Chigger Bite Treatment and Prevention
Recommend Outdoor Dress: Long Pants and Boots
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.
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.