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How to Tell the Difference Between Flea Bites & Chicken Pox

Updated November 21, 2016

The one thing chickenpox and flea bites have in common is a terrible itch accompanied with a rash. Chickenpox is an airborne illness that spreads from coughs and sneezes. If someone touches the chickenpox rash, it can also spread. The illness can last up to 14 days and while it is considered a mild condition, the itching is dreadful. Fleabites are caused by insects that suck blood. Knowing what to look for will help you identify the rash in question.

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  1. Look at the lesion. Chickenpox is a rash that can look like insects bites in the early stages. The rash will be very itchy and the sores will eventually turn into small blisters that rupture and become crusty. Most of the times the chickenpox rash will occur on the scalp, face, chest and back. The rash can spread to other spots on the body and it can take days for some spots to appear.

  2. The chickenpox rash comes about in three stages. The first stage is raised pink bumps. In the second stage, the bumps fill with fluid and turn to blisters. In the last stage, the bumps will rupture and form a scab. In some cases, these stages can occur at one time.

  3. A fleabite will become red and swollen about half an hour after the bites. Depending upon the severity of the bite(s), flea bites can look like a rash or, in some cases, hives.

  4. Monitor the patient. Those with chickenpox can also have fevers, headaches, a dry cough, abdominal pain or general discomfort.

  5. Bites occur mainly on legs and feet, but fleas can also bite in areas where skin folds, such as in the elbow. The itching associated with fleabites can be severe and, if scratched, bleed.

  6. Ask the patient questions. Find out if the person was exposed to anyone that had chickenpox. Since this is an airborne disease, this is not important for determining the cause of the itching but to prevent the spread of the illness.

  7. Ask the patient if they went to an area where fleas could have been, such as a new place with a cat or dog. Fleas can also live in unoccupied areas where walking disturbs and awakens them.

  8. Tip

    Wash flea-bitten areas with antiseptic soap. Apply calamine or anesthetic lotions for itching, if desired. If you have a flea-infested cat or dog, get treatment immediately.


    Newborns, teenagers, pregnant women, people taking steroids, people with skin conditions and those with impaired immune systems might experience serious complications with chickenpox, so it’s best to get them to a physician as soon as possible.

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About the Author

Kimelia Sachs
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