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How Do You Prevent and Treat Chigger Bites?

image of a tiny chigger on a finger

Chiggers are a summertime scourge. Here is helpful advice for how to treat itchy chigger bites, and expert tips for preventing and avoiding these annoying red bugs.

When you’re in the outdoors, you might also want to know how to avoid mosquitoes, ticks, stinging caterpillars and other itchy hazards.


Red bugs, chiggers, berry bugs, scrub-itch mites and harvest mites are all terms used to describe members of the family of insects known as Trombiculidae. These reddish-orange mites can be found worldwide, but they really enjoy hanging out in damp, grassy and wooded areas, especially at the edges of forests.

In the United States, chiggers are mostly found in the southeast, south and midwest. They are most active from early spring to early autumn, until the first frost.


chigger under a microscopeChigger larvae infest humans by crawling up our shoes and legs as we make our way through the scrub.

What’s kind of cool is that chiggers do not actually bite us. Likewise, they do not burrow into our skin, and they do not suck our blood. Instead, chiggers use their mouths to drill tiny holes into our skin through which they secrete specialized salivary enzymes designed to break down our skin cells from the inside. Then, the chiggers slurp up the mixture through a tube formed by hardened skin cells called a stylosome.

Basically, it’s like drinking a big “YOU” protein shake!

Your skin does not take too kindly to all of this drilling and parasitic digestion by chiggers. Consequently, humans typically develop intensely itchy, bright red pimple-like bumps or hives or a generalized skin rash in the areas where the mites were attached, even up to 24 to 48 hours after exposure.

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 a rash in these areas may be a clue to the specific cause.


So, what can you do for a chigger bites or rashes? 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 chiggers with polish makes no sense at all. Second, chiggers do not lay eggs in the skin, so stop worrying about that.

hand in tall chigger infested grassChigger bites or wounds are a complex mixture of mechanical damage to the skin (the drilling), enzymatic disruption of the skin (the digestion), and your body’s own attempt to get rid of the parasite. Consequently, the most important thing to do is to prevent chigger infestation.


Avoid camping in warm, moist temperate climates of high mammal density, including livestock pastures, with tall grass.

If the area is infested, get out of there quickly and wash your skin vigorously with soap and water. Itching is best alleviated through the use of topical corticosteroids (either over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% ointment or prescription strength from your physician) and anti-histamines like Benadryl.

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

Now you know a “mitey” bit more about chiggers than you did before!

63 Comments on How Do You Prevent and Treat Chigger Bites?

  1. I’m going to try the bleach wipe down method. That’s before you come back inside.
    Current itching… just a reminder to not, forget…
    Prevent bringing home undesirable’s.
    8 legs or 2 legs…keep clear.
    Seriously, I like the HOT power wash…It’s like scratching an itch without scratching yourself.

  2. I used pure Heinz or any NAME Brand white distilled vinegar or 90% rubbing alcohol, spray for the itching. The cheaper brands don’t work

  3. I have used 1 part sulfur powder and 9 parts baby powder and mix together. Then put dust your skin at ankles and around your waist….. I have never gotten any chiggers sense I”ve done this.

  4. What is difference between chiggers and cabbies ?

  5. Are there any long term affects from chiggars?One month after a bout with chiggars I got a mild case of shingles on my face. Between the time of the bites and shingles my lymph glands were tender in my neck. Maybe they caused an immune reaction?

  6. Grew up in the deep South and chiggers were always a problem. We found that taking a good bath (after a day in the woods) and pouring about 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol in the bath water took care of the problem. It killed them before they could do their damage. We never had to worry about chiggers again.

  7. What i would like to know is once they feed where do they go?
    Do they re bite again ???

  8. Witch hazel soak sites good with it

    Drench a cloth with it and Lay on areas
    Cortisone helped as well
    Immediately! shower and scrub skin

  9. Nobiteshere // May 10, 2022 at 9:58 pm // Reply

    For chiggers bites: drip something like Bactine with pain relief on each or spray area. When dry put cortisone cream on. Best prevention: spray clothes with permethrin including socks: flip over when dry, repeat on other side. It will last thru a couple washes.

  10. Chig b gone // May 1, 2022 at 10:28 am // Reply

    Try diaper rash ointment it works for me,I get chiggers really bad

  11. “If the area is infested, get out of there quickly” … LOL. It seems the recommendation is to never leave the house.

  12. This didn’t tell me how to treat chiggar bites, it just told me why to treat chiggars.

  13. Old scouting trick: wear knee-high pantyhose over your socks and then over the opening of your trouser, denying these little bastards an opening to get to your skin.

  14. Yes. Nail polish seals the tiny holes and the chigger suffocates and dies–no “belief” needed. Creams did absolutely nothing.

    • that’s a myth. but sealing the bite from the air does help with the itching, as well as the acetone in the polish. You’re better off using Benadryl topical cream.

      • Yes, I put clear nail polish on the “bites” and the itching went from 10 to 1 or 2 quickly. Before that I thought “this will be a sleepless night!”

  15. Best treatment for a bite is a hairdryer set on high. Blast the bite with as much heat as you can. 8 hours of relief…enough for a good night’s sleep.

  16. The best we have found in Louisiana to stop red bug itching is to add 1 oz. of bleach to the bath water. A small amount of bleach does the deal!

  17. Probably not chiggers if they are in your bed and your dogs are itching also. Sounds like a flea infestation which can be miserable. Either invest in fleacollars for your dog or visit your vet for flea prevention meds. Wash all of your bed lines and spray your mattress with a good flea spray. Also treat ant carpet in your house with flea powder or have an exterminator spray. This should eliminate the problem.

  18. Rub on petroleum jelly, it certainly has given me some relief.

  19. Chiggerin my bed from dogs how do i kill thy are biting all of us????

  20. Never heard of this bug before but I took my 4 year old to er thinking that these red marks were chicken pox due to her being in school sure enough they said it was chiggers bites she was playing outside in sand and pulling weeds in yard going to spray her down Everytime she plays outside my daughter is miserable 😢

  21. Do they get under your skin around your fingers and toes

  22. Kerosene rub on let sit till dry wash off cured

  23. mountaingirl // August 7, 2019 at 5:41 am // Reply

    I do not use fingernail polish to try and kill a chigger, but guess what? For me once it dries I no longer itch! That’s a plus.

  24. Well they got me again. I tried hot shower with Dawn. Applied mint mouth wash and a topical with 1 percent. As good as it gets. Absolutely little beasts.

  25. Hates Bugbites // August 2, 2019 at 9:17 am // Reply

    Try solid deodorant for itch relief. Dont understand why it helps but it seems to stop itching.

  26. How do you kill chiggers in your couch I can not sit on my couch without get them on me

  27. smithtowndad // July 29, 2019 at 1:00 am // Reply

    Meat tenderizer and absorbine Jr seems to be doing the trick for me.

  28. Oh, please do stop with the sulfur!! After showering, apply rubbing alcohol liberally, to the affected areas and take two Benedryl. Apply rubbing alcohol as needed and take Benedryl per dosage instructions.

  29. i have about 200 bites.. serious.. count them! i am miserable! how didi this happen.. i did not see any bugs on me and i check for them regularly .. can you SEE a chigger?
    what do i do now?

    • I just picked some up apparently a couple days ago. WHen the itching started, I showered, applied a lot of rubbing alcohol to the affected areas and took 2 benedryl. That combo appears to keep the itching at bay. Good luck!

      • They are about half the size of a pinhead and are red in color. They move frequently and drive you crazy. Very hard to see them. They are in the pitbull family lool

    • They are horrible little buggers. Seriously get some toothache medicine mix it in with some other topical, personally I used vicks (it burned a little) and put that on your bites. The stuff that numbs in the toothache medicine does the same for your skin it helps.

    • Big eddie // May 29, 2022 at 3:51 am // Reply

      Sulphur powder applied liberally to boots, socks and lower pant legs is a proven prevention. You should duct tape the bottom rim of pant legs too. Get a large vitamin bottle & poke lots of holes in metal lid to make a sulphur shaker. Why do you bemoan something that works so well. You must be an ignoramus or anti-social to write what you did against it.

  30. Logic Seeker // July 4, 2019 at 10:31 am // Reply

    Okay…. so do chiggers attach themselves or not? Are they a sort of microscopic tick, then, if they do? And if they are attached, then why would nail polish not work? They are sitting there attached to the skin! This article begs a few questions.
    Logic Seeker

  31. Powdered sulfur works, but it’s also toxic. Use a Permethrin-based spray and get your clothes damp, then let them dry. The permethrin will remain and kill chiggers on contact and is safe for humans. You can even soak your clothes in Permethrin and it will remain through several washes.

    Once you notice the rash from the chigger bite, the chigger is long gone already. There is nothing you can do to “suffocate” the chigger and kill it because it’s no longer there. All you can do is treat the symptoms. 10 % Hydrocortisone from Wal Mart, $2.50 for a tube. Apply as needed.

    • Sulfer doesn’t work worth a darn. I believed that fable and used powdered sulfer on shoes and pant legs. Vot really bad case of chiggers. Next time I’m sticking to deep woods off spray. And tuck in the pants legs.

      • Vinegar. Rinse after bathing. I spray vinegar water on me before I go out.

      • Forester // July 16, 2019 at 10:07 am //

        You have to put the sulfer on the skin under the areas such as socks, waste bands, and bras. Use this all the time and NEVER get chiggers. I also use quite a bit of deet too.

      • Birder Girl // October 7, 2019 at 12:45 pm //

        Well sulphur sure worked for me in south Texas. I bought it at the pharmacy in powdered form, dumped it into a sock and “puffed” it on the exterior of my long pants and socks.

  32. I bought a spray from Walmart called Repel and it seems to work for chigger bites.

  33. Thank you very much for your help

  34. Do chiggars come from the Spanish Moss hanging in the trees. We live in Florida and these redbugs are biting our chickens, our dogs, and us when we go outside if chiggars are redbugs, would they not also fall from the trees where the moss is.

  35. Dusting your ankles and waistband and groin with powdered sulfur, which you can get from your pharmacist, before walking or camping in areas with chiggers, along with tucking the end of your pants legs into your socks, will greatly reduce chigger bites.

  36. chgger exterminator // October 14, 2018 at 12:44 am // Reply

    chiggers in underwear, you boil clothing with a dash of bleach.. That method will get rid of them best..

  37. The fortnite dude // October 13, 2018 at 9:26 pm // Reply

    People, calm down. Chiggers are the basic stuff. Ticks are the ones you have to worry about.

  38. Let me start by saying I am 42 years old. All my mother used when we were kids was fingernail polish and that is what I still use. It works every time never had it fail me yet.

    • I’ve used fingernail polish a few times before and it has never worked for me.

      • Fingernail polish does NOTHING. The chigger is already long gone by the time you notice the welt. All the polish does is remind you not to scratch the area.

      • Outdoorsgirl // July 27, 2019 at 12:21 pm //

        When we get a Chigger bite ( can differentiate from mosquito bite by location) it will not quit swelling and itching until nail polish is used, several applications with hair dryer between) I cant believe there is not a culpret inside the bite, because, if the polish doesnt dry fast enough, a Airhole will appear, and more applications are required. Once you get the bug killed, with a few layers, the redness around, snd itching instanly stops!! Thishas been proved to my husband and me, many times!

      • Use liquid skin

    • Fingernail polish has never worked for me. two (2) Benadryl and cortisone cream provided my only relief.

      • Anonymous // April 17, 2022 at 7:44 pm //

        Never thought of this. I grew up in the Ozarks and whether they burrow or not, nail polish always worked. I’m going to give liquid skin a try. Thanks!

  39. Can the chiggers get in your bed and on furniture even if you have showered?

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