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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. Grew up in the country and never had them like I do now from sitting on bales of hay at a cook out!!! Miserable

  2. I use iodine, straight away when I feel the slightest bite. It kills the bugger instantly. The problem for me now is – how to stop them from being attracted by my body. I can not go to my garden any more, not just for a minute! Are they fly or what? I don’t go around, I just stand on the patio, and they still manage to get me !

    • Anonymous // May 31, 2018 at 2:18 am // Reply

      Try taking sulphur tablets. It will ward off ticks chiggers even mosquitos. Had to use these when working clearing land..it does definetly help

  3. The following works best for me. Put a cup of pine sol in your bath water and soak for 5-10 minutes. Works for me every time.

  4. Bacon grease.

  5. yourwelcome // August 13, 2017 at 5:58 pm // Reply

    LAST CRAWL, guys is the best and ony 100% effective and easiest and fastest way to GET RID of chiggers instead of just treating the bite for itching. Its sold just about everywhere and is safe for humans and pets and can even be consumed its so safe but it works!!

  6. Nook from Alaska // August 7, 2017 at 3:59 pm // Reply

    After reading all the comments and since I have so many bites I decided to try a few.
    Liquid bandaid stopped the itch but is tightening the skin.
    Vicks and salt stopped the itch but the area where I applied it is cold.
    Turmeric did not stop the itch.
    Witch Hazel worked the best. It soothed the skin and the itch is gone.

  7. Ozark woods // August 3, 2017 at 9:29 pm // Reply

    When you come in from outdoors, immediately soap up your feet, legs, arms and hands and don’t rinse it off. Let the soap lather dry on your skin. Change clothes. Just leave the dry soap lather for about half an hour. Then you can rinse the soap off. Really works. Hardly ever get any chiggers.

  8. I went camping this weekend came back with bites all over my legs just tried the bleach rub some on my legs the itching stopped

  9. Ewwchiggers // July 21, 2017 at 5:34 am // Reply

    Mixing alcohol and vinegar helps with the itching within minutes

  10. When you first notice that red bugs have gotten on you, take a bath with about 1/2 cup Clorox in a bathtub full of water. Soak in the tub for about 5 minutes — if there is any place on your body that the water doesn’t cover, use a cup to pour water over the area. Usually, you will feel the first “itch” within an hour or two of getting the red bugs on you. If you get a Clorox Bath soon after you notice the problem, the Clorox will kill the little buggers before they have had time to do much damage.

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