May begins the season of Chiggers

By Administrator  |  Thursday, May 12, 2011  |  , ,  |  2 comments

Spring showers bring May flowers…. and chiggers? Yes, chiggers have a season, and that season begins now running from May through October.

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 symptoms.

So how do you know if you have been bitten by a chigger?

You will probably not notice right away when a chigger bites you.  It takes about 1-3 hours for the following symptoms to begin:

  • Pronounced itching which may become most intense 1-2 days after the bite.
  • 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 effective.

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 Repellent.

So next time you have a relentless mystery itch, it may not be such a mystery…  It may just be a chigger bite.

chigger1

24 hours after chigger bite

chigger2

Approx. 10 days after chigger bite

Photos courtesy of CDC / M.A Parsons

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2 comments for “May begins the season of Chiggers”

  1. Posted 2/23/2012 at 10:47:41 AM
    Gravatar of Jason

    Great article

  2. Posted 11/27/2012 at 5:50:28 PM
    Gravatar of Kaliyah

    Thank you for the information

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