What are Chigger Bites?
Chigger bites are caused by chiggers which are tiny members of the family Trombiculidae that belongs to the arachnid family. These mites are the juvenile form of mites and also known as the red mite or harvest mite. They may be very small in size but their bites are powerful.
Chiggers are barely visible to the naked eye. They live in tall grasses or weeds and when chiggers jumped onto a human’s skin, it can’t be noticed or even felt for as long as it doesn’t bite yet. However, if it does, they can cause an itch like never felt before.
Chiggers are red in color and are mostly present when the temperatures are inviting and warm which is during fall and summer. Chigger mites usually bite in areas where the skin is thinned, warm, or moist like the folds and wrinkles; which mean that they are most-likely observed in the armpits, behind the knees, crotch, ankles, and groin areas.
Some say that chiggers bore into the skin and stay there, but it is incorrect. After a chigger bites, it pushes its feeding structures and mouth parts towards the inside of the skin. They carry enzymes and inject them into the host skin that later on destroys the host tissue. The bitten area gets hard, and a feeding tube referred to as a sylostome, grows at the bite area. Chiggers could feed on the skin for a couple of days through this type of structure if they are not interrupted.
What do Chigger Bites Look Like?
Chiggers have claws that let them easily grab onto the skin that’s why they do not fall of so easily but when they do after several days, the bitten areas will leave reddish bumps. A bright red dot is also present in the center; it is the remains of the tube in which the skin had formed in reaction to the chigger’s saliva. The tiny bumps may appear to look like hives, welts, pimples, or blisters. The bite mostly pops up in groups and gets bigger for a number of days to a week.
What are the Symptoms of Chigger Bites?
After a chigger bites a skin, nothing is felt at first but after the chigger completely injects digestive enzymes into the skin for a matter of 1-3 hours, signs and symptoms usually arise. Frequently, the bites materialize in clusters and could form a rash.
Symptoms of chigger bites involve:
- Itching – This is the main symptom that can be very intense especially on the first or second day after the initial bite. It can take up to several days, and may last in a span of 2 weeks for the areas to return back to its normal appearance.
- A skin bump that looks like a pustule or blister
- A flat, reddened, or raised red bump on the skin
- A bite on the penis can result to swelling and painful urination accompanied by severe itching
Since the primary symptom of chigger bites is itching, it is very hard to have enough control not to scratch it. In return, scratching can lead to problems or damage of the skin, with the possibility of developing secondary bacterial skin infections. If numerous bites are present, the condition can sometimes be associated for allergic contact dermatitis or eczema. Past experiences of outdoor activity may indicate that chigger bites are the reason for itching and skin changes.
How is Chigger Bites Treated?
For most cases, no treatment is required since it will just take one to three weeks for chigger bites to heal completely so for the mean time, scratching should be avoided even if it’s quite difficult since it might lead to infection. There are also over-the-counter medications for anti-itching such as calamine lotion or corticosteroid creams to control the symptoms. Oral antihistamine medications like diphenhydramine can also help relieve chigger bites. Chiggers do not remain in the skin so an attempt of removing it is not necessary.
A lot of remedies at home to treat chigger bites are based upon the wrong beliefs of chiggers burrow and prevails in the skin. As a result, some individuals use alcohol, bleach, or turpentine on the bites in order to make an effort of removing the chiggers by killing or suffocating it.
None of it is effective since the chiggers are really not stuck inside the skin. People should know the correct home remedies on treating chigger bites. These include:
- Apply ice to the bites in order to relieve itch
- Cool compresses or cool showers
- Do not engage in very hot showers and baths
- Use bath products that has colloidal oatmeal in it
Home remedies should not be done if an individual had been bitten by a chigger and acquires signs or symptoms of a secondary bacterial infection of the skin. These signs could be; pus, redness, warmth, and growing pain. Medical treatment is best recommended.
Chigger bites can make a person very uncomfortable since it is very annoying and itchy that could cause a difficulty in sleeping. Other than that, chigger bites are harmless. They do not feed on blood, but on skin cells and they also do not pass on or carry any diseases. Washing with soap and water after any activities that had been done outside could be a simple way of possibly removing any chiggers on the skin and stop their bites. Proper knowledge of other prevention can be a big help in avoiding chigger bites as well as other bacterial infections.
- Shatrov, Andrey B.; Kudryashova, Naina I. (2008). “Taxonomic ranking of major trombiculid subtaxa with remarks on the evolution of host-parasite relationships (Acariformes: Parasitengona: Trombiculidae)”. Annales Zoologici (Warsaw) 58 (2): 279–287.
- Mandell, Gerald L.; Bennett JE; Dolin R (2005). In 6th. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. Philadelphia: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone. p. 294.
- Bowman, Dwight D.; Hendrix, Charles M.; Lindsay, David S.; Barr, Stephen C. (2002). Feline clinical parasitology. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 385–386.