Chiggers are a type of small mite that lives near water in grassy or wooded areas. They are most common in the summer when it is warm, and they will stick to your clothes and bite you.
Chigger bites, which usually happen near the seams of tight-fitting clothes, often cause itching at the bite site.
What are chiggers?
Chiggers are a type of mite. They are in the same family as spiders and ticks. Chiggers are so small that it’s hard to see them with your own eyes. After hatching from their eggs, chigger mites feed on the skin of their host, which could be a person or an animal (larva).
Chiggers are a common pest that can be found on plants near water that are in grassy or forested areas. They are most active in the summer because it is hot.
What are chigger bites?
Chigger larvae feed on human blood and stick to the clothes of people who have them. The larvae of chiggers inject a liquid chemical into the skin that kills skin cells (digestive enzyme). This is because the chigger feeds on your skin by using the dead skin as a small straw (stylostome).
The chemical made by the chigger is very itchy for the first 24–48 hours, but it gets less itchy over the next two weeks. It is true that chiggers will fall off your skin if you start to scratch.
Who do chigger bites affect?
Chiggers can get on your clothes if you spend time in grassy, wet, or wooded areas. If they do, they can bite you.
Where do chiggers bite?
Chiggers are small parasites that get stuck to your skin when you’re in grass or a forest. They like to feed in places like waistbands, bra lines, sock lines, and other folds of skin, as well as anywhere else where your skin is close to your clothes. Here are some places where chiggers often bite:
- Lower legs.
- Behind your knees.
How common are chigger bites?
Chigger bites happen a lot in the summer, when the weather is often warm to hot. Because many people don’t go to the doctor after being bitten by chiggers, it’s hard to know what the true incidence rate is.
How do chigger bites affect my body?
Chigger bites are not something that you will notice right away. Up to three hours after a mite has touched your skin, you may start to feel sick. Chigger bites often make people feel itchy.
SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES
What are the symptoms of chigger bites?
Chigger bites can cause a number of unpleasant things, such as:
- A row of red bumps or pimples close together.
- Wherever your clothes are tightest is where you are most likely to get bit.
- Itchy in a bad way.
How do you get chigger bites?
If you happen to be walking where chiggers live, they might bite you.
- Grass that is too tall and wild.
- Those places where there are a lot of trees.
- Soil that is wet and near or in water.
- Places with high humidity (80% or more).
After getting stuck to your clothes, chiggers will crawl onto your skin.
DIAGNOSIS AND TESTS
How are chigger bites diagnosed?
Your doctor will think you have chigger bites based on how the bites look (in a line) and where they are (where tight-fitting clothing rests). This illness might be easier to figure out if the doctor knew exactly where the bites happened, especially if they were in a grassy, wet, or wooded area outside.
MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENT
How are chigger bites treated?
Treatment to get rid of the mites isn’t needed because chiggers don’t dig into the skin, and the rash usually shows up after the mites have moved on. On the other hand, treatments for chigger bites are meant to make you feel better.
- Putting something on the skin, like lotion (calamine lotion).
- By taking diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) or other antihistamines.
- Using a medicine that kills parasites (permethrin).
- Putting a cold pack on the area that hurts.
- Scrubbing the skin every day with soap and water.
A doctor may give you antibiotics if you scratch so hard that the skin gets red, swollen, or full of pus.
How long do chigger bites last?
The bite will itch the most in the first 24 to 48 hours. After two weeks, your symptoms should start to get better slowly.
Is there a home remedy to treat chigger bites?
Chigger bites can be painful, but you can take antihistamines or use an anti-itch cream like calamine lotion to make yourself feel better. Since chiggers can’t do serious damage to the skin by burrowing, only treatments that are put on the skin are needed.
How soon after treatment will I feel better?
Using anti-itch creams or antihistamines can help right away, but the feelings may last for up to two weeks, getting less intense as time goes on.
How can I reduce my risk of getting chigger bites?
If you don’t want to get chiggers:
- Dress for safety when you’re outside (long sleeve shirts, tall socks, long pants tucked into boots).
- Before going outside, use pesticides on clothes to keep bugs and mites away.
- Putting on a bug vest or using something else to keep insects away.
- In the summer, when it’s very hot, you should stay away from grass, water, and wooded areas.
OUTLOOK / PROGNOSIS
What can I expect if I have chigger bites?
Near the bite site, where a piece of clothing is tight against the skin, like the sock line or the waistline of your jeans, the skin often gets itchy. Most chigger bites go away on their own after a few days, but in extreme cases, they can last for up to two weeks.
How do I take care of myself if I have chigger bites?
Put a lotion or cream that stops itching on the bite to make it feel better. If you want to scratch, you might want to cut your fingernails short to avoid tearing the skin and making it worse. Your clothes should be washed in hot water or treated with a pyrethroid pesticide.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
If you have any of the following, you should see a doctor:
- It’s really annoying to itch.
- When you scratch, the bites open up and start to bleed.
- The itch hasn’t gone away at all after two weeks.
- From the bite site on your skin, pus forms or leaks (infected).
What questions should I ask my doctor?
- Should I take medicine to kill parasites?
- What kinds of lotions or creams should I use to stop the itching?
- Can antihistamines stop the feeling of being itchy?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What do chiggers look like?
Chiggers, which are also called red bugs, are related to spiders and have life cycles that are similar to theirs (arachnids). Some things about chiggers are:
- The tiniest of the tiny (averaging at .3 millimeters).
- The larvae are yellow or orange, but the adults are a bright red.
- Adults have eight legs, but larvae only have six.
What is the difference between chigger bites and bed bug bites, flea bites and mosquito bites?
Chiggers, bedbugs, fleas, and mosquitoes are all bugs that can bite and make you feel itchy.
- Chigger bites hurt a lot and look like red spots or pimples. Chigger bites tend to cluster near the seams of clothes that fit closely.
- If a bed bug bites you, it will probably be anywhere on your body that touches your bed (including your arms, legs, face and back). When they go away, they leave behind red bumps that are first annoying and then itchy.
- Because of how fleas bite, flea bites look like a zigzag pattern. Flea bites look like small red spots and can be very itchy.
- When a mosquito bites you, itchy, red bumps will show up on your skin. Mosquito bites usually happen on arms and legs that haven’t been treated with an insect repellent.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Preventing chigger bites isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If these little bugs stick to your clothes and make you itch, you might not want to go outside.
The good news is that chiggers are easy to brush off the skin as soon as you notice an itchy rash, and the itchiness goes away after 24 to 48 hours. Use a cream that stops itching on the bite to ease the pain.