Chiggers hide out in fields, woods and the water's edge. When in their young stage of growth, they bite, leaving painful, red wounds on the skin. Knowing where to look for chiggers and how to prevent bites can equip kids and others avoid any interaction with these tiny pests.
Tiny Mites, Big Pain
Chiggers are a very small kind of mite; so small they are difficult to see without a magnifying glass. If you do see a chigger, you'll notice it's red in color. Chiggers are in the same family as ticks, spiders and scorpions, and they are also known as redbugs or jiggers. Chiggers are found in many different kinds of places, including grassy fields, woods and forests, and along bodies of water like streams and lakes.
Digesting Your Bodily Tissue
When chiggers are very young, they're called larvae. Adult chiggers don't bite, but larvae do. Using their tiny claws, they attach themselves onto a kid, adult or animal. Then, they inject their saliva into the body. They don't suck blood, but eat skin instead. Their saliva contains digestive juices that actually dissolve a small amount of skin, so the chigger can then eat that skin. This may be great for the chigger, but it's painful to the victim.
The Bite Wound
A few hours after a child, adult or animal is bitten by a chigger, the skin begins to itch, and small red itchy spots appear. However, the chigger has not completed its feeding frenzy. It remains attached for several days, making the itchiness and red spots worse. After a few days, the chigger finally falls off. The bite site will stay red and irritated afterwards, and there will be a red welt where the chigger was.
Clean Up, Spray Down
Because chigger bites are quite itchy, it might be tempting or irresistible to scratch them. However, scratching can cause an infection, so it's important to avoid scratching the area. Applying anti-itch cream helps calm the fire. When treating a chigger bite, first cleanse the area with soap and water, then apply antibacterial cream along with anti-itch cream. Clothes should be washed in hot water to kill any remaining chiggers. To prevent future bites, apply insect repellent.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.