What are ticks? What are bedbugs?

Tick bites can transmit disease.
Tick bites can transmit disease.

Ticks are arthropods (tick members are mainly hard [Ixodidae] or soft [Argasidae] ticks) that are obligate blood suckers that can, through bites, transmit diseases to humans and many animals. Bedbugs (Cimex genus only) are insects that are blood-sucking parasites of some animals and birds that can bite humans but seldom spread disease.

What are the differences between ticks and bedbugs?

Ticks are primarily found in brushy areas in fields and forests while bedbugs reside mainly in human dwellings and especially in mattresses, bedding, and in human-used items like furniture. Ticks are arthropods and bedbugs are insects. Ticks are the second-highest vectors of human diseases (mosquitoes are first) while bedbugs typically do not spread disease. There are over 800 types of ticks (for example, dog ticks, deer ticks, and lone star ticks are common names, but there are many genus and species names of hard and soft ticks) but only one genus (Cimex) of bedbugs and all species have the common bedbug name.

What are the similarities between ticks and bedbugs?

Both may cause complications to the bite itself (allergic reactions or cellulitis). Both use a bite-like mechanism to get a blood meal, and both may possess chemicals that are injected to anesthetize the initial bite site. Both may use animals other than humans for a blood meal. Bites from both may rarely cause allergic reactions. Both produce small nymphs during development and larger adults that are easily visible and can be mistaken for each other. Both do not jump or fly.

What are risk factors for tick and bedbug bites?

The major risk factor for tick bites is walking in grassy areas without protective clothing or protective chemical repellants. The major risk factors for bedbug bites are sleeping in bedding that has an infestation of the insects, a failed extermination effort to rid a structure of bedbugs, or wearing someone's contaminated clothing and not using insect repellants.

Symptom of Tick and Bedbug Bites

Itch

Generalized itch that occurs all over the body is often more difficult to treat than localized itch. Itches can also occur with or without skin lesions (bumps, blisters, rash, redness, or abnormalities that can be seen on the skin). An itch that is accompanied by a visible skin abnormality should be evaluated by a physician and, in some cases, by a dermatologist since the problem is likely to be a condition that requires specialized medical treatment (for example, eczema, scabies, etc.).

What are the signs and symptoms of tick and bedbug bites?

Bedbugs usually bite at night and just before dawn. Bedbug bites are painless, but severe itching may occur. The bites may be in lines and form

They are small, and multiple bites can come from one bedbug. Tick bites are also usually painless but may cause itching, burning, redness and rarely, localized joint pain and/or a rash near the bite that usually is singular, although multiple bites can result from individual ticks. Some people have allergic reactions immediately after a tick bite or bedbug bite.

What diseases do ticks and bedbugs transmit?

Although there is some evidence that bedbugs can be vectors for hepatitis B and Chagas disease, most bedbug bites do not transmit diseases. However, they can cause severe itching and may become infected with bacteria, leading to cellulitis. In North America, the following diseases can be caused by tick bites. A single bite may cause one or more of the following:

What are treatments and home remedies for tick and bedbug bites?

Treatment of bedbug bites is not usually not necessary. However, an antiseptic lotion spray with or without a topical antibiotic to reduce itching may be helpful. Ticks firmly attach during the bite. Removal by tweezers is described in detail at https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html. The tick bite itself may be treated as above. However, the disease(s) spread by the bite require specific treatments based on the disease(s).

Home remedies for tick bites include

  • calamine lotion,
  • rubbing with cut onion,
  • meat tenderizer, and
  • apple cider vinegar.

Home remedies for bedbug bites include

  • baking soda and water paste,
  • oatmeal baths,
  • menthol toothpaste,
  • witch hazel,
  • aloe vera,
  • lemon juice, and
  • calamine lotion.

Check with your medical caregiver before using any of these home remedies.

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What is the prognosis for tick and bedbug bites?

The prognosis for bedbug bites is usually excellent, with few individuals developing complications. Tick bites usually have a prognosis from good to fair, depending on what disease(s) they transmit, time taken to get a diagnosis, and how the individual reacts to treatments.

Is it possible to prevent tick and bedbug bites?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published recommendations to prevent tick-borne diseases that include the use of several products like DEET, picaridin, and others to repel ticks and detail the type of protective clothing to wear and how to eliminate or reduce the habitat of ticks. Similar suggestions are made for bedbug prevention but include heating a room to kill the insects.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/20/2019
References
Schwartz, R. "Bedbug Bites." Medscape.com. Apr. 18, 2019. <https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1088931-overview#a6>.

Temple, S. "Tick-Borne Diseases." Medscape.com. Nov. 14, 2018. <https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/786652-overview>.
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