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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!

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

  1. Make a baking soda paste. It works wonders. Just put enough water with baking soda to make it pasty then apply with hands of washcloth to bites.

  2. Variety of things such as hydrocortisone cream, aloe vera, vicks vapor rub, extremely hot baths work well. I happened to come across a cream called chiggerex at walmrt which does wonders.

  3. What about in the house? Can they stay on your furniture or in your bed?!

  4. Apply either rubbing alcohol/ bleach
    Allow to dry then apply Vicks vapor.
    Repeat 2x a day…best after initial shower

  5. I have it all over my body its like itches real badand it keeps spreading what should I do

  6. thanks I will rilly try this out because I have red bugs I went to the pond and got them I did”t even no I had them ontil 2 days later they itched rely bad.

  7. The ONLY thing that has worked in Vicks Vapor rub with salt!

  8. South Georgian // July 31, 2014 at 10:03 pm // Reply

    Washing the infected areas with rubbing alcohol works. It gets rid of the itching and the bugs

  9. I have red bug bites and I do not like them how do I get rid of them

  10. ChiggaChiggaYeahYeah // July 25, 2014 at 10:41 pm // Reply

    Those chiggaz got me so bad I wuz perscribed antibiotics.

  11. I was at summer camp and I got 70 chigger bites on my stomach. I still have scars from itching them

  12. I think I have an infestation of chiggers….itches bad and bumps are very uncomfortable

  13. Clorox on a q-tip helps. Bug spray applied before exposure helps. Take a scrubby hot shower with soap immediately after coming inside will prevent many of the crawling critters from attaching. Chiggerex works for the itching.

  14. Just got chigger bites about a week ago, bout ready to scratch my ankles off. Read about Vicks rub and salt. It totally works.
    Mix together Vicks rub or any generic mentholatum ointment and ordinary salt until the salt is well in the ointment. Dab or spread over all the bites making sure to have salt granules on each bite. the menthol feels cool and the salt (to me) helps dry them up and stop itching!

  15. I got chiggers bad one year camping and on the way home we stopped at a hotel….we got in the pool and the chlorine killed them dead!

  16. Thanks

  17. Anti-itch lotion works great

  18. To keep them from biting in the first place, apply some Vick’s Vapor Rub on your legs and ankles before you go out.

  19. An old trick to avoid getting chiggers, is apply a light dusting of powdered sulfur (Walgreens) in your socks or shoes before going out in woods. Remembering this trick is the next problem.

  20. I have more than 50 chigger bites on my chest, shoulders, and back. I thought they were mosquito bites, but when Hydrocortisone wasn’t working, my mom said it might be chiggers. I showered in warm water (heavenly relief for the intense itch), and have applied calamine. Tomorrow, I think I will try bathing in baking soda water.

    • I have over 125 chigger bites. I believe I got them picking cucumbers in my garden.I went to Dr. because I did not know what they were. I have had them for three days and they are not going away. I keep breaking out. now on my face and neckline. I am using benedryl and calamine as per my Dr. Can you get poisoned from so many? HELP!

  21. To avoid the monsters, wear long pants and tuck them into your boots when working outside. If you do get them, take a bath in a weak bleach solution to kill them. Then use cortizone cram on the affected areas.

  22. wanddrama // June 7, 2014 at 2:57 am // Reply

    aloe vera works great

  23. big fergie // June 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm // Reply

    Try mint flavored mouthwash. It works and smells minty fresh, but sticky to the touch.

  24. country girl // June 5, 2014 at 4:19 pm // Reply

    I have tried a little of everything and decided to use a tea bag. My mom always used tea bags for everything. Well, it worked! The itching stopped and the redness started to fade. I just made tea for me. Then used the warm tea bag on my worst spots. I only held it on the bite for a minute or two. Hope this helps.

  25. jojo21381 // June 3, 2014 at 8:49 pm // Reply

    Use to get chigger bites regularly. Best thing I found was clear nail polish. Because once places are painted u can see the little dot. After places dry scratch off the nail polish and bug with it.

    • Did you read the article. It said bugs did not burrow. I thought the same. I could not understand why the nail polish was not working. Then I found this article, now I know why its not working.

  26. In the Scratch of time // June 1, 2014 at 10:09 pm // Reply

    Try using Avon Skin So Soft, Original Scent. We have used the oil version and it cuts down ALL bug interaction. It also helps dogs with their itchy hot spots.

  27. Anonymous // June 1, 2014 at 7:28 am // Reply

    Finger nail polish works better than anything else it is not just a myth !!!

  28. Take a long bath in Epsom Salt!

  29. redbugdead // May 30, 2014 at 8:47 pm // Reply

    Hairspray gets rid of them but burns real bad

  30. Chigger magnet // May 24, 2014 at 10:06 pm // Reply

    I’ve been fighting this for years. Nail polish doesn’t help much, joint meds like icy hot works pretty well, preparation H helps. I also have tubes of cortisone cream within reach at all times. I really just want to know how to avoid the bites because there is really nothing that instantly cures the itch. I’ve tried it all. I ant even step into grass I have to stay on sidewalks at all times. Why me?

    • For a good chigger repellent, get sulfur at Vitamin Shoppe (call ahead for Walgreen’s or CVS — they may not carry). Sprinkle sulfur liberally inside socks and shoes and on your legs.

    • Have you ever had an allergy test? Sounds like you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to grass.

  31. I was cutting tree limbs in my back yard and felt something biting me but thought nothing of it, now that I’m reading this website I understand what it was. It itches like crazy. Scratch scratch scratch!!!! Thanx for info. Itchy

  32. There’s a liquid benedryl and also a spray that works pretty well.

  33. clear nail polish works great

  34. If they get on your dogs and in the house how do u treat them?

    • Well,,, I was cleaning a yard that hadn’t been kept up with ln a while when I contacted the villians, and I soaked in epsomes salt and used lotion with tea tree oil mixed in it, also I put a blow dryer on the bites on the hot setting and it felt great and dried them up quick! Not recommended for young children.

    • I would like to know the same thing. My lap dog lays all over me. Also, how long do the bite spots stay itchy?

  35. wow that is alot of work

  36. Walkin in the woods // November 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm // Reply

    Benadryl works ok but it makes me sleepy. I rub deodorant/ antiperspirant on the itch. It takes the edge off 🙂

  37. Thanks for the info

  38. Red bugs are orange

  39. itchy princess // September 24, 2013 at 11:28 pm // Reply

    i slept over to my sister’s house who has a cat and I am itching like crazy because she let the cat out side and ut came back in with flees and other stuff so now I have flee bites and other itchy red bites that itch and hurt and they also made my ankles swollen.

  40. My doctor (allergist) thought they were spider bites but when my daughter got them around her waistband also a few days later I knew it was something else. We have used the maximum strength hydrocortisone crème with a bandaid over to keep the crème in place. This has helped some but I am trying some of these other remedies. Thanks!

  41. Scratch the scale off and put fingernail polish or spray whith hair spray

  42. hmmm i might have chiggers need to thry this tea tree oil, lavender oil and cedarwood oil or euclyptus oil. lol

  43. Tooth paste actually does help!!!

  44. Hiker Fanatic // September 3, 2013 at 9:38 am // Reply

    Prevention is the key. Powder sulfur on shoes, socks and pants. Along with insect repellent liberally sprayed all over your body. Once out of the woods hot shower vigorously scrubbing every inch of your anatomy with soap and repeat. Immediately wash clothes in HOT water. Do this regimen every time your in the woods and it can save days of misery.

  45. I take extremely hot showers – pat your body dry – then swab the bites with rubbing alcohol. Repeat in 12 hours. Do this for 2 or 3 days. When the hot showers stop giving feelings in the bite areas, the bites should heal. Be prepared for the bites to look bad for up to 3 weeks.

  46. DieChiggers! // August 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm // Reply

    I’m suffering from chigger bites. The only thing that stops the intense itching is something very simple: toothpaste. I don’t know why, but it works. Hope this tip helps someone else.

  47. I did not know it was chiggers. I thought bed bugs. mite infection.
    Mostly I had never felt anything like it since chickenpox.

  48. Baking soda baths help neutralize the sting of them as well. I took 4 tbsp baking soda and 4 tbsp cornstarch and whisked it into coconut oil (in its liquid state- warm) , then put it in fridge a while to turn solid. Rub that on bites and it works! Great relief… I later added a drop of tea tree oil — even better!!! Use powdered sulfer from garden center dusted on shoes and socks to prevent them

  49. where do you buy all these oils? I purchased some teatree oil and have been using it on my daughters hair to eliminate lice. Now we need your help on where to buy the other four oils. Thank.

  50. itchy-scratchy // August 18, 2013 at 7:51 am // Reply

    Neem oil diluted in hot water. Let the water cool down.Then add cedarwood oil, eucalyptus oil, teatree oil and lavender oil. Put it all in a spray bottle and spray on yourself. If the cedarwood oil doesnt kill it then neem oil will make it lose Interest in food, mating and it’ll die of starvation! Goodluck!

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