If you ever noticed some suspicious-looking bites all over your body after you spent a relaxing day in the forest or at a lakeside, you may have been wondering where those bites came from. Chances are that you got chiggers bite, which can be much more annoying, widespread and itchy than mosquito bites. Learn how to tell the difference between chigger bites and other insects bites in order to know how to react in case it happens again and how to prevent chigger bites so that they don’t spoil your weekend in the nature.
What Are Chiggers?
Chiggers are the juvenile form of mites. They belong to the family of Trombiculidae and are very common in fields with tall grass, in gardens, parks, forests and the areas around lakes and rivers. They like humid environment so they choose the lower plants that are close to the ground. Chiggers are very small and it is practically impossible to see them with the naked eye. That’s why it’s more difficult to protect the skin from their bites, unlike in the case of mosquitoes. Since the average size of a chigger – which looks like a tiny spider – is 1/50th of an inch, you would need a magnifying glass to see it. When they cluster in groups, you can see them as small, red bumps on the laves and branches of the plants.
When, Where And How Do Chiggers Bite?
Chiggers can attach themselves to your skin and clothes when you walk through a field of tall grass or when you have some contact with infested vegetables. At the beginning, chiggers usually get stuck to the clothes and then move on to look for thin skin, which is their optimal feeding area. It might take them between 3 to 6 hours to find the perfect spot on your body as they are not able to cut through the thick skin.
Therefore, chigger bites usually occur on the neck, around the wrists and ankles, in the armpits, the crotch and groin area, behind the knees and on the inner part of forearms and elbows. Unlike mosquitoes, which normally bite the exposed areas of the skin, chiggers migrate around the body in the search for the appropriate place. If you notice bites on the skin that wasn’t uncovered when you were in the nature, it is hardly possible that they came from mosquitoes. These are most probably chiggers bite.
Once chiggers find the skin area that they can cut through with their feeding structures, they inject enzymes that damage the skin tissue. In the places where they manage to do it, you can notice some skin hardening, which is caused by the formation of a feeding tube called stylostome. Chiggers begin the feast and of course, the human skin is the main dish. It is in this moment that you can start noticing an increasing sensation of itching.
Symptoms Of Chiggers Bite
The enzymes that the chiggers inject into your skin cause pronounced itching, which becomes worse and worse with time. The skin in the bite spot gets red and sometimes slightly swollen. These symptoms become even more noticeable once you start scratching your skin, which is quite difficult to resist. The itching sensation is the worst at the very beginning and over the first two to three days, but it can take up to three weeks to fully heal the skin after the chiggers bite. The central part of the bite has a characteristic bright, red dot, which is the start of the stylostome created by the chigger. In the majority of the chigger bite cases, the skin has multiple bites in the same area or in various zones. Due to this fact, it can sometimes be mistaken for a contact allergy reaction or eczema.
Luckily, chiggers don’t feed on the blood, only on the human skin and they haven’t been reported to carry or transmit diseases. The only danger that chigger bites may pose is the skin infection resulting from excessive scratching.
First Aid For Chigger Bites
The treatment of chigger bites is focused on relieving the itching sensation, preventing skin infections and speeding up the skin healing process. The chiggers, unlike ticks, don’t attach themselves strongly to the skin and they are easy to remove from the skin surface, contrary to the popular belief that chiggers burrow into the skin and remain in its deeper layers. Here’s a list of quick methods that will bring you a relief when you have chigger bites.
Hot Shower or Bath
The first thing you should do when you discover a chigger bite on your skin is to take a hot shower. Take a bath sponge or glove, apply some shower gel or exfoliator on it and rub the entire body in order to remove any chiggers you might have on your skin. Remember to wash the whole body well rather than just the areas with the bites. Remember that chiggers migrate and it takes time before you notice their presence and the bites, so you might have the chiggers not only where you already have the itching sensation, but also in some other vulnerable zones. Give special attention to the ankles, wrists, forearms, the back of the knees, the crotch and the armpits. You can finish the shower off with cold water, which will bring instant relief from itching.