From Annoying to Potentially Deadly: Spider Bites vs. Mosquito Bites, Examined


Jul. 31 2023, Published 2:39 p.m. ET

A child in a striped shirt scratches a mosquito bite on her arm
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Spiders are scary-looking, but most of them are relatively harmless. However, if a spider bites you, it may be cause for concern if you have an allergic reaction to the bite or if a venomous spider bites you.

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So when a red itchy bump shows up on your skin, you should know whether it is a spider bite, a mosquito bite, or even a flea bite, and the differences between all three.

A mosquito biting a person.
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The differences in a spider bite vs. mosquito bite:

There are a few distinct differences between spider bites and mosquito bites that you’ll want to pay attention to. Those differences are in how the bite looks and how it feels.

The chances of a spider biting you are pretty rare, while the chances of getting bit by a mosquito are much higher, especially if you live in the Midwest or South, where mosquitos are more prevalent. Let’s look at how to identify insect bites and how to treat them.

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How to identify mosquito bites:

If you have a large, red, itchy welt on your skin, it is most likely a mosquito bite. According to MedicineNet, mosquito bites usually appear minutes after the insect bites you. It will be itchy and red, but other than the annoyance mosquito bites cause, they are typically harmless.

A mosquito bite on someone's arm.
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However, in some rare cases, the mosquito may carry serious illnesses that they transmit to you through their bite. Some mosquito-borne diseases include the West Nile virus, malaria, and Zika virus.

A mosquito bite should clear up within a few days, per MedicineNet. If it doesn’t, or it seems to be getting worse, you should have it checked by your doctor. You should also consult a physician if you experience a high fever, body aches, nausea or headaches, states the Mayo Clinic.

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How to identify spider bites:

A spider bite may look like a mosquito bite but will be more painful than itchy. Based on information from Healthline, a non-dangerous spider bite usually appears as a small pimple-like bump with two puncture marks on the skin. The bite may itch or hurt like a bee sting.

A spider bite on a human arm.
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A bite from a venomous spider like a brown recluse or black widow is a whole different ballgame and can have fatal consequences if not treated promptly. If you get bit by a brown recluse, there’s a chance that you won’t feel it for hours, according to Everyday Health. The bite may turn from looking like a bruise or blister to dark and crusty.

If you have severe symptoms after a spider bite, seek medical care immediately. Symptoms of a venomous spider bite include fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle cramps, and high blood pressure, as explained by MedicineNet.

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A flea on human skin.
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How to identify flea bites:

The bite on your skin could be caused by a bug other than a mosquito or spider, such as a fly, bed bug, chigger, ant, tick, or flea. If the bites show up around your feet and ankles, they could be flea bites. Flea bites are small red bumps typically grouped together, per the Cleveland Clinic.

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