Individuals who live in the southern United States likely experience chigger bites on a regular basis. Still, this arachnid may be an unpleasant novelty for those in other parts of the country. If you'll be traveling to an area where chiggers are more common, educating yourself about these mites, where they are found, and how to treat the bites if they happen is essential.
What are Chiggers?
Chiggers are the juvenile form of a mite known as "Trombiculidae" and are also commonly called berry bugs, harvest mites, and red bugs. They live in areas with tall grass, forests, parks, and rivers and are often found near water. They are members of the arachnid family. These tiny mites burrow into their victims' skin with their mouth parts, forming a tube of digested skin cells called a stylostome. They then continue to feed on their host through this tube, eventually, drop off their host, grow into an 8-legged nymph, and then an adult chigger. The tube left behind in the bite is uncomfortable and itchy for the host and can take quite some time to heal.
Symptoms of a Chigger Bite
You may not know that chiggers have bitten you until you feel the itch or see the reddened bites, as the mites are often too small to be noticed. Chigger bites are incredibly itchy and quickly form reddened skin lesions that may be flat or raised. They may blister and often appear in clusters on the ankles, feet, or waist. These skin lesions can take several weeks to heal up and stop itching, as they're caused by a reaction to both the bite itself and the formed stylostome.
Treating a Chigger Bite
These bites can often be treated with OTC chigger bite ointment like Bug Bash Ointment to relieve the itching. If you notice that chiggers have bitten you, remove your clothes and put them into the washing machine immediately to avoid reinfection. Take a hot bath or shower to remove as many stylostomes as possible, but avoid digging or scratching at the wounds, as this will only cause secondary infections. Apply a topical OTC chigger bite ointment, and consider an oral antihistamine if you're still experiencing severe itching. If you don't get better with this course of action, you may need to visit your general practitioner or a dermatologist for more in-depth treatment. They can prescribe medication to help you with the itching and to help your skin heal more quickly.