Hives vs Bug bites: What Are The Differences?

Bug bites and hives are two common things that happen to your skin. But then, hives, aka, Urticaria, occur as a result of allergic reactions to certain substances.

Hives can alter their shapes. And they can relocate from one part of your skin to another. On the flip side, bug bites will remain at the same spot and happen only when you get stung or bitten by an insect.

But despite these differences, many people often find it difficult to tell them apart. To help with that, this article will analyze a clear-cut distinction between bug bites and hives.

What Causes Hives? 

hives vs bug bites

Allergy; that’s the simple answer.

But then, there are several other symptoms that you feel when your body reacts to a particular thing.

Anaphylaxis is one of them. However, before hives can happen, your body would need to produce a specific substance known as Histamines.

Normally, the function of these histamines is to help your body to neutralize and flush out the harmful substance within your system or on your skin.

However, once the work is done, your immune system would begin to see the histamine left within your system as invaders.

As such, some mechanisms to reduce the histamine level in your body will set in. Oftentimes, these mechanisms come with itching, swollen body, and skin redness. Now, this condition only happens to a few people, especially those with food allergies. When it happens, we say your body is intolerant to histamine.

Aside from hives, other symptoms of histamine intolerance include:

  1. Migraines
  2. Nostril blockade
  3. Tiredness
  4. Haphazard menstrual cycle
  5. Vomiting
  6. Anxiety
  7. And even hypertension in rare cases.

Sometimes, other factors aside from histamine intolerance can trigger hives. These causes include:

  1. Stress
  2. Diseases
  3. Slim-fitted clothes
  4. Rigorous Exercise
  5. Exposure to high variations in temperature
  6. Body irritation from sweat and dust.

What Could Itchy Bumps on the Skin Like bug Bites Be?


Among all insects and bugs, mosquitoes are one of the most dangerous.

This is because their bites cause many fatal diseases throughout the globe.

Not only that, their bites can be very itchy and can cause big skin bumps. However, mosquito bites are not the only factors that can cause itchy skin bumps.

In fact, there are at least 5 other reasons why you could have itchy bumps on your skin. Here’s a quick run through some of them:

1) Hives.

Hives are allergic reactions triggered by histamine intolerance. Like mosquito bites, itchy skins with big, moveable, and reddish bumps are some of the signs you see when you have hives. However, hives are less common than mosquito bites. In the world today, only 20% of humans are affected by hives. For mosquito bites, the percentage is much higher and it even depends on location.

Now, unlike mosquito bites, hives won’t go away on their own. So, you need to treat it. To do this, the best course of action is to stay far away from known triggers. Oftentimes, bug bites, dust, food like nuts, and stress are the underlying causes of hives. Avoiding these would help.

Likewise, certain anti-itching creams can help as an immediate gratification of itching. But then, once you discover you have hives and not mosquito bites, wait for a few days. If it persists, get some antihistamine from a nearby drug store. After three days, if it persists, visit a hospital.

2) Bed bugs.

Mosquitoes are only one kind of insect that sucks blood.

Bed bugs belong to another order of bloodsuckers. You see, both of these insects leave the same reddish bumps on your skin.

However, it could take up to 24 days before bed bug bites would begin to materialize. For now, the reason for this delay is still unknown.

What we do know is that there are certain ways to tell a bed bug bite apart from mosquito bites. But to do this, you first need to check your room for:

  1. Live and dead bed bugs on your bed foams and sheets
  2. Bloodstains on foams
  3. Musty smell

Now, if your room tick one or two of these checklists and you notice that the bite spots on your skin look as if they are arranged in a straight pattern, then; there’s a chance you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation.

But sometimes, bed bug sites can form in irregular patterns as well. So, the best way to be sure is to check your rooms and cushions for bed bugs, whether alive or dead.

Aside from blood-sucking and the irritating smell, bed bug bites are quite bearable.

Of course, that’s if we remove the itchy aspects. To get rid of the red marks, try not to scratch the bite area, apply relevant ointments, and to prevent allergy, you can use some doctor-recommended anti-histamines.

For now, there is no scientific proof that bed bugs are direct carriers of any disease pathogens. However, the itchy skin and the murky smell associated with bed bugs and bed bug bites can be annoying.

In fact, itchy skin sometimes can lead to other secondary infections.  However, in November 2014, a research study released by a group of researchers from the Penn Medicine Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics noted that bed bugs could just be as deadly as the kissing bugs.

In case you don’t know, kissing bugs are responsible for the notorious Chagas disease that’s rampant in America. Worldwide, it affects around 6-8 million people per year. According to the researchers from Penn Medicine, some bed bugs could also be capable of transmitting that pathogen for Chagas disease.

Although right now, the research is still restricted within the local lab. But for now, let’s just admit that bed bugs don’t transmit any disease. However, in every way, bed bugs should be eradicated from your home.

3) Dermatitis.

hives vs bug bites

Like Hives, dermatitis occurs as a symptom of allergy. In the case of dermatitis (specifically contact dermatitis), your skin has to touch something you’re allergic to. Examples of common skin allergens include some metallic products, some household products, and likes.

Oftentimes, 1-2 days is the minimum observation window for the associating symptom for contact dermatitis to start showing up. At most, it would take 3 weeks for it to come off. Like hives, contact dermatitis will cause severe itching, redness, inflammation, and even blisters. But unlike hives, the bumps from contact dermatitis are stationary.

Once you confirm that your itchy bumps are not caused by bug bites or hives, you can use the following steps as first aid:

  1. Avoid every allergen that’s characteristic of your skin
  2. Use icy packings on the itchy area
  3. Take lukewarm baths’
  4. Apply calamine lotion
  5. Avoid scratching

Note: If the symptoms persist after three days, see your doctor.

4) Scabies.

Of course, the areas on your skin affected with scabies resemble those from mosquito bites. However, unlike bug bites, scabies is contagious and involves a more intense itching spree. Then again, scabies occurs when you get bitten by a burrowing mite. These mites are very small. To feed, they dig through the skin. Afterward, egg-laying is next.

Now, when they bite, the rashes and bumps they cause can be very painful. This rash looks more like tiny burrows that oftentimes, are difficult to see with the naked eye. So, the bumps from scabies are like small mosquito bites. Most commonly, these bumps are found around the wrists, fingers, elbows, and knees.

To treat scabies, you need to visit a hospital. There, you can receive prescribed lotions that can help. Since scabies can be transmitted via direct skin contact, you can follow these guidelines to minimize the spread:

  1. Wash all clothes worn by the affected using antiseptic soap
  2. Then, dry all bed clothing, towels, and household items that are directly touched by the affected.

5) Eczema.

The medical term for eczema is atopic dermatitis. Like mosquito bites, eczema can also result in itchy bumps, redness, and flakiness. But unlike mosquito bites, eczema is not caused by bug bites. Instead, a weak immune system, heredity, stress, lack of body hygiene, and depression have been identified to be the known cause of eczema.

However, unlike general belief, eczema is not contagious. But then, it can be associated with the following symptoms:

  1. Itchy sensation
  2. Skin bumps
  3. Flaky skin
  4. Reddish swellings
  5. Sleep loss in some cases
  6. Anxiety in rare cases
  7. Allergies
  8. Sometimes, depression and low self-esteem.

During low humid seasons, eczema may tend to be very itchy and it can continue for as long as the individual lives. So, it needs to be treated. Some treatment plans for eczema include:

  1. Take very short baths with perfume-free soaps. Other products that you should avoid in soaps include alcohol, dyes, and some hypoallergenic products.
  2. Always bath with lukewarm water.
  3. Use moisturizers on your skin.
  4. You can also use humidity regulators to reduce the itchiness increase caused by dry air.
  5. For any low self-esteem caused by eczema, see a therapist.
  6. Use prescribed antihistamines
  7. Phototherapy is also an effective way to rid your skin of eczema.

READ MORE: Baby Bed Bugs: Facts, Identification, & Appearance.

Should You Scratch the Bumps on Your Skin?

As a rule of thumb; no. You shouldn’t scratch your rashes. In fact, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends that scratching your skin bumps shouldn’t be an option. So, here’s a list of self-help strategies you can use to alleviate the pain, the irritation, and the embarrassment:

  1. Use lukewarm water on the itchy area. However, if the itchiness spans over your body, the water should be used for bathing as often as possible.
  2.  While bathing, ensure to use bathing soaps that you’re not allergic to. Oftentimes, hypoallergenic ones are preferable.
  3. Avoid exposing your skin to the much radiation from the sun.
  4. Wear-free clothing, especially around the area affected with hives.
  5. Try to use ice packings on the swelling.

How Do You Know If It’s Hives or Something Else?

The best option is to visit an epidemiologist. However, if you notice a combination of the following symptoms, then there’s a high chance that you’re dealing with skin hives:

  1. Red itchy bumps appear on one part of your body and then disappear to another.
  2. Blisters filled with fluid.
  3. These bumps can be large or small. But they are very different from rashes.
  4. For other symptoms, check here.

With that said, hives and bug bites may have the same itchy feeling. But for hives, the itchy bumps are filled with fluid and can move. Oftentimes, hives are caused by histamine intolerance and allergies. Bug bites, well… include mosquito bites, bed bug bites, and the like. However, despite their differences, it is always important to know the underlying cause of any bad and painful change on the skin.

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