From fleas and ants to bees and bed bugs, a number of pests in the animal kingdom are capable of imposing bites and stings on human skin. However, only a few pests are known for their ability to inflict serious harm to humans, two of which are some species of mosquitoes and spiders. Though each pests’ bite can cause irritation to the skin, one is known for its ability to transmit diseases, while the other is capable of transmitting toxic venom. These high stakes make it crucial to know the difference between a spider bite vs. mosquito bite.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, mosquito bites typically appear as “small, raised bumps on the skin” that can cause “mild annoyance and irritation for a short period of time.” Likewise, as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center notes, common spider bites can cause “symptoms that may include small, itchy, and sometimes red, irritated skin that will clear up in a few days.” Because both mosquito bites and spider bites can cause similar physical symptoms, it can be difficult to determine whether you were bitten by a spider or mosquito, or are simply facing a different skin ailment.

One major difference between spider bites and mosquito bites, however, is the length of time it can take for symptoms to appear. Not all spider bites are immediately detectable. As the University of Rochester Medical Center mentions, it can take a half hour for symptoms of a black widow spider bite to appear, and as long as 4-8 hours after a bite for symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite to appear. Mosquito bites, on the other hand, can often be noticed within a few minutes after they occur. While some people may have no reaction at all, for others, the bite may form into a puffy, red bump with a white interior and begin to itch within a few minutes. According to the Mayo Clinic, these bites may also turn into “small blisters instead of hard bumps” and form “dark spots that look like bruises.” More severe reactions to mosquito bites may be accompanied by hives, a low-grade fever, and swollen lymph nodes, but this type of reaction is rare.

The Dangers of Spider Bit es

While spider bites may appear scary, the Mayo Clinic insists that “Spider bites are usually harmless. Many bites attributed to spiders turn out to have been inflicted by other bugs.” Usually, the only spider bites that result in serious medical issues are bites from venomous spiders. This statement may seem misleading because all spiders have fangs that carry venom, but only a few species of spiders have fangs long enough to puncture human skin and transfer enough venom to impact humans. The two most common venomous spiders that may have medical impacts in the US are the black widow and brown recluse spiders.

While brown recluse and black widow spider bites may first be difficult to differentiate from other bites or skin ailments they can cause a myriad of severe symptoms as time passes. According to the Mayo Clinic, in addition to skin irritation, a black widow spider bite can cause pain in the chest and back, severe stomach cramps, and sweating. Brown recluse spider bites can bring fever, chills, and body aches, and the site of the bite may begin to grow an open sore. While rare, both types of bites can be potentially fatal, especially to small children, so the Mayo Clinic recommends seeking emergency medical treatment if you believe you were bitten by a venomous spider.

The Dangers of Mosquito Bites

Unlike spiders, mosquitoes use their sharp proboscises to leave just one puncture bite on the surface of human skin. Though many mosquito bites disappear after a few days to a week, the World Health Organization warns that “mosquitoes cause millions of deaths every year.” The mosquito feeds from an infected mammal, allowing the virus to replicate in the mosquito. When the mosquito feeds on another mammal, the pathogens can be transferred through the saliva, potentially resulting in illness.

The CDC notes that the West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. 8 out of 10 people who contract West Nile virus will not experience any symptoms. But, according to the Centers f or Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 will “develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.” In the more severe cases, which occur in 1 out of every 150 people who contract West Nile virus, symptoms include “encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spin al cord).” The organization also notes that 1 out of every 10 people who experience severe symptoms from West Nile virus die.

It’s important to note that this illness is not the only mosquito-borne disease that may pose a risk to people in the United States. Those that travel to parts of Africa, South Asia, South America, and Oceania are still at risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases. Before traveling internationally or to a US territory, CDC recommends to speak with a healthcare professional about preventing the contraction of these diseases while you travel.

Spider Bites vs. Mosquito Bites: Which Are More Dangerous?

While you’re more likely to spot a spider inside your home rather than encounter a mosquito, the American Mosquito Control Association specifies that “mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism” because “over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year.” Additionally, with the ability to carry a wide variety of diseases that include West Nile virus, a mosquito bite may seem innocent for the first few days until more serious symptoms appear.

Both spider bites and mosquito bites can pose severe risks to humans if not properly managed. If you or a member of your family come into contact with a venomous spider or experience symptoms of a mosquito-borne disease, contact your primary care physician immediately to discuss symptoms and possible treatment options.