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How Do You Prevent and Treat Chigger Bites?



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.


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.


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!

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

  1. florida surveyor // July 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm // Reply

    I work in the woods all the time. The only thing that I’ve had any luck with is washing the area with sudsy ammonia and leave it on for a couple of minutes. You must do this outside or the smell will mess you up.

    Trust me, after working outdoors for more than 30 years, I’ve tried everything. This works

  2. it reay buys // July 11, 2013 at 2:55 am // Reply

    White vingear

  3. I’ve seen sites where it recommends nail polish to prevent yourself from scratching, so it’s still a good idea.

  4. anastazia // July 7, 2013 at 9:08 pm // Reply

    Scrub your legs with a rough towel that you exfoliate your skin with in a tub of shallow water and bleach it worked for me then apply some itch cream for extra relief those little mf’s were gone two days later.

  5. Anonymous // July 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm // Reply

    Ahhh!!! Can’t stop scratching!!! Tried it all…

  6. Deadeye_RS // July 7, 2013 at 8:39 am // Reply

    This seems to work to prevent getting them on you in the first place. Take dryer sheets, rub them on your socks and pant-legs, then stick the sheets in your shoes before you put them on.

  7. Lye soap helps immediately

  8. I’ve been itching like crazy, and I’m from Mississippi, where the red bugs are bad!! I’ve bathed in bleach, used every itching cream imaginable, and nothing has worked!! I keep having new bites come up every day!! Help!!!

    • Just camped in Mississippi, Red Bugs/chiggers what ever you want to call them..Bites all over areas that I want go into detail. Like Karen I get new ones even after bathing, scrubbing areas, etc. Why are new red bumps popping up? Are these bugs still on me somewhere? I don’t see them? What’s going on? I’m so stinging, itching, painful hurting miserable. Help!

    • mississippi boy // August 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm // Reply

      Try Blue Star Ointment. It really works

  9. I have the chiggers, got them from picking black berries on vacation in Tenn . Nothing works been six days.

  10. went to the dr. he gave the premetherin cream…maybe I need to go back for seconds!

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