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Chigger Bites!

By: Lori Ray, Pharm.D.

Summer is almost here and along with the fun and sun sometimes come pesky little problems like chiggers. These reddish-orange mites can be found worldwide, but they really enjoy hanging out in damp, grassy, and wooded areas.  They are found on plants that are relatively close to the ground surface, because they require a high level of humidity for survival.  They are most active from early spring to early autumn, until the first frost.

What can I do about Chigger Bites?

The most important thing to do is to prevent chigger infestation.  Since avoiding the areas where chiggers like to hang out is almost impossible if you like being outdoors, the use of an insect repellent may help keep them at bay.  Chiggers prefer to attach to skin at areas where the clothing fits tightly against the body, such as at the tops of socks or around the elastic edges of underwear so don’t forget these areas when applying the repellent.

If bitten, you may develop intense itching (the most common symptom) in the areas where the mites were attached.  This may happen up to 24 to 48 hours after exposure. The area of the bite may be reddened, flat, or raised and sometimes resembles a blister.  The itch is usually most intense within 1 to 2 days after the bite and may persist for several more days, but can also take up to 2 weeks to resolve.

I’ve been bitten, now what?

First, forget the old myth of applying fingernail polish to the affected areas. Chiggers do not burrow into the skin, so trying to suffocate the mites with polish will not work.  Do not scratch the bites if at all possible.  Itching is best alleviated through the use of topical corticosteroids (over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% ointment or prescription strength from your physician) and antihistamines like Benadryl.  Another option to relieve itching is by soaking in an oatmeal bath.

Watch out for severe rashes that can become secondarily infected with bacteria.  In these cases, consult a doctor immediately.

So be aware of your surroundings and always prepare for bites and mites if you’re going to be in a possible chigger populated area.  If the area is infested, get out of there quickly and wash your skin vigorously with soap and water.  Although chiggers aren’t necessarily dangerous, they can be an itchy problem.  If you find yourself in need of repellents or treatments, please come see our helpful staff at any of our Collier Drug locations.