How to Treat Chigger Bites

The name chiggers may conjure images of little furry magical creatures, harmless, perhaps amusing to watch as they frolic around in the grass. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are little, 1/150th of an inch in length, barely visible to the naked eye, but far from harmless, they are little devils, Let’s learn how to treat chigger bites.

In order to know how to treat chigger bites we must know the enemy. As stated they are 1/150th of an inch in length, reddish-orange in color, the juveniles, the ones that bite you, have 6 legs, the adults 8 legs. They are of the mite family, Trombiculidae, and feed on any type of animal that comes along, mammal, reptile or bird. They are found world wide so you can’t get away from them unless you go to an arctic environment.

How can something so small hurt us?

You may have a point if you were talking 1 chigger, but there is never just 1 chigger, there are hundreds, possibly thousands attacking. When you spot them on your body they will appear as very tiny red specks scurrying quickly across the skin searching for their favorite location of attack, tight fitting clothes like the elastic of underwear and tight fitting socks. They also tend to migrate to thinner skinned areas such as the groin, armpits and behind the knees. How do they hurt us? Depends on how you define hurt.

Chiggers don’t burrow into our skin and attach claws like a tick, nor pierce our skin with a needle and suck our blood like a mosquito. Instead, chiggers use their mouths to dig a tiny hole in your skin, then secretes a specialized enzyme saliva that breaks down your skin cells turning it into a liquid that the chigger slurps up through a tube of hardened skin cells called stylosome.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, its basically the same process a spider uses to turn their prey’s insides into a liquid which it drinks like a smoothie leaving only an empty shell. Just imagine if chiggers were larger.

Your body’s reaction to how to treat chigger bites is to develop a bright red pimple-like bump where its under attack, which may appear as a generalized rash over the entire area on infestation. This reaction could take up to 24 hours to 48 hours after exposure to the chiggers to present itself.

This rash will result in intense itching, nearly unbearable with a large infestation. You won’t be able to stop scratching which will prevent you from sleeping and functioning normally. The secondary wounds resulting from the constant scratching is ripe for infection from other types of bacteria which could lead to a serious infection developing.

Chigger wounds, which is exactly what they are, should not be taken lightly, as they are a complex mixture of mechanical damage to the skin, (the digging or drilling of holes into the skin) enzymatic disruption of the skin (the digestion of skin cells) and the body’s attempt to combat the parasite invasion. Believe me … you won’t be an idle bystander, you’ll be personally involved in this fight intensely scratching the maddening itching.

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How to Treat Chigger Bites – Avoiding Infestation

Obviously the best way to deal with chigger infestation is to steer clear of their normal environments, which can be easier said than done if you like the outdoors. Chiggers live in all types of environments, forests (woods), grassy fields, grasses around lakes, ponds and rivers, even in parks and gardens. But they are most prevalent in a wildlife setting of non-manicured landscaping.

If exposed to chigger infested areas there are actions you can take to limit your exposure:

  1. Do not wear shorts, always wear long pants.

  2. Tuck the pant legs inside your boots in possible

  3. If not pull your socks up over your pants leg. You’re trying to close any open pathway for the chigger to enter and get onto your exposed skin

  4. Spray insect repellent generously around your boots, pants legs shirt cuffs/ repellent containing deet is the best

  5. lavender oil, peppermint oil and witch hazel can be combined into a mixture and used as a repellent spray.

  6. If you think you have been exposed, as soon as possible take a warm shower and thoroughly wash with soap to remove the mites before they have time to start feeding.

  7. Wash clothes in hot water. You don’t want to rid yourself of mites only to put mite infested clothing back on.

Medically Treating Chigger Bites

By the time you realize you have sustained an attack from chiggers, which is normally when the itching begins, mildly at first, the actual mites may already be gone. However, if available take a shower anyway in order to get rid of any lingering parasites who may be still feeding.

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There is no treatment for the chigger bite per se’ as the damaged skin will heal itself with only a rare complication and that’s normally caused by a secondary infection from the constant scratching. The required treatment is for the itching. Both calamine lotion and corticosteriod creams can help reduce the itching and swelling of chigger bites, and an oral intake of Benadryl or cream may also be beneficial. For the most part Over-the-counter medications are usually all you’ll need to treat the itching. However, there are home remedies that are very effective for relieving the itch and should never be discounted as a helpful remedy. But be diligent in using home remedies because some are based on the belief the chigger burrows into the skin and is still inside residing, which is not true. Treatments for smothering the mites are a waste of time, there’s nothing to smother.

Five Home Remedies for How to Treat Chigger Bites

Baking Soda:

Baking soda contains a strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help effectively reduce itching and swelling, as well as reducing risk of infection.

  1. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with water, creating a paste

  2. Apply the paste directly to the infected area and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes

  3. Rinse the paste off with clean water. Do this 3-4 times daily as needed

Oatmeal Bath:

Oatmeal has inherent anti-inflammatory properties which assist in aiding the itching relief.

  1. Prepare a bathtub of tepid temperature water

  2. Draw the water deep enough to fully emerge your body

  3. Add a cup or packet of colloidal oatmeal and thorough mix

  4. Soak your body in the bath for 15-20 minutes

  5. Do this 2-3 times daily as needed

Apple Cider Vinegar:

Apple cider vinegar, similar to baking soda has numerous beneficial uses. It possess an antiseptic and soothing property that can be potentially very useful in treating the itching.

  1. Prepare a bathtub of tepid temperature water, exactly like the oatmeal bath, and add 2 cups of raw apple cider vinegar.

  2. Soak for 15-20 minutes. Apply skin moisturizers after drying off.

  3. Do this 1-2 times daily as needed.

  4. If you’re talking a small area, you can apply the liquid directly to the affected area with cotton balls or a clean cloth. Leave on for 30 minutes, wash and apply moisturizers.

Epson Salt:

Epson salt is a traditional and very effective treatment for the itching created by chigger bites. You can use it in bath water, or dissolve a teaspoon of Epson salt in a glass of water and rub directly on the infected area.

Vicks Vapor Rub:

It may come as a surprise but a jar of Vicks vapor rub can be effective in treating the itching of chigger bites, due to the cooling menthol that reduces the inflammation.

  1. Add a small sprinkle of salt into some Vicks vapor rub and mix.

  2. Directly apply the ointment onto the effected area

  3. Do this 2-3 times daily as needed

How to treat chigger bites may seem like a trivial issue and although chigger bites are never considered dangerous, nor require medical treatment under normal conditions, the intense itching will make your life miserable if you do nothing to help relieve the symptoms. The intense itching can last 2-3 days, which may seem like weeks, and it may take up to 2 weeks for the skin to return to normal looks.

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