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How Do You Prevent and Treat Chigger Bites?

chigger-3

WHAT ARE CHIGGERS?

Red bugs, chiggers, berry bugs, scrub-itch mites and harvest mites are all terms used to describe members of the family of insects known as Trombiculidae. These reddish-orange mites can be found worldwide, but they really enjoy hanging out in damp, grassy and wooded areas, especially at the edges of forests.

In the United States, chiggers are mostly found in the southeast, south and midwest. They are most active from early spring to early autumn, until the first frost.

HOW DO CHIGGERS BITE US?

Chigger larvae infest humans by crawling up our shoes and legs as we make our way through the scrub.

What’s kind of cool is that chiggers do not actually bite us. Likewise, they do not burrow into our skin, and they do not suck our blood. Instead, chiggers use their mouths to drill tiny holes into our skin through which they secrete specialized salivary enzymes designed to break down our skin cells from the inside. Then, the chiggers slurp up the mixture through a tube formed by hardened skin cells called a stylosome. Basically, it’s like drinking a big “YOU” protein shake!

Your skin does not take too kindly to all of this drilling and parasitic digestion. Consequently, humans typically develop intensely itchy, bright red pimple-like bumps or hives or a generalized skin rash in the areas where the mites were attached, even up to 24 to 48 hours after exposure.

Chiggers prefer to attach to skin at areas where the clothing fits tightly against the body, such as at the tops of socks or around the elastic edges of underwear, so a rash in these areas may be a clue to the specific cause.

HOW DO YOU TREAT CHIGGER BITES?

So, what can you do for a chigger rash? First, forget the old myth of applying fingernail polish to the affected areas. Chiggers do NOT burrow into the skin, so trying to suffocate the chiggers with polish makes no sense at all. Second, chiggers do not lay eggs in the skin, so stop worrying about that.

chigger-2Chigger wounds are a complex mixture of mechanical damage to the skin (the drilling), enzymatic disruption of the skin (the digestion), and your body’s own attempt to get rid of the parasite. Consequently, the most important thing to do is to prevent chigger infestation. Avoid camping in warm, moist temperate climates of high mammal density, including livestock pastures, with tall grass.

If the area is infested, get out of there quickly and wash your skin vigorously with soap and water. Itching is best alleviated through the use of topical corticosteroids (either over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% ointment or prescription strength from your physician) and anti-histamines like Benadryl.

Watch out for severe chigger rashes that can become secondarily infected with bacteria; in these cases, consult a doctor immediately.

Now you know a “mitey” bit more about chiggers than you did before!

11 Comments on How Do You Prevent and Treat Chigger Bites?

  1. Make a baking soda paste. It works wonders. Just put enough water with baking soda to make it pasty then apply with hands of washcloth to bites.

  2. Variety of things such as hydrocortisone cream, aloe vera, vicks vapor rub, extremely hot baths work well. I happened to come across a cream called chiggerex at walmrt which does wonders.

  3. What about in the house? Can they stay on your furniture or in your bed?!

  4. Apply either rubbing alcohol/ bleach
    Allow to dry then apply Vicks vapor.
    Repeat 2x a day…best after initial shower

  5. I have it all over my body its like itches real badand it keeps spreading what should I do

  6. thanks I will rilly try this out because I have red bugs I went to the pond and got them I did”t even no I had them ontil 2 days later they itched rely bad.

  7. The ONLY thing that has worked in Vicks Vapor rub with salt!

  8. South Georgian // July 31, 2014 at 10:03 pm // Reply

    Washing the infected areas with rubbing alcohol works. It gets rid of the itching and the bugs

  9. I have red bug bites and I do not like them how do I get rid of them

  10. ChiggaChiggaYeahYeah // July 25, 2014 at 10:41 pm // Reply

    Those chiggaz got me so bad I wuz perscribed antibiotics.

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