How to Get Rid of Chiggers?: A peaceful walk in the park, a relaxed golf session or an afternoon at lakeside is a refreshing way to spend your day during spring time. But don’t be shocked if soon after your visit to these places you start having an uncontrollable desire to itch! You probably brought back with you some uninvited guests called Chiggers. Chiggers are microscopic mites that are rarely dangerous, but can cause an uncontrollable and overpowering itching sensation when are in contact with your skin. And when it comes to dealing with chiggers, it is better to be safe than sorry!
Technically, chiggers are 6 legged larvae from the family of Trombiculidae, the same family that spiders and ticks belong to. You can travel across the world and not possibly escape from these creatures as they are found almost everywhere; so common that they are called by a variety of nicknames like harvest bugs, harvest mites, harvest lice, red bugs and many more! A little relief is that when a chigger matures to an 8 legged adult, it becomes harmless to humans and is no longer parasitic.
But the little chigger larvae cannot fly and are generally found attached to short bushes or vegetation in groups. Whether you are in a moist field, park, lakeside, golf course or even your lawn, these chiggers might just cling on to you by attaching themselves to your clothing as you stand or pass by them.
So What Do The Chiggers Do When They Are Near You?
These tiny creatures attach themselves to your clothing and quickly travel to find the right spot on your skin to feed on. Generally chiggers feed on areas which have wrinkles/ fold under clothing and areas with thin skin such as the back of your knee, groin area, folds of the neck, armpits and ankles. Once chigger finds its spot on you, there is no holding back! It quickly injects its digestive enzymes into your skin that break down your skin cells and form a feeding hole/tube in your skin called the stylostome. This tube will be its primary source of food for the next few days. Through the tube, they chew on your inner skin thus causing severe itching and swelling.
You might develop a lesion, bump, rash or a pimple on the bitten area followed by an unbearable itch. You might have heard that the rashed skin is where the chigger has laid its eggs, it is a myth! Another myth associated with chiggers is that they penetrate your skin and live under it. Chiggers do not enter your skin, in fact, they can’t. They only feed themselves externally through the feeding tube.
And once the chiggers have nicely engorged on your skin and are full, they then fall down and mature into adults and become harmless which generally takes 3 to 5 days.
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How To Get Rid Of Chigger Bites?- Dealing with the Itch
Several off-the-counter anti-itch ointments are available to help relieve the itch caused by chiggers but they would only offer temporary relief. A chigger bite would generally heal itself within a week or two and sadly, until then, all that you can do is only minimize the discomfort. Following are the remedies that can offer relief from chigger bites:
1. Calamine Lotions
As you may already know, calamine lotions are applied for relief from conditions that trigger itch such as rash, sunburn or insect bites. Hence, you can always resort to the regular calamine lotion sold at drug stores, they offer a soothing sensation over the chigger-bitten area. .
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Moisturizing the affected area is equally effective in relieving the itch. Simply apply some baby oil, Vaseline, or cold cream to minimize the discomfort caused by chigger bite.
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3. Cold compresses
Cold compresses can also do the trick. Applying cold compress numbs the itching, and provides cooling sensation simultaneously. Make sure to wrap the ice with a cloth before applying it on your skin as direct application of ice may lead to a frost bite.
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4. Nail Polish
Alternatively, you may also apply nail polish on the affected area. As strange as it may sound, applying fingernail polish on the rash or red spot creates a protective covering, hence prevents you from scratching it which in turn prevents infection.
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5. Baking Soda
Another easy method to treat chigger bite is to apply some thick paste of baking soda mixed with water on the affected area. Baking soda improves inflammation and prevents infection when applied consistently. Follow up with this remedy three to four times a day.
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6. Elastic Bandage
If the chigger has bitten on your legs or arms, consider covering the area with a elastic bandage which cuts the air supply to the bite and thereby offers some relief. Although this remedy does not necessarily get rid of the chigger bite, it surely offers some respite, and prevents you from scratching the affected area.
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7. Listerine Mouth Wash
Applying Listerine mouth wash with the help of cotton can also reduce the discomfort caused by a chigger bite. Listerine keeps the area cool, and reduces the itching sensation. This offers a temporary relief. Alternatively, in the case of unavailability of mouth wash, you may opt for alcohol.
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8. Vicks Vapor Rub
Another well known trick is to mix some salt with some vicks vapor rub and applying it over the chigger bite. This remedy works pretty well for intense itching, and will certainly help minimize swelling. This is due o the anti-inflammation properties that salt possesses.
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Oatmeal has been used as a home remedy to relieve the itching caused by rash, acne and even dry skin. It offers similar effects when it comes to treating a chigger bite too. Scrubbing the affected area with some cooked oatmeal twice a day can magically reduce the associated itching.
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10. Tea Bag
Another method that you could try is to wet a tea bag with water and chill it. Once chilled, place it on the bitten area for about 30 minutes. Tea is anti-inflammatory and rich with antioxidants. It can do wonders to your skin when applied on regular basis, from eliminating dark circles to curing psoriasis and now relieving a chigger bite.
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How To Avoid Chiggers?
If you happen to know that the area you are visiting is chigger infested, the wisest thing to do would be to wear clothes that minimize loose ends and skin exposure. Since chiggers are found attached to plants closer to the ground, you can probably tuck the ends of your pants/jeans inside long socks to prevent chiggers from entering into your clothing.
Alternatively, you can use a bug spray on exposed skin to prevent chiggers from clinging onto you. Bug sprays usually contain substances that insects are allergic to, thus helps keep bugs of all kinds away.
Rubbing some essential oils like tea tree, neem, lemongrass and peppermint are also known to keep chiggers away. This is because of the antiseptic properties that these herbs posses, apart from the smell itself, which would effectively repel most types of insects.
Every time you return from outdoor, make sure to take a hot shower and scrub your skin well with a soap or any body scrub. This will prevent chiggers from attaching to your body and creating their feeding hole.
Additionally, all clothing that came in contact with your surroundings should be washed and rinsed in hot water (170 degree Fahrenheit or above) to wash the chiggers away. You don’t want to catch any more chiggers from your soiled clothes later on!
However, the affected area might still itch despite being washed or scrubbed, if the chiggers have already created the stylostome. In such cases, the itch becomes difficult to rid and a remedy that works equally for everyone affected is yet to be found.
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Though chiggers do not cause serious damage to the body, their bite can sometimes cause a rash called trombiculiasis, which needs to be addressed by your health care professional. The itch, on the other hand, can disable a person from performing everyday tasks effectively. It is all the more uncomfortable if chiggers affect a child in the family. There is no remedy that offers permanent relief from chigger bites, hence it is the best you take prevention instead. Fortunately, the above mentioned remedies offer much relief and aid if you are already affected.