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Chigger Bite Treatment and Prevention

Updated on January 10, 2014

Recommend Outdoor Dress: Long Pants and Boots

Recomended Outdoor Dress: Boots and Long Pants
Recomended Outdoor Dress: Boots and Long Pants | Source

Chigger: life cycle & how they bite

The farm girl that I am, I generally can be found wearing boots and long pants. On occasion, I do like to wear sandals and a skirt. It was after walking in my friend’s well maintained lawn (which was surprising to me because it was not the long grass I expected), I came in contact with.. the almighty chigger.

What we call chiggers, is actually a larval form of trombiculid mite. Adult trombiculid mites have a variety of names, including berry bugs, harvest mites, red bugs, scrub-itch mites and aoutas. Chiggers are generally found in areas of damp vegetation including low-lying swampy areas, woodlands, and even lawns and golf courses and are most numerous in early summer (although I have been bitten as late as September).

The larval form, which we call chiggers, do not actually feed on the blood of their host. Rather, they digest skin cells. After crawling onto the skin, they inject a digestive enzyme that breaks down the skin. They create hole in the skin where they chew up tiny parts of the inner skin; known as a stylostome. The intense itching and irritation is caused by a reaction to this enzyme. In humans, itching generally occurs after the mite has already detached from the skin. Some believe that in the location of the red welt is where the chigger has laid eggs. This is not the case as this critter is in a larval stage. Unlike a tick, the chigger does not burrow into the skin.

Once the mite has fed, it develops into the nymph stage. In this phase, the animal is inactive while it develops its last pair of legs. Adults are known to feed on arthropods, eggs and plant material and are generally seen in the soil.

Chigger Bite Treatment

Chiggers can migrate on their host, so it is important to remove them.

· Generally bathing is sufficient to remove the chigger from the skin. Some people also recommend putting on clothes treated with Promethean as this substance is toxic to chiggers. Other common solutions are soaking in Epsom salt or applying alcohol.

· To combat itching, apply an antihistamine, or take a Benadryl before bed.

Myths About Chiggers

MYTH: It has been said that nail polish can be used to smother the chigger. By the time itching is experienced, the mite has migrated away from the area in question. Note that it is still important to bathe because the chigger may have migrated to a different part of the skin.

Like ticks, chiggers prefer soft skin areas, as well as areas where the skin folds. They may also stop where fabric ends. The back of the knee, ankles (top of sock line), and groin areas are common places to be bitten.

Chigger Bite Prevention

If you're reading this, you’ve probably recently been bitten, however if you wish to prevent these bites in the future, you can do the following:

· Apply Deet to your skin and clothing up to your waist. Deet may need to be applied every few hours, especially if sweating.

· Wear higher boots and long pants. I personally wear cowboy boots and jeans or shorter boots and half chaps over skinny jeans if I am being stylish. Do not put worn clothing back in drawers or suitcases; anything that is on your clothing could bite you the next day. If I wish to re-wear something I wore in the woods the day prior, I treat with Permethrin.

· Pre-treat clothing with a Permethrin-based product. This treatment generally lasts a week or so.

· Treat your pets with Frontline, Bayer K9 Advantix II (my two personal favorites) or other monthly flea and tick preventative so they don’t bring “friends” in contact with you. Permethrin containing products can also be used on the fur of Cats, Dogs and Horses. I apply this to my animals when we are going to spend time in the woods. As a rider, I find it especially useful if the horse is well-sprayed. Spraying the tail can be quite useful, otherwise they can bring up critters from the ground when they swish you with their tail.

Note that these suggestions also work for preventing many other insect inundations, including ticks which do carry a plethora of serious diseases.

Chigger Preventatives

Farnam Endure Sweat-Resistant Fly Spray for Horses 14-day Long Lasting Protection, 32 ounce
Farnam Endure Sweat-Resistant Fly Spray for Horses 14-day Long Lasting Protection, 32 ounce

Waterproof. Works for Dogs, Cats and Horses up to 2 weeks. I use this in addition to monthly treatment during camping trips. Also contains sunscreen.



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    • kidsnchocolate profile image


      6 years ago from Midwest, United States

      My 5 year old came in with a ton of bites!! After studying the pics online I do believe it's chiggers. But the poor baby just can't stop itching!!!! Thank you for writing.

    • equine profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Kanzelberger 

      7 years ago from Hillsboro, MO

      Thanks for all of your great feedback. I will check out Danette. I'm still pretty new to this, so am really trying to figure out what people want to read. Working with animals, I do seem to have a lot of interactions with unintended creepy crawlers.

    • annmackiemiller profile image


      7 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      welcome - good hub. voted up and stuff

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow! wonderful explanation and information. I learned many new things reading your hub-most importantly: I don't want those things on my skin, LOL

      Voted useful and interesting. Hey-you live across the river from my sister who is also a hubber here: Danette Watt. Be sure to check her out and I will give her a heads up about your hubs too.

    • Cloverleaf profile image


      7 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Hello Equine,

      Welcome to HubPages!

      Chigger bites don't sound like a whole lot of fun. I'm glad you posted some suggestions for prevention and treatment! Congratulations on publishing the first hub of your "30 Hubs in 30 Days" Challenge - keep on writing :-)



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