Spring showers bring May flowers…. and chiggers? Yes, chiggers
have a season, and that season begins now running from May through
Chiggers are the juvenile form of a trombiculid mite and are
found in forests, grassy fields, gardens, parks and around lakes
and rivers. Chiggers require a high level of humidity for
survival so they are typically found on plants that are relatively
close to the surface of the ground. They have six legs, are red in
color, and are less than 1/150th of an inch in length
barely visible to the naked eye.
Chiggers like to take a hike on your pant cuffs, shirt sleeves
or collars when you come in contact with vegetation. They
will then migrate onto your skin to feed. If left alone, a chigger
may feed for a few days.
When a chigger feeds, it injects enzymes into your skin that
causes destruction of the tissue. Then it feeds upon the dead
tissue. Your skin will react by hardening the cells around the
chigger's saliva path into a tubular structure called a stylostome.
It's your body's reaction to the stylostome that causes the
So how do you know if you have been bitten by a
You will probably not notice right away when a chigger bites
you. It takes about 1-3 hours for the following symptoms to
- Pronounced itching which may become most intense 1-2 days after
- The area of the bite will be reddened and either flat or
raised. It can also resemble a pustule or blister.
- Itching can persist for several days and skin lesions can last
for up to two weeks.
Chigger bite treatment
Common myths about home remedies for chiggers include using nail
polish, alcohol and bleach to suffocate or kill them. These are
based on the incorrect belief that they burrow in your skin, but
chiggers are not present in the skin so these methods are not
To treat chigger bites you need to use a product that will
relieve the itching and inflammation. Products that
include an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine, like Calagel Medicated
Anti-itch Gel, may relieve symptoms. Hydrocortisone products may
also offer itch relief such as Corticool 1% hydrocortisone gel.
Chigger bites have not been shown to cause any long-term
complications, but the intense itching may lead to prolonged
scratching. Scratching may lead to skin wounds which become a
risk for skin infections.
No matter what product you decide to use to relieve the
symptoms, there is nothing you can do to dislodge the stylostome.
Therefore there is no "cure" for chigger bites, you need to give
your body time to heal.
Tips to help prevent chiggers:
- Washing with soap and water after outdoor activities may remove
chiggers that are on the move.
- If you are away from home, rubbing your skin with a moist towel
or cloth may remove any chiggers.
- Wash clothing that has been worn outdoors to kill chiggers
hanging out on your clothes.
- Temperature affects chiggers. They do not like temperatures
below 60°F or above 99°F.
- Wear proper clothing such as long pants and long sleeve shirts
as well as thick socks or high shoes and boots. Tucking pant legs
into shoes or boots help.
- Use an insect repellent that contains DEET, such as the 10 Hour Insect
So next time you have a relentless mystery itch, it may not be
such a mystery… It may just be a chigger bite.
24 hours after chigger bite
Approx. 10 days after chigger
Photos courtesy of CDC / M.A Parsons