Prevention
April 20, 2016

Beware of the chigger bite

by

Take precautions outdoors this spring to avoid itchy skin.

 

Springtime beckons us outside, but it also brings out the creepy crawlies. Sometimes we don’t think about chiggers (mites of the Trombiculidae family) until our sensitive areas are covered in itchy bites. The red arachnids are too tiny to see, and the larvae are actually the ones causing the problem. We answer your questions about prevention and treatment.

 

Where are chiggers?

Chiggers are all over the mid-South, even in your backyard and garden. They favor tall and damp grasses, wooded areas, berry patches and streams.

 

How do I reduce my risk of being bitten?

When possible, cover up with long pants and long sleeves, and tuck pants into your boots. Spraying skin and clothing with an insect repellant containing DEET will help prevent bites. You may also be able to find sulfur powder or sulfur-containing lotions at an outdoor supply store or even your local drugstore.

Whatever you use, pay special attention to skinfolds, waistbands, the groin area, bra lines, sock lines and your underarms. That’s where chiggers like to bite, according to MedlinePlus. Of course, be careful not to irritate your skin with repellants. Lastly, be sure to shower with warm, soapy water immediately after spending time outdoors, and wash your clothing before wearing it again.

 

Do chiggers burrow into the skin?

No. Chiggers do not burrow or lay eggs in your pores. Instead, their saliva forms a stylostome, a microscopic straw or feeding tube, in the skin. The intense itch we sometimes experience from chigger bites is really from their saliva dissolving our skin cells.

 

Is it true that nail polish will help the itch?

No. This myth stems from the myth that chiggers burrow into the skin. People used to think that by dotting nail polish on a bite, they’d suffocate the chigger. However, by the time you realize you have a chigger bite, the chigger is long gone.

 

What does help?

Over-the-counter anti-itch creams such as Calamine lotion or those containing cortisone will provide relief. First-aid remedies containing Lidocaine are also helpful.

 

What complications arise from chiggers?

Aside from the intense itch, chigger bites are usually harmless. However, excessive scratching can lead to an infection. Signs of infection may include swelling, redness, pus and warmth at the site of the bites.

 

 

Skin, Summer

10 thoughts on “Beware of the chigger bite”

  1. Danielle Peck says:

    My poor husband seems to be especially sensitive to their bites. The guy can roll around in poison oak and never itch a bit but chiggers chew him up and leave him miserable. His legs are scarred and the bites- even though he’s careful not to scratch- turn into big scabby sores. Could he be allergic to them?

    The one thing we’ve found that helps stop the itch is dabbing on a bit of liquid Benedryl or the store brand works just as well and doesn’t leave you sleepy from ingesting it.

  2. Homesteadma says:

    I am very sensitive to chiggers, and a magnet for them. The only thing that helps relieve the itch for me is Campho phenique. I’ve tried every chigger rid, anti itch ointment out there, get Campho phenique if you want relief!

  3. Susan says:

    I am especially sensitive to chigger bites. I have found that Ivy Dry cream is the very best for relieving the horrible itch. It is hard to find. I have had to order on line to make sure I have it in my medicine cabinet.

  4. Dick Cubberley says:

    this may sound strange or funny ,but out of desperation , I tried preparation H topical cooling gel, also neo sporin anti septic both work

    1. My Southern Health says:

      If it works, why not! Creativity for the win!

  5. Kate says:

    I was unaware that these little pests could attach to lawn furniture… We have had a bad problem with them around out camper where the grass gets taller but usually no issue with them on the site where we park. And I have now developed one horrible case from sitting in a lawn chair that was blown into the weeds last week while we were gone. Please remember to spray your fabric furniture down if it gets near areas where you would normally be exposed to chiggers

    1. Maura Ammenheuser says:

      Thank you for this advice!

  6. Denise Hughes says:

    I made a paste of Aveeno colloidal oatmeal on a washcloth and leave it on the chigger bit for 15 min.or so It really reduces the redness and itching .Then I dry with rubbing alcohol and apply Vick’s vapor rub around the bite for a cooling effect.

    1. My Southern Health says:

      The oatmeal is very soothing, yes!

  7. Samantha D. Burris says:

    In dealing with chiggers, it’s important to be practical. Many people fail to realize that chiggers have a target, as any other pests do. For example: Where would you mostly find dogs or cat fleas? Fleas tend to harbor where they do. In a similar sense, chiggers tend to capitalize on their hosts, which includes, reptiles and small mammals. Once you discourage these animals from your yard, you’re more inclined to see a reduction. Homemade treatments tend to work well in relieving comfort in instances where you’re bitten. I’ve stumbled on a website called Online Pest Controland they have some good info that has proven useful.

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