Identifying Chigger Bites

Chigger Bites itch intensely, and if you've ever been bitten, you're sure to not forget the experience anytime soon.  For those unfamiliar with Chiggers, identifying Chigger Bites from other bugs bites can be difficult.  Chiggers Bites have some tell-tale characteristics though, that make identifying them very easy, once you learn them.

What are Chiggers?

Chigger

Photo by: Hansell F. Cross, Georgia State University, Bugwood.org

Chiggers are are the larvae stage of Trombiculid Mites.  Trombiculid Mites generally live in areas of tall grasses and woodlands, but can also be commonly found on golf courses and lawns.  They are also commonly called Red Bugs, Red Mites and Harvest Mites.

Chiggers are very small and difficult to see.  In order progress from larva, to adult Chiggers, they must feed on skin, and preferably human skin.  But they aren't too picky, as any animal with skin will suffice.

What are Chigger Bites?

Chigger Bites

Trombiculid Mites larva wait in the grass and foliage for a host to walk by and jump onto the host, and within 2 hours, find an open patch of skin.  Using their legs, they rip a hole in the skin, inject their saliva, which contains a skin digesting enzyme, and ingest the digested skin using a straw-like appendage.

They feed for 3-4 days, then drop off.  The remaining "bite" mark within 24-48 hours becomes highly inflamed, swells up, and forms a red pimple like mark, that is itches intensely.  Chigger bites can begin itching within 3-4 hours of being bitten.

>> Learn more about Chiggers in our Chigger Guide.
 

Identifying Chigger Bites

Like most other bug bites, Chigger Bites form red marks on the skin, and itch after the bite actually occurs.  But that is where the similarities stop.   Chigger Bites have a number of unique characteristics that make identifying Chigger Bites, actually very easy: 

  • Chigger bites are small, red, pimple-like marks on your skin.
  • Chiggers often "attack" their host in large groups, and in the same area of the body.   There will generally be a large number of bite marks very close together, making it look almost like a rash.
  • Chigger bites are very often located where clothing transitions to skin.  Areas like above the top of your sock line, below the bottoms of your pants, at your waistline, neckline, and groin area.
  • Chigger bites are intensely painful and itch terribly.  Chigger bites are the most uncomfortable about 3 days after the initial bite occurs, and then begin to subside after.

If you think you've been bitten by Chiggers, it is very important to begin treatment immediately.  The longer treatment is put off, the more intense the swelling and discomfort will be.

>> Check out our Chigger Bites Photos page for lots of photos of chigger bites you can reference.

Do Chigger Bites Spread?

Another common misconception about chigger bites is that by itching the bites, they'll spread.  This is not true.

What can happen though is that as Chiggers jump onto your body, and migrate to an area of exposed skin, they will not always bite and begin to feed immediately.  Chiggers can often stay on your body for up to 4 hours before beginning to feed.   Because of this delay, it can sometimes take a little time for the series of Chigger Bites to fully show itself, resulting in what appears to be a spread of the bites.

To avoid this "spread", it is very important to shower as soon as possible after you think you've been exposed to Chiggers.  This will wash off and kill any remaining Chiggers that may not have bitten you yet, and minimize the number of Chigger bites you receive.

How to Treat Chigger Bites

Chigger Anti-itch Cream

There is a very common belief that Chiggers embed themselves into the host's skin and remain there.  Thus many will recommend using nail polish, alcohol, and even bleach on the bite marks to kill the Chiggers.  

Contrary to this belief, Chiggers do not embed themselves in the skin.  In fact, many of these treatments will just make the bites even worse, by irritating them further.

Chigger bites should be treated as early as possible, to reduce swelling, inflammation, and irritation.  The earlier a bite is treated, the less painful and uncomfortable it will be.   Bites generally begin showing on your skin within 3-4 hours and will last for up to a week.  They are most painful around the 2-3 day mark.

The following are effective treatments for Chigger Bites:

  • Avoid touching or scratching the bites - This will only irritate them more, and potentially break the skin, where infection becomes a serious risk, that can cause very serious complications.
  • If you've been bitten, immediately take a cold shower, and wash vigorously with soap.  The cool water will soothe the irritation, and the soap will remove and kill any remaining Chiggers on your skin.
  • Use cold compresses on the bite area, to relieve pain and irritation
  • Use of essential oils for Chiggers is effective as well.  Oils like Lavender, thyme, and tea tree oil have been known to relieve discomfort from Chigger bites.
  • Baking Soda paste, placed on the bite marks and the bite area, is a time-proven treatment for relieving discomfort.
  • Over the counter, anti-itch creams and ointments are highly effective, and your best treatment option for reducing swelling and discomfort from Chigger bites.

How to Prevent Chigger Bites

Once a person has been bitten by Chiggers, their interest in preventing any future Chigger bites is considerably high for most.  Fortunately, learning how to prevent chigger bites is pretty easy:

  • When venturing into grassy areas, where Chiggers may live, always wear long pants, long sleeves shirts, and boots.  Be sure to tuck your pants into your boots.
  • Cover yourself with a Chigger Repellent.   We've found DEET based products to work the best, and specifically Deep Woods Off and ChiggAway.  Place the repellent on both your skin and your clothing for maximum effectiveness.
  • Once you return to your home, immediately take off ALL of your clothing in the laundry room, and place your clothing in the washer, and start the wash cycle.  This will kill any live chiggers on your clothing.
  • Immediately take a hot shower, and wash vigorously with soap to remove and kill any Chiggers on your skin.
  • If you think you may have been bitten, go ahead and apply an anti-itch cream, Chiggerx, or ChiggAway to minimize your reaction to the Chigger Bites.