bug and chigger bites is to avoid scratching them and leaving them alone as much as possible.

Make sure to wash the affected area with warm, soapy water if you suspect chigger bites. This will make sure no chiggers remain on your skin.

You can apply cool compresses to the bites, such as a cool washcloth or towel.

Medical treatment

There are many over-the-counter medication options to reduce bed bug and chigger bite symptoms.

Try pain-relieving medications like acetaminophen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to calm discomfort associated with the bites. NSAIDs also relieve inflammation.

Topical creams, ointments, and lotions may soothe the itch caused by bed bugs and chiggers. These include those containing steroids, like hydrocortisone.

An oral antihistamine may help control itching or swelling.

If the bite area becomes worse over time, it may be infected. Treating an infection may require antibiotics.

Call a doctor if you:

  • have symptoms that get worse over time or do not heal after a few weeks
  • develop symptoms like fever, body aches, or chills in addition to physical symptoms on your skin (a sign of an infection)
  • experience an allergic reaction with more exaggerated symptoms like difficulty breathing or swollen areas of your body, especially of your throat
Medical emergency

Extreme allergic reactions may cause anaphylactic shock. Call 911 and go to the nearest emergency room.

Severe infections from a bite can also be serious so if you develop a high fever and other symptoms that make you concerned, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The best way to manage bed bugs and chiggers is to avoid bites in the first place.

Bed bugs

Bed bug removal requires fumigation. If you have bed bugs in your home, call a professional to kill the bugs, because they can live for several months between feedings.

Keep spaces where bed bugs may live clean. Cleaning regularly will help you spot signs of bed bugs.

If you are traveling and worried about bed bugs, consider sleeping in clothing that covers most of your skin. You can also use an insect repellant.


Limit your exposure to chiggers by avoiding contact with grasses and weeds. Do not sit directly on lawns, and make sure to keep your landscaping maintained. Overgrown yards can contribute to more chiggers.

Wear bug spray and dress in clothing that covers most of your body when you’re outside. This may include tucking your pants into your socks or wearing gloves tucked into long-sleeved shirts.

Both bed bugs and chiggers are tiny parasites that can cause uncomfortable pimple-like bumps on your skin. These bites may cause a few days of irritation, but they are generally not harmful in the long term. Try to avoid scratching the bites to reduce chances of infection, and use home remedies and over-the-counter medications to soothe symptoms.