How To Deal with Chiggers, the Other Summer Pest

chiggers
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I never thought much about chiggers until an acquaintance told me she had suffered horribly from their bites. Her comments made me wonder why we don’t hear much about chiggers along with the other summer pests.

Mosquitoes, ticks, and flies are among the more common pests we acquaint with summer, but chiggers are a significant problem as well and one you won’t soon forget if you are bitten by these pests.

What are chiggers?
Chiggers are the larval stage of a common mite in the Trombiculidae family, and they are present around the world in grassy areas, parks, forests, and land bordering lakes and rivers. In other words, where there is vegetation you can probably count on chiggers.

Chiggers are red, have six legs, and are only about 1/150th of an inch in length. That makes it extremely difficult to see them. They thrive in a humid environment, so they like to congregate in low vegetation and latch onto clothing and skin as you walk by. However, chiggers also can be found in drier areas, where they tend to stay in shady areas or underneath brush.

Once chiggers find their victim, they mostly enjoy thin, folded skin such as under the arms, behind the knees, the groin, and similar areas. If the pests encounter a hurdle to their travels, such as a belt or waistband, they typically bite where they are stopped.

When you are bitten by a chigger, the insect sends a structure called a sylostome (a type of tube) into your skin. The sylostome allows the insect to inject enzymes into your body and to continue feeding unless you wash the chigger away or remove it. Even when the chigger has been removed, however, the sylostome remains in the skin.

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You may not notice chigger bites or they can appear as raised, red spots that look like a pimple. It can take up to 48 hours before the itching begins, and it can be extremely irritating. The bites are especially bothersome for about two days, but the itching can continue for several more.

Treat chigger bites
The best ways to deal with chigger bites is to ensure you have washed the insects away. Because the insects do not burrow into the skin, old folk remedies designed to suffocate the insects such as turpentine, nail polish, or alcohol will not work. Instead, treat the bites with anti-itch lotions and medications. Options include calamine lotion, corticosteroid creams, and oral antihistamines. Natural remedies may be helpful and include lemon juice, aloe vera, baking soda (make a paste), rubbing alcohol, and a combination of the latter two remedies.

The good news is that in most cases, chigger bites do not result in any illness or disease. However, chigger bites in Asia may cause a febrile disease called scrub typhus, which is caused by a bacterium transmitted by the chiggers.

Another potential hazard from any chigger bites is excessive scratching that can lead to bacterial skin infections. Therefore it is important to relieve the itching as much as possible and to avoid scratching.
To help prevent chigger bites, follow these tips:

  • Take a shower or bath with hot water and soap after you have been outside to wash the insects away
  • Wash the clothing you wear outdoors
  • Wear long pants, socks, and high shoes when outdoors when chiggers are prevalent
  • Stay away from low-lying vegetation, especially when the temperature is between 60 and 99 degrees F.

Take precautions and let’s hope you don’t encounter any chiggers this summer. If you do, be sure to have some remedies on hand to battle these summertime pests.

Also Read about Summer Pests Fun Facts

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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