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How to Prevent and Treat Chiggers
Chiggers are tiny pests that can cause red, itchy welts where they have bitten.
Technically, chiggers are the larvae of a mite that live in brushy and grassy areas. They mainly bite in areas where the skin is thin and tender, such as the groin, ankles, and backs of knees. When they bite, they inject a saliva that contains an enzyme that is irritating to the skin -- causing the red, itchy welts.
Chigger bites are common to campers and others spending a lot of time in the woods. The itchy bumps may appear for as much as 2 to 3 weeks, which can be irritating and painful even.
Fortunately, chigger bites can be prevented with some planning. If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of chigger bites, there are a few ways you can treat and lessen the symptoms.
Prevention of Chigger Bites
One of the best ways to prevent chigger bites is to avoid their natural habitats: Brushy, grassy areas. This may be difficult for avid campers to do. Instead, an insect repellant can be used to thwart the unwanted pests. DEET and sulphur-based powders and creams usually work best.
Wearing loose clothing can also help prevent chigger bites. Belts and tight clothing can help to trap chiggers and make it easier for them to latch on and bite into the skin.
If you have been in a busy and grassy area, be sure to take a thorough shower to wash off any chiggers that may be hitching a ride but haven't yet bitten. Also be sure to thoroughly wash your clothes before wearing them again.
Treating Chigger Bites
Many myths exist about how to treat chigger bites. Since many people believe that chiggers burrow into the skin -- causing the red welts -- they think that using nail polish or alcohol on the skin will suffocate the chiggers. However, the chiggers have already gone once the welts have formed, so these strategies will be ineffective.
Treating chigger bites relies on treating the systems: The itching and the inflammation. Calming lotions like calamine can help, as can anti-inflammatory creams such as hydrocortisone. You can also try antihistamines.
Most importantly: Avoid intense scratching! You can risk further infection from the salivary enzymes -- creating a second outbreak -- and can risk creating an open wound that can become infected by other germs.
Chigger bites can be a real nuisance, and they are a common annoyance for campers and others who spend a lot of time outdoors. Avoid places where chiggers usually reside, or use an insect repellant in order to avoid chigger bites. If you do get bitten, use calming and anti-inflammatory lotions and creams to treat the bites.
Have you suffered chigger bites from a camping trip? How did you treat the bites? Share your experiences in the comments!
Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about online health care admin degrees and physical therapy aide programs.