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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!

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


  2. I stopped the itching, not the chiggers all I did was run warm to hot water on the area and it worked

  3. Chieggerex from Walgreens works great. Only have a few bites, but they are enough to wake you up in the middle of the night with intense itching!

  4. After bite stick from the chemist is a good solution to the problem.

  5. I heard that Absorbine Jr works for chigger bites. They say it burns badly when you first apply it, but after that no more itching!! You might be able to get it at Walgreens or Rite Aid.

  6. Soak in tub of water with Epson salt, baking soda, and a few drops of essential lemon oil. Then using cotton ball, drop of lemon oil applied, dab on rash. Worked for me.

  7. Happy Harry // August 11, 2016 at 8:16 am // Reply

    Acetone. When I scratch them slightly open, I soak it with acetone for a minute or 2. Never itches again. Acetone is finger nail polish remover.

    • How long did you soak and did you soak in cold water or hot

    • I am cover all over from these Red Devils. Even have huge knots on my buttocks. Some have come infected and have drainage. I have took rubbing alcohol and rub my whole body down. Gave some relief for short period. Not sleeping at night tormented. Will soaking in a tub of water with Epsom salt work or what about Clorox in a tub of water? Does the water need to be hot or cold

  8. I have tried anything from anti itch cream but that won’t work I tried aloe Vera that used to help but now I have no idea how to get rid of them

  9. Wasmiserable. // August 7, 2016 at 10:18 pm // Reply

    Do not bath in hot or warm water.
    Cold water stopped the itching temporarily.

  10. Got these ‘bites’ over a week ago. Some places are as big as a dime, some small but all itch INSANELY bad! Thought they were mosquito bites initially. But realize now they are not. WHAT is the best thing to stop the itching, I am loosing sleep?

  11. Benzocaine 10 percent helps

  12. Deerhunter // August 5, 2016 at 7:46 am // Reply

    Biofreeze!roll on..

  13. Try pepto bismal. No joke
    Think about digestive enzymes dab on with cotton ball

  14. Just soak a cotton ball with alcohol and rub it over the affected area. It really works.

  15. Sulfur dust to prevent on shoes and pants.jewel weed juice for relief

    • Yesterday I took your tip and put some rubbing alcohol on chigger bites and it worked far better than anything I ever tried. Within minutes the itching disappeared and a few hours later the redness was greatly reduced. I didn’t have to use the alchhol again for at least 6 hours. So glad you posted that and that I read it ! Aug 31, 2016

  16. Chigger bitten // July 29, 2016 at 2:51 am // Reply

    Yikes. I can’t get rid of them. Do they live in doors? And if so how do I get rid of them?

  17. I tried everything blue star ointment, triple antibiotic ointment, Benadryl, oatmeal bath, hydrocortisone, prednisone, hydroxyzine, calamine lotion, clear nail polish nothing worked. I tried Vicks vapor rub and salt finally no itching.

    • I got chiggers last summer and tried all the over the counter products. I got them again this summer and saw the Vicks and Salt concoction on another site. Finally some relief from the intense itching!! Best homemade remedy out there!

  18. Mouth wash especially Listerine, pour it over bites in the tub, and less scary than bleach

  19. Neosporene helps the itch for me.

  20. How long do they last? I need them gone.

    • I’ve had them three times since moving to Idaho a year ago. I’m only bite at dark and if I stand in one stop on out property, happen on our
      drive way twice and then in our weeds which was mowed the day before. They last for four weeks I’ve tried everything, so I don’t go out at dark and wear flip flops 24/7
      Good luck


  22. I have chigger bites and I need relief I was camping and I was playing football and I was in the grass. I have them in my armpit and on the side of my hips and lungs. Please some one help me.

  23. how long do red bugs last

    • nail polish really does work, if you leave it on for a while and sleep with it on and just keep putting it on until it’s better

  24. Please listen very closely.Chiggarid.Walgreens pharmacy.I have horrible scars from these creatures.This is the only relief I have found.

  25. The best thing for the bumps is to cleanse the skin to get as much of their secretion gone as possible, which is what is making you itch. Hybacleanse is the best anti-bacteria soap out there. Wash 2x a day with it for up to 3 days. Also, exfoliating the dead skin is good on the third day.

  26. Chigger hater in FL // June 18, 2016 at 3:26 am // Reply

    I’ve been itching for over two weeks. It is miserable. Tried so many things that did not work. The best relief I get is taking benadryl, soaking in Epsom salt bath and applying witch hazel every few hours. I’m going to Dr. to get Rx creme and possibly steroids because the itching is so intense. Also, the welts are still huge, it has been 16 days since the itching started. I am in North Florida Gainesville area. I got them in swampy area by the river.

  27. Anyone heard of putting WD-40 on the bites? Supposedly QD-40 is fish oil? Soakes in the skin and helps.. Didn’t try it but kinda made sense.

  28. Some of you should pause for a moment before commenting and read the article. It prevents you from posting advice that the article demonstrates to be nonsense. Also prevents you from looking foolish. Temporarily.

  29. Can chiggerex or calaclear be applied in groin area

  30. PepperCake // June 10, 2016 at 8:09 am // Reply

    I had chigger bites for 3 days putting benadril cream on it – didn’t work. So I went back to a childhood remedy of putting nail polish on the bites. The next day they were 70% gone. My husband couldn’t believe it. The swelling and redness gone.

  31. bleach applied to the area with cotton ball, let sit for a few minutes.
    Also, Benadryl makes a “Children’s Itch Cooling Gel” that works superbly to cur the itch. I use it all the time for itches, and I’m over 60. I guess they call it “Children’s” sot that it is obviously safe for all.
    Get stuff and hard to keep in the drugstore shelves cause it is so effective. So I order it online!

  32. Vinegar and baking soda paste. Apply

  33. Slick Rick // May 22, 2016 at 10:00 pm // Reply

    Anti-itch 2% at Family Dollar and After-Bite stick at local Walgreens will help. Yes they are annoying….I live in Georgia and seem to get bit everyday.

  34. Hope this help // May 15, 2016 at 8:28 pm // Reply

    Put clear nail polish on the red spot 3 time a day for 2 day and 2 time a day after that it going away I get them 2to3 time a year

  35. Get you some lye soap it’s the best

  36. One cap of bleach in bath tub and submerge in mixture

  37. Was itching so bad every time I moved. Then I put vaporizing ointment on all my bites 😃now I don’t itch just smell. I can now heal. Chiggers were in my climbing roses which are on my front porch railing.

  38. Nail polish does not smother them since they don’t attach to you. By the time you feel the itch they have fallen off and moved on. You just have to relieve the itch and treat for possible infection.

  39. Then why in Kenya the people have very big ones & could get infection & die

  40. Nail polish, it smothers them, I promise it works.

  41. Try deodorant on you chigger bites while in the woods! It stops the itch instantly but it comes back…

  42. I’m thinking I have either chiggers or bird mites..How do you kill them?

  43. Soak in pinesoil for 30 minutes

  44. My child has bites on him he was in the woods could it be red bugs

  45. Jeff me name is // November 6, 2015 at 9:34 pm // Reply

    Chigger bites are very annoying

  46. Kentucky girl // October 15, 2015 at 4:31 pm // Reply

    There is an awesome product available at most pharmacies. I found mine at Wal-Mart. It’s called Chiggerex. It contains aloe and chamomile to soothe irritated skin and it also contains Benzocaine to help temporarily numb the awful itch. This stuff also works on a number of other pesky & itchy insect bites.

  47. Try witch hazel gel

  48. I used witch hazel on bites took inflammation and itch out

  49. I need to know how to make the itch stop when you are bit by a red bug. Please reply back.

  50. Pinkandblavki // September 24, 2015 at 3:02 pm // Reply

    I have chigger bites I need help???

    • Rub a lemon on the bites it will stop the itch for about 12 hours, sorry to say it will come back , but just get another lemon for another 12 hours of relief , hope this helps

    • I’ve tryed everything under the sun. Now someone told me about calaclear loction been using for the third day it’s a pain 3 to 4 times aday. I do have like holes in my leg (burrows). Ugly, the itching stoped, hope it workes. Other than that I hope this helps the both of us. One last thing it stoped itching waiting to heal. I hate red bugs.

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