By Amy DeYoung
Updated Nov 4, 2022
Nobody enjoys the severe itchy sensation that follows bug bites, and chigger bites are some of the most uncomfortable bites you can have. Unfortunately, these red bugs are prevalent and live in most areas of the United States, especially the Southeastern and Midwestern states.
So, how can you prevent chiggers and protect yourself from chigger bites? Keep reading to learn more about what chiggers are and how to identify their bites and ideal living conditions.
Chiggers (Trombiculidae) are small mites that thrive in wooded or grassy areas near water, especially during warm temperatures. These arachnids are “cousins” to ticks and spiders and are nearly invisible to the naked eye.
If you do spot one, adult chiggers are usually bright red and yellow or orange during the larval stage. As larvae, they’ll have six legs. As adults and nymphs, they’ll have eight legs.
Chiggers hatch from eggs as larvae and feed on skin tissue from a host, either animal or human, as mites, before leaving the host and developing into an adult mite. Unfortunately, their bites can be painful and are often itchy for days, even developing into small welts or blisters in some cases.
Chigger larvae look for human or animal hosts and will attach to human clothing, then move to your skin to feed. Once on your skin, chigger larvae release a liquid chemical into your skin, which kills skin cells. As dead skin cells collect, they form a tiny straw, also known as a stylostome, which the chigger uses to drink your skin tissue.
These bites are very itchy because humans respond poorly to the liquid chemical or digestive enzyme chiggers release when they bite. The first 24 to 48 hours after the bite is usually the most uncomfortable and itchy.
If you suspect a chigger has bitten you, look for speckled lines of pimples or red spots on your skin. Unlike bed bugs, chigger bites are more likely to be concentrated in one area, especially where clothing is tight against your body.
You’ll also notice intense itchiness in the bite area approximately three hours after the initial bite. Anti-itch creams, a cold compress, calamine lotion, and over-the-counter antihistamines can help treat chigger bites and relieve your discomfort.
If you suspect you have a chigger infestation or want to take measures to prevent them, we recommend the following steps:
Chiggers usually bite humans where skin and clothing are in close contact, particularly bra lines, waistbands, sock lines, anywhere with exposed skin, or anyplace where your skin folds.
Common chigger bite areas include:
Reduce your risk of chigger bites using the following tips:
You can also create your own chigger repellent spray using a combination of your favorite essential oils, witch hazel, and water. Simply spray yourself and your clothing with this home remedy to repel these irritating bugs.
Another way to take your protective clothing to the next level is by adding a pair of tights or pantyhose underneath your pants. Chiggers can’t bite through pantyhose or tight material, protecting your skin.
Lastly, do your best to avoid scratching the affected area. We know that chigger bites cause intense itching, but you can put yourself at risk if you break the skin on the bite, potentially leading to an infection.
While not considered hazardous to human health, chiggers are still a giant nuisance. Nobody wants to suffer from itchy red bumps, and being wary of going outside during the beautiful summer months is a downer. Take time today to assess your home and what you can do to reduce the risk of a chigger infestation.
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