Nobody gets just one chigger bite. You get a whole mess of them, more often than not, and they itch like hell. But chigger bites are preventable and the itching they cause goes away in a few days. Unlike ticks, chiggers do not carry any diseases that can affect humans. The best way to prevent chiggers bit is to avoid their habitat, wear long pants and tuck them into your socks, and to spray or soak your clothing with Permethrin, an insecticide that’s specifically designed for treating fabrics.
What are chiggers?
Chiggers are tiny insects that feed on insects and their eggs. They’re very small and nearly invisible without a magnifying glass. Adult chiggers are actually harmless to humans; it’s the baby chiggers that bite people. To mature, larval chiggers must eat on animal flesh. This is the only time during their lifecycle when they are parasitic. They’re harmless when they mature
What happens when a larval (baby) chigger bites you?
Chigger bites often occur near hair follicles or pore where the skin is the thinnest and hasn’t been toughened by exposure, like your pubic area, underarms, and near your waistbands. The chigger punctures your skin and injects saliva that includes enzymes to liquify your body’s cells so they can be ingested. Your immune system walls off the area around the bite to protect it from spreading, but the chigger will continue to feed for four days unless it falls off or is removed.
How can you avoid larval chiggers?
Chiggers live in tall grass, in the weeds along river banks, and in tree and shrubbery branches where they can easily latch onto a host that brushes by. The best way to avoid them is to avoid such habitat and resist the temptation to sit or lie in tall grass.
What does a chigger bite look like?
Chigger bites look like raised red welts or pimples. They usually occur in groups on areas of soft skin along skin folds or pants waistlines that damn chiggers and prevent them from migrating across the surface of your skin. It’s not unusual to experience dozens of chigger bites at once resulting in groups of welts on your skin. Chigger bites will begin to itch between and six hours after you’ve been bitten.
What’s the best way to treat a chigger bite?
If you think you’ve been bitten, scrub the affected area with a brush, soap, and water to remove any chiggers still attached to your skin. They fall off quite easily unlike other insects. Wiping the area with a dry piece of cloth will also have a positive impact if you don’t have easy access to a bath or shower.
Unlike ticks, chiggers don’t carry any diseases that can affect humans. But the bites can itch terribly. Scratching them should be avoided because it will increase the itching and can create a secondary infection. Scratch also keeps the wound open and prevents it from healing. The worst of the itching will subside after a few days and the welts will disappear after a week or two as they heal.
To reduce the itching, apply Benedryl Extra-Strength antihistamine cream or a hydrocortisone ointment like Cortisone 10 Maximum Strength to the site. Calamine Lotion is also effective in reducing the itching. If the itching is still unbearable, contact your doctor for advice.
How can you prevent chigger bites?
The best way to avoid chiggers is to avoid their habitat by staying on paths and trails and avoiding tall grass and riverbank vegetation. If that’s not feasible, apply DEET to your skin, tuck your pants into your socks, and treat your clothing with Sawyer’s Permethrin, an insecticide designed to be used on clothing, that is used by many hikers, backpackers, and the military. See Treating Your Clothes with Permethrin Spray and Permethrin Soak Method Guide for more detailed directions.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.