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How Do You Prevent and Treat Chigger Bites?



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 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. 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 rash? 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.

chigger-2Chigger 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!

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

  1. rubbing alcohol helps

  2. baking soda and water paste

  3. So Im askin how long do they stay on u

  4. I used Nutrogena shampoo as a salve, it worked!

  5. I used Nutrogena shampoo as a salve in desperation, it worked very well, as i was about to cut my skin off from the intense itching.

  6. I am experiencing chigger bites on the bottoms of my feet and on my ankles and have wanted to rip the flesh off it is itching so badly! NOTHING worked UNTIL I ran across this old remedy and within minutes I felt relief……’s very simple…..
    1 tablespoon of Vick’s Vapor Rub (I assume any Menthylatum will work)
    3 tablespoons of salt
    Mix together well. Put directly onto the bites.
    I applied mine to the entire area just to cover any chance there may of something I may miss.
    This mix can be stored in a container for years, just stir and apply.

  7. I have used listerin an scope mouth wash they both work good just soak a rag an rub down with it there’s a sting for a moment but no more itching

  8. I was picking blackberries and the next day my stomach area was covered in little red bites, some looked like tiny pimples. I called my Dr. And was advised to buy prid drawing salve and apply it twice a day to clean dry skin. I have done that today and it hurts really bad to apply the salve but does help stop the itching.

  9. Soak in oatmeal baths or Epsom salt and apply itching creams. Try to avoid scratching as much as u can!

  10. Not sure how I got my welts and itchy chiggers .but did pull weeds in garden and flowerbeds 2 days ago. No sign then .had a few fire ant bites this worse. Large welts and burning itchy red hives. Used chiggers cream from phsrmacy and took benedryl not much help.

  11. It says in the information above NOT to use nail polish. I’m sure bleach isn’t good for the skin either. I would go with the info above and use some hydrocortisone cream or maybe even some calamine lotion.

  12. i am loaded with bites everywhere!! I got them from. My chihuahua!! He walked into the long wet grass. I was scratching one on my wrist and it looked like something caught inside the center of the bite. I took tweezers and pulled out something that looked like a minute bug leg!! There is an open wound where it came out of so they must burrow into the skin. It’s just a matter of how long they stay there! I have been scratching for 2 days, using hydrogen peroxide when they flare up!!!

  13. I rinse rubbing alcohol on bites, do a small bleach rinse and put an anti itch cream on.

  14. tyes_baby12 // June 18, 2015 at 7:56 am // Reply

    I have red bug bites and the best way to get rid of the itches is anti itch cream and sit in a tub of bleach

  15. Fenwickmike // June 18, 2015 at 6:26 am // Reply

    Clear nail polish works 100% of the time. No itching. Been there many times

  16. how do you get rid of chiggers or Trombiculidae. weve tried everything

  17. awesome sauce // June 17, 2015 at 8:35 pm // Reply

    My brother had chiggers and I came here to look for treatment but I can’t find it can any one tell me?????😊

  18. I have chiggers and they itch really bad

  19. Superwatermelon // June 10, 2015 at 8:25 am // Reply


  20. Nail polish

  21. bumblebee the transfomer // June 6, 2015 at 12:25 pm // Reply

    not sure if my sis has them looks like it. how small are they any way???

  22. I am going nuts with whatever is biting me. All i see is the result…the whelp or bite and the itch. I see no bug. We do have lots of woods and vegetation around our house. I trimmed my gardenias by hand on saturday and think i must hsve gotten into someyhing then. However, four days later i am still getting new bites….but see absolutely no bug. Is this red bugs?

  23. Does the rash or hives spread from chiggers because it’s gone from my right leg, to my right arm to my left..

    • cloak and daggers // June 18, 2015 at 1:12 am // Reply

      they probably fell off and are in your carpets and bedding and are biting you at night. that why new bites. best thing you can do is try washing all your bedding multiple times and shampoo your carpets. steam clean your mattress and carpets. then if you are still getting bit repeat the process and call and exterminator. you have a bad infestation in your house.

  24. I new it

  25. It talks more bout what happens more then how to treat em

  26. when I go into the house I go straight to the shower and pore alcohol all over me before I shower….. Because I get them really bad… It has worked for me really well….

  27. I use to see these crawling all over the concrete stairs when i was little. I use to squish them cause they made red marks on the pavement. And i thought they were just really tiny spiders.

  28. Southern boy // May 27, 2015 at 12:33 pm // Reply

    In the deep woods of Alabama where the “red bugs” live in our spanish moss down around our rivers and swamp, waiting on you to camp and hunt around them. You only need two things…. put some WD-40 on it and top it off with a small piece of duct tape. Thats the remedy.

  29. Hydrogen peroxide and Vinegar!!

  30. I’ve tried everything over the counter and prescription hydrocortisone. Nothing works but the clear fingernail polish and all my boys and family will attest to that. We live on a bayou and they get them all the time.

  31. Don’t know why but used to get red bugs bad in woods and had to use turpintine or finger nail polish to kill them. Now guess I’m immune to them. Get them usually don’t scratch or put anything on them and they gone in day or two. Wonder why?

  32. Baby bleach // May 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm // Reply

    Bathe in bleach and water and it will stop itching! At least it worked for me anyway!

  33. I asked a pharmacist and he said alcohol would”by help. Instead I found an old remedy using vices vapour rub and salt. It’s on wiki how and its great! Stopped the itching almost immediately and dried out the wounds. Highly recommended, B

  34. Lighter fluid

  35. southcamper // April 27, 2015 at 6:16 pm // Reply

    I guess I have to deal with chiggers. Since where I live the humidity is either 100, 99, or in the winter 98. Also on a cool day it’s only 86 degrees out. :/

  36. My son gets them all the time and the nail polish really helps take his itching and swelling away!

  37. Fingernail polish has never worked for me personally nor my family. However, what has worked to alieve the itching is a product called, After Bite. It comes in a slender hard tube. It’s main ingredient of only two is, ammonia. Try applying before you scratch the area and it becomes exposed. It will sting a little if so.
    This has worked for us and those darn things LOVE us!

  38. Triple antibiotic cream and they’re gone in 3 days, fingernail polish will sting if the skin has been scratched,

  39. My 5 year old daughter has them what’s safe

  40. TaylorSwiftie // March 25, 2015 at 9:29 pm // Reply

    I used alcohol and it’s gone! After about 2-4 days or more. BY THE WAY nail polish remover works too. ( it has alcohol.) Also if you do use alcohol imedietly was it with cool water. This may sting but oh, it kills chiggers alright

  41. gasoilne

  42. cup of bleach in your bath water works wonders…

  43. I ran a tree service for 11 years .I found that kerosene works well but you need to wash with dish detergent or something like shortly after

  44. Appreciate your article but I want to know – how long does this itch last? Do they bite just once & then fall off or have they “camped out” for a while? I have scratched sores on my body! Also, does wearing an insect spray (such as Off) help deter the bugs before they get on you?

  45. Thank you – very informative. Saved me from the finger nail polish – I was ready to try it.

  46. I found taking a bleach bath works really well

  47. I have been bitten by a red bug with a flat back and it looks like it has a little black spots not to sure though but the bites looked similar to mosquito bites then it spread I was in bed and it happened around 5 am not sure if it’s this chiggers bug or a bed bug if so how do they get in how do you get rid of them???? So far I saw only two.

  48. I used apple cider vintages. It buns at first but stopped the itch.

  49. actually I have used regular apple cider vinegar seemed to work for me relieved the itching

  50. muratic acid gets em’ GUARATEED !!!!!
    may leave a permanent scar.

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