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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!

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

  1. Put sulfur powder on your shoes and socks and it will repel the nasty critters.

  2. Spelled it wrong. It’s Chigarid.

  3. Chiggarid is the best!! Eight of our scouts had them all over their bodies at summer camp.

  4. Monkey.D.Kirito // June 23, 2017 at 11:21 am // Reply

    this can help so much thank you for making this article now I don’t need to do the way I was dong before.

  5. Oregano oil works great for chigger bites!

  6. Salicylic acid (Brand name Scalpicin) a clear liquid applied with a Q-tip works best for me.
    CAUTION: Scalpicin maximum strength hydrocortisone Anti-itch liquid does NOT allevciate chigger itch.

  7. Stop the Itch // June 16, 2017 at 7:31 am // Reply

    I seem to get them all the time and they itch forever plus scar. I take kosher salt or sea salt and mix it with my shower gel and not only does the itching stop but the scars also go away.

  8. Me and my little baby’s dog and brother have them had them for weeks my poor kids I’ve tried nail polish technic live shampoo you name it nothing has worked

    • If you have had them for weeks, then they are not chiggers. It could be scabies. Go see a doctor or dermatologist quickly.

      • Anonymous // July 26, 2017 at 2:05 pm //

        Applying acne wash containing Benzoyl Peroxide to the area with the bites immediately took away the itch!

  9. MrsItchyBod // June 7, 2017 at 6:47 pm // Reply

    Took 3 days to figure out not mosquito or nosee’em bites and my 82 yr old Southern mom identified the bites for me. Hydrocortisone and Benadryl cream not working and have applied both all over my body for 2 days. Tried a little bit of hand sanitizer while at work today (was desparate cuz of itching) and it seemed to calm dawn the itching (probably the alcohol content). I’m going to buy try the nail polish and calamine lotion tonight.

  10. Just wanted to say thanks to all ideas . I hope they work,cause they are driving me crazy.

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