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The Challenge of Chigger Bites

Spending time outside on a beautiful spring day can be great for your well-being. But take precautions so your fun is not spoiled by pesky chigger bites.  Chiggers are tiny bugs, almost invisible to the naked eye. They live in the grass and weeds. Chiggers are most abundant during warm weather.

Chiggers typically bite the skin around your waist, ankles, and skin folds. Bites can be blistered, or flat or raised red areas. A common myth is that chiggers burrow into the skin and remain there. This is not true. They form an opening in the skin, inject digestive juices and then feed on the dying skin cells. The bite itself is painless. Itching starts later, usually after the chigger has dropped from the skin to the ground. The itching may last for several days, and complete healing of the bite can take up to two weeks.

One thing I’ve found is that no single remedy works for everyone. This is probably because chigger bites are a complex mix of digesting skin cells, your body’s allergic response, and possible bacterial infection. Everyone’s body reacts a bit differently. So it’s typical for experienced people to say any given method is useless, but another works very well for them.

Treating Chigger Bites

For most people antihistamines (like Benadryl) and corticosteroid creams (like hydrocortisone) help stop the itching.  Hot showers or baths also provide some relief.  Some people swear by the use of petroleum jelly on the bites. Others recommend painting them with nail polish.

But it’s best to just avoid getting chigger bites in the first place. So try to stay out of infested areas. Apply bug spray with DEET to your skin and clothing to help prevent bites.

Chiggers don’t bite in cooler weather (below 60 degrees), or very hot weather (above 99 degrees). Keep this in mind while planning your next hiking trip so you can avoid a chigger infection and other medically related issues related to bites.