The larva of the Trombiculidae family is what is called a chigger. The adult form is a mite closely related to spiders. You will find chiggers in any country in the world, but they love the forests, grassy fields, parks, and gardens. They are also found in the moist areas surrounding most lakes. Since chiggers need a high level of moisture to survive, they are found on the lower stems of plants. Chiggers are barely visible to the naked eye, since they are very small. These creatures are red in color and can only be seen clearly when they are in clusters. Although adult chiggers have 8 legs, the larval form has only six legs, and is sometimes mistaken as insects. Although chigger bites do not have any long-term complications, the intense scratching leads to the breaking of the skin and secondary infection can occur.
How do chiggers bite humans?
When your clothes come into contact with vegetation that has chiggers, they latch on and move to the inside, where they find a soft patch of skin where they bite. Most people think that chiggers burrow into the skin, but this is not true. Chiggers bite into flesh and inject enzymes which cause the surrounding tissue to harden. The tube formed by this hardening of the tissue is called a stylostome. The enzymes also cause the tissue to rot and the chigger feeds on the flesh. If the chiggers are not disturbed, they can feed through the stylostome for a few days. When chiggers bite they cause a lot of itching so it is rare that they can remain undetected for a few days.
The feeding structure and mouth of a chigger is very delicate, and this is the reason why they look for spots where the skin is soft. The bites usually occur around the ankles, the crotch and groin area, in the armpits and the area behind the knee. Chigger bites normally happen in areas below the belt sue to the barrier it presents to their migration. However if they land on the sleeves of your shirt, then they will bite under the armpit.
What do chigger bites look like (symptoms)
You will not notice the bite of a chigger given that it is very tiny. However, after 1 – 3 hours, when the digestive enzymes begin to break down the tissue on your skin, you will begin to feel the itchiness.
The bite causes a lot of itching and the area of the bite can be flat, reddened and sometimes may look like a blister or pustule. The itchiness is caused by the presence of the stylostome and is very intense in the first 2 days after being bitten.
Several days after the bite, you will still feel the itchiness, and the lesions developed can take up to 2 weeks to heal.
What is the treatment for chigger bites?
Most people have come up with home remedies from the mistaken belief that chiggers enter the skin and remain burrowed inside. This is the reason why many have used bleach, nail polish and alcohol in an attempt to kill the chiggers though to be under the skin. These methods are not effective since the chiggers are living on the outside.
Calamine lotions and corticosteroids are the best, since they alleviate the itchiness and inflammation. You may also take oral antihistamines if you feel that the itching has become too much.
Hydrogen peroxide also helps in alleviating the effects of a chigger bite. Take a cotton ball and soak it in hydrogen peroxide, then hold it on the affected area for a few minutes. You should also move it around gently so that you get the entire area. You should repeat this a few times, and the itchiness subsides.
The best treatment for chigger bites is to prevent them from biting you in the first place.
How can chigger bites be prevented?
Every time that you come from the outdoors, ensure that you take a warm shower or bath, and use soap to clean everything from your skin. You should also wash any clothes that you were wearing outdoors so as to kill any chiggers remaining there.
Chiggers will not bite when temperatures are low; therefore temperatures should be observed whenever you go outdoors. They are also not found in very hot areas, so you can comfortably sit on a rock in hit rocky areas without worrying about chiggers.
You should also wear appropriate clothing whenever you go outdoors. If you use high shoes or boots, wear thick socks, long sleeve shirts and long pants, you will reduce the chances of getting chigger bites. It is advisable that you stuff the pants into the tops of the boots. You should also put some mosquito repellent on your clothes when you are going outdoors. Mosquito repellent also repels chiggers.
Pictures of Chigger Bites