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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!

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

  1. Dab the bite with the hottest water you can bear (without scalding yourself). I use metal tongs dipped in very hot water. This gets rid of the itch for several hours. And it’s free.

  2. Bleach kills them if a lot may need to put bleach on skin..wait few min the shower right away may need to use bleach in shower again..my mother in law taught me this when I got into them…Bleach works better than alcohol on them…honey pure honey works on burns and insect bites! Stops itching and heals…just a small bit! Yep it’s sticky but it don’t rich! You can even delude honey with small amount of water so not so sticky..

  3. HEY GUYS, I TRIED CAMPHO-PHENIQUE AND IT WORKS. IN ONE DAY THE ITCH WAS GONE.

  4. YoteMaster2000 // July 26, 2018 at 12:16 am // Reply

    these are so annoying

  5. Permethrin treated socks and clothes. Once you have the bites all these silly home remedies stink. Not much you can do. I used oral Benadryl, topical prescription steroid cream and ice. Still miserable. Avoid camping in marshes in the Spring.

  6. CHIGGER X from the pharmacy works the best for me

    d

  7. While working at camp an old scouter gave me the best treatment. It sounds odd, but meat tenderizer the spice from the grocery store. It decreases the hard inflammation and itching.

  8. We use Bounce to rub over ankles and all exposed body. Even put sheet in pockets, anywhere on you. I use eucerin calming lotion and Benedryl on the bite. I even rubbed Bounce on our little dog.

  9. Putting Sulfur powder in a sock and then Dusting your ankles and crotch area and waste has always kept them off

  10. We just figured out that I am getting them from our apt porch that backs up to woods. Any suggestions on what I can use out there to kill them (besides not ever enjoying outside again)? Thanks.

    • Common Since // June 13, 2018 at 10:42 am // Reply

      Finger nail polish remover works great. Summer is all about camping !!! Please dont quit living and enjoying the out door life. Simply keep the nail polish remover on hand with some cotton balls.

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