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What are Chigger Bites & How is it Treated?

What are Chigger Bites?

Chiggers are small mites that are impossible to see with naked eyes. They belong to the Trombiculidae family. These attach to the humans and feed on the skin cells, this can cause itching. They commonly attach to the areas where the skin is thin, wrinkled, and tender.(1)

Chiggers resemble tiny spiders and cluster in groups on the skin of a person. They can be seen by the naked eye only when they are present in groups.

How Chiggers Bite?

Only the larvae of chiggers bite humans. They choose warm, moist areas of the body. Chiggers have claws on the body that help them attach to the skin. They then attach their mouth to the skin and inject saliva which has an enzyme that breaks skin cells into liquid form.

The body responds by hardening the skin around saliva, creating a lube through which the chigger sucks the host’s body fluid. Chiggers can feed for several days, usually 4 days before they fall off.

Symptoms of Chigger Bites

As the skin hardens around the feeding area, most people develop reddish welts within 24 hours of being bitten followed by intense itching.

The bumps look similar to blisters, hives, and pimples and grow in size within the next 7 days.

If not treated the itching may last for a week or even longer.

Chigger bites in the folds of the skin and in places of tight clothing, therefore, the eruptions are seen occurring mostly in the waist, armpits, crotch, or behind the knee.

The bite of the chigger is not felt. The symptoms are reported mostly after an hour of bite.

There is intense itching and a desire to scratch. If the chigger bites on the penis there is severe itching, swelling, and painful urination.

Chigger bites may make a person uncomfortable as there may be itching. It may also affect the sleep of a person.

How to Prevent Chigger Bites?

Chigger bites are most common in the spring and fall months. They are commonly found in forests, long and overgrown grass in fields and gardens, among weeds, areas of high humidity, berry patches, and the grassy area around lakes and rivers. Avoiding walking in these areas is the best way to avoid chigger bites.

If walking in contaminated areas, bug spray containing DEET should be used.(2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using Permethrin on clothing as it kills chiggers and other mosquitoes and ticks.

While venturing in long grass tall boots should be worn. The trousers worn should be tucked into the end of the socks. They should wear belts and long-sleeved shirts. This stops the direct access of chiggers to the skin.

Treatment for Chigger Bites

If anyone brushes up against grass or other vegetation where chiggers are present, the chiggers might quickly attach to the skin. If chiggers bites, there are a few treatments that can be adopted.

  • Over-The-Counter Anti-Itch Medications: This is effective in reducing itching and preventing a person from scratching the bite. The medication includes calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
  • Ice: If a person does have anti-itch medication for immediate use, ice can be applied to relieve the itching.
  • Bath: Bathing and scrubbing the body with soap and water can be helpful in removing chiggers that remain on the body, thereby preventing further bites.

It may take 1-3 days for the chigger bite to heal. If it takes longer a doctor should be consulted. He may be prescribed steroid shots to calm itching. If the bite gets infected antibiotics may be recommended.

Chiggers feed on skin cells and not on blood. They do not transmit disease. The chigger bite may get infected with excessive scratching. A doctor should be notified if there is swelling, fever, or other signs of infection. The lesser a person spends time on the contaminated vegetation, the less are the chances of a person getting chigger on their skin and hence the chigger bites.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 3, 2022

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