Chiggers are one of the tiniest members from the arachnid family. Even though they are very small in size, their bite is extremely powerful. Due to their size people are more vulnerable to their attack as they are too small to be even noticed and one needs a magnifying glass to spot them. Even the adult ones are 1/60 of one inch with 8 legs. They can only be noticed in the larvae form when they are in clusters because of their red color. However, after attacking the human skin they turn yellow. A Chigger bite can cause uncontrollable itching.
Chiggers are usually found in the grass, wooden areas and taller weeds. They could be at so many places around us like the backyard, or in the park. Summers and autumn are the two seasons when they are most active, especially in the afternoons in warm temperatures. In case you brush up against the place where they are found, they will take no time to attack you. Chiggers become less active in falling temperatures and die when the temperature is below 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
How do they bite?
Not many people know, but it is only the larvae that bites the humans. These tiny creatures always prefer attacking the warmer body areas and it’s their claws that help them get a grip of the skin. After that it sticks its mouth with the skin and injects it with the saliva that contains enzymes. These enzymes break the cells of the skin into a liquid form as they get hardened. They can also keep feeding and attached onto the affected area before they fall off.
The larvae often infest the body by making their way through the legs by crawling up. The strange part is that they do not literally ‘bite’ us by burrowing into the skin or sucking the blood! Instead, they only make tiny holes in the skin through their mouth. Through this process they secrete the salivary enzymes that further affect the skin cells. As a result we feel the itching and get bumps, rashes or hives. This can continue for more than 2 days of being attacked.
- Experiencing reddish bumps with a red dot in the center once the chiggers fall. The bumps may look like hives, pimples or blisters.
- Most of the chigger bites are experienced on areas behind the knees, armpits, waist, ankles or even the crotch.
- When the chigger attacks one usually doesn’t feel much. The symptoms are usually reported in a few hours.
- Then most discomforting symptoms is the uncontrollable itching and urge to keep scratching. When the bites are in a cluster they usually give a prominent rash.
- If the bite is around the genitals then it can be an extremely complicated experience. There is not only itching but also redness, swelling and pain while passing urine.
- The body part exposed to the sun is more prone to getting a rash.
Health Risks of Chigger Bites
In most of the cases the bites do not cause any major harm except for itching, pain and discomfort. They also do not transmit the disease since they don’t feed on the blood. However, too much scratching can cause severe infection and swelling.
One needs to be more cautious during summer and fall season as it’s the peak season for the chiggers. Also avoid brushing up against the areas that are more prone to chigger infestation. During hiking, it is prefer to walk in the center and wear full sleeve clothes and track pants instead of shorts. Insect/tick repellents can also be used. It is also advisable to take a shower as soon as you are back from hiking or a walk in those areas. Also, washing the clothes with hot water and using a bug spray of DEET on the skin and clothes can also prevent chigger bites.
How to Treat Chigger Bites
It doesn’t usually take more than two weeks for the bites to heal. The most important part of the treatment is to abstain from scratching as much as possible. Scratching can cause secondary infections and worsen the symptoms. Over the counter medicines like hydrocortisone or calamine lotion can be used to treat itching. Applying ice or an ice pack, taking cold showers can also be of a great help. A lot of people still follow the old myth of applying nail paint to the area that has been affected but that doesn’t help as Chiggers do not burrow in the skin, instead their attack is a combination of drilling and enzyme disruption of the skin cells.
Apart from avoiding scratching, the most important step is to take preventive measures. If camping in areas that are insect infested can be avoided then do that. The infected area should be washed with soap and water without any delay. If the rashes and swelling increases then it is best to consult a doctor.
Chigger bite – pictures on humans
Filed in: Skin Problems