Chigger Bite: Everything You Need to Know
Dr. Angel Rivera
Do you know what chiggers are?
If not, you're not alone. Many people have never heard of chiggers before, but they can be a real nuisance.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about chigger bites, what they are, where they live, what happens when they bite you, and how to treat them.
We'll also cover some prevention tips so that you can avoid getting bitten by chiggers in the future.
Chiggers, also known as Trombiculidae, trombiculid mites, harvest mites, and scrub-itch mites, are a tiny, bright red species of mite that live in tall grass and dense vegetation.
They are most commonly found in the United States and throughout Europe in places where the weather is hot and humid, but they can be found all over the world.
They thrive most during the summer and are not usually found in cooler climates.
Chiggers need a host to feed, so they often bite people or animals who are working or playing outdoors.
In their larva stage, chiggers are parasitic mites and attach themselves to animals, such as humans, mice, birds, and reptiles.
They feed on the skin of their hosts and not the blood like other parasitic insects.
Chiggers live in tall grass and dense vegetation, where they wait to attach themselves to a host.
They are also found in forests and shrubs and are often found near places that are damp like lakes and creeks although they can still inhabit manicured landscapes such as golf courses, parks, and athletic fields.
The warmer months when it is warmest and the vegetation is heaviest are their most active periods.
As noted above, chiggers are only parasitic during the larva stage. When these larval mites bite someone, it injects their saliva into the human skin.
This saliva contains an enzyme that dissolves the skin cells, which the chigger then consumes through a tube it made in your skin cells called a stylostome.
This process can be quite painful and often results in a red, itchy rash called chigger bites.
It is untrue that they burrow in your skin or suck your blood for food although these characteristics are seen in other parasitic bugs.
After three to five days the bugs drop off your skin to start the nymphal stage of life.
The symptoms of chigger bites usually start within 24 to 48 hours after being bitten.
The most common symptoms are a red, itchy rash and small bumps on the skin that are an allergic reaction to the bite.
The itchy, little red bumps may look like blisters, pimples, or hives.
The rash can be quite extensive and may spread to other parts of your body if you were bitten multiple times.
In some cases, people can experience a burning sensation or swell around the bite.
They are often found in places where the clothing is close to the skin such as along the beltline and behind the knees when wearing pants.
They also like to bite where there are skin folds so you can expect them around your armpits, crotch, and ankles too.
If bitten on the penis, it can cause an acute hypersensitivity reaction that makes it painful to urinate and causes swelling and itching, this is called summer penile syndrome.
Chigger bites will usually heal within a week to three weeks but the rash may grow first before getting better.
If you think you may have been bitten, the first thing you should do is wash the area with soap and water to remove any chiggers.
Next, you should treat the affected area with an antiseptic.
Due to the extreme itchiness of their bites, you may want to treat chigger bites with over-the-counter anti-itch medications, such as a calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
These will help to reduce the itching and swelling. You can also take a cool bath or put a cold compress on the itchy bumps.
Should your condition worsen or the bumps become infected then you should see your doctor or healthcare provider.
From around the web: Chigger bites pictures, What do chigger bites look like, Chigger bite treatment
Are there any risks associated with chigger bites?
Unlike a mosquito, flea, or tick bite, and other parasitic insect bites, chiggers feed on the skin and not the blood of their hosts.
This means they do not transmit any infectious diseases. A species of chiggers in Southeast Asia, Leptotrombidium deliense, do carry scrub typhus but these are not found in North America.
You do run a risk of infection with chigger bites if you scratch them.
The best way to prevent chigger bites is to wear clothing that covers your skin as much as possible, especially during the warmest summer months.
You can also use insect repellent on any exposed skin, such as DEET or picaridin can be an effective deterrent.
If you are going to be in an area where chiggers are known to live such as a park or forest, then walk in the center of the path and avoid brushing up against any vegetation.
Check yourself for chiggers after being in an area where they are known to live by doing a full body check, especially in the warmest months when they are most active.
Shower and change clothes as soon as possible if you think you have been bitten and wash your clothes in hot water. It is also helpful to keep your lawn mowed and free of tall grass, leaves, and other debris where chiggers like to live.
Chiggers are tiny, red bugs that feed on the skin of people and animals.
They live in tall grass and other dense vegetation and often bite humans around areas where there is close contact with clothing, such as the beltline and ankles, and places on the body with folds of skin, such as armpits and the back of knees.
The most common symptoms of chigger bites are a red, itchy rash and small bumps on the skin.
Chigger bites usually heal within one to three weeks but the rash may grow first before getting better.
If you think you have been bitten, the first thing you should do is wash the area with soap and water to remove any chiggers and then treat the affected area with an antiseptic.
Over-the-counter medicine can be used to help stop the itching along with ice or cold compresses. If your chigger bite shows signs of infection you should seek medical treatment.
References and Sources:
- 5 Signs and Symptoms of Chiggers Bites & How to Get Rid of Them Patient Comments: Chiggers - Symptoms and Signs - Viewers Share Their Medical Experiences - MedicineNet
- Patient Comment Submission Form What Do Chiggers Bites Look Like? - MedicineNet.com