Chiggers are the larval form of a species of mite, and their bites can cause bumps, blisters, and rashes of hives. Chigger bites are very itchy and should be prevented wherever possible, but how can you tell chigger bites from other types of bugs bites – and what’s the best way to treat and prevent them?
What Are Chiggers?
Chiggers are often thought of as insects, but they’re actually arachnids belonging to the Trombiculidae family. They are immature mites, and are more closely elated to spiders and ticks than they are to insects. They are most commonly found in overgrown and grassy areas, as they prefer shady, humid environments.
Chiggers do bite humans but, unlike mosquitoes and ticks (which drink blood), they feed on liquefied skin tissue.
They do this by injecting an enzyme into the flesh of those they bite, which causes rashes and intense itching that may last for up to several days.
But, how can you identify, treat, and prevent chigger bites?
How to Identify Chigger Bites
Chiggers can strike whenever you venture outdoors but, with so many other biting bugs about, how can you tell chigger bites from other types of bites?
Chiggers are tiny bugs, so you’re unlikely to spot them on your skin. However, their bites are very itchy and may cause bumps, blisters, or a hive-like rash that can take a week or so to disappear. The bumps can look a lot like mosquito bites, but they tend to show up in groups rather than a single red lump.
Chigger bites are often itchier than other types of bug bites, and they usually show up in warm, sweaty areas like armpits, beltlines, inside socks, and behind the knees.
Identifying Chigger Bites on Babies
Chigger bites on toddlers and babies look just the same as they do on adults. They create red bumps, blisters, or small hives on the skin, and are usually concentrated in skin folds. Unlike mosquito bites, they tend to appear in groups.
How to Prevent Chigger Bites
Chigger bites are highly irritating, but they can be prevented. There are several ways to prevent bug bites, the most effective of which are to avoid chigger-heavy areas and wear insect repellents.
Avoid Chigger Habitats
Chiggers are most commonly found in overgrown and grassy areas. The best way to avoid chigger bites is to stay away from overgrown areas when out hiking or camping.
Wear Bug Spray
Insect repellent spray is one of the most effective way to keep chiggers (and other biting bugs) away. Cover yourself in a DEET or picaridin-based spray to keep insects off, or opt for a natural alternative.
Wear Protective Clothing
Long, loose-fitting clothing creates a physical barrier between bugs and your skin. Protective clothing is especially important if you are out hiking in areas with lots of biting insects (such as wooded or grassy places).
Wash Your Clothes and Skin
If you have been out and about in areas where chigger bites are likely, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes and skin thoroughly when you return home.
This will remove chiggers from your belongings and body before they have a chance to bite you.
How Long do Chigger Bites Take to Heal?
Chigger bites often leave a rash of bumps with a fearsome itch. The itching usually only lasts for a few days, but the rash can take a long time to heal completely and typically lasts for 1 – 2 weeks. Chigger bites on the penis can cause a condition known as ‘summer penile syndrome’ and can lead to swelling, itching, and pain when peeing.
Treatment for Chigger Bites
If you fall prey to chiggers, there are several things you can do to alleviate the itching and help the bites to heal.
Wash Your Skin
If you notice chigger bites on your skin, the first thing you should do is to wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. This is the best way to get rid of any chiggers that may still be clinging to your skin.
Slather any bites with an antiseptic gel or cream to prevent infection from setting in.
Chigger bites are often maddeningly itchy, but you mustn’t scratch! Scratching the bites can break the sin, which can lead to infection. If the itching is severe, you can take the edge off by applying an anti-itch medication (like hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion).
Avoid hot showers
Hot baths and showers can exacerbate the symptoms caused by chigger bites. Choose tepid temperatures to avoid making the situation worse.
Essential Oils for Chigger Bites
Essential oils may help to relieve the itching and irritation caused by chigger bites. These natural products can alleviate inflammation and swelling, but they shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin. If you decide to use essential oils to treat your chigger bites, always dilute them with water first. The following botanicals may be used to treat chigger bites:
- Tea tree oil
- Neem oil
- Aloe vera
- Clove oil
- Lavender oil
- Thyme oil
- Nutmeg oil
- Cayenne pepper
Chiggers are immature mites that live in overgrown and grassy areas. These tiny arachnids deliver an irritating bite which leaves itchy bumps, blisters, and rashes that can take up to two weeks to disappear. Chigger bites can be avoided by staying away from chigger habitats, by wearing an insect-repellent spray, and by donning protective clothing before you venture outdoors.
If you are bitten by chiggers, you should wash the affected area with soap and water, and apply an anti-itch cream. Chigger bites are very itchy but it’s important to avoid scratching, as broken skin can increase your risk of infection.