Chiggers are members of the arachnid family. Even though chiggers are very small in size, their bites can cause a lot of discomfort. Chiggers are small in size that you might not even notice that they are on the skin. Once they bite, it can cause significant itchiness.
Habitat of chiggers
Chiggers thrive in tall grass and weeds and woody areas. They might also be present in the yard, hiking trail or areas close to bodies of water. Chiggers are highly active during summer and fall afternoons when the temperature is appealing and warm. They can quickly attach on the skin if an individual walks by and brushes up against vegetation. Once the temperature drops below 60 degrees F, they become inactive and eventually die when the temperature drops below 42 degrees F.
Appearance of chiggers
Chiggers are small in size and you have to use a magnifying glass to see them. Since they are red in color, you can readily spot the larvae when they cluster together. After feasting on human skin cells, they turn yellowish in color.
A chigger bite
Take note that only the larvae bites humans and prefer the moist, warm areas in the body. The chiggers have claws that help them grab onto the skin. The mouth attaches on the skin and injects saliva which contains an enzyme that breaks down the skin cells to liquid form. The body responds by hardening the skin cells around the saliva, creating a tube where the chigger draws out the liquefied skin cells. Remember that chiggers can stay attached and feed on for several days before falling off.
Appearance of chigger bites
Once the chigger falls off, the skin is dotted with red-colored bumps. There is a bright red dot in the middle which is the remainder of the tube the skin formed as a response to the saliva of the chigger. The bumps appear like blisters, welts, hives or pimples.
The bites typically appear as groups and grow bigger for several days up to a week. Even though many insects bite exposed skin, chiggers prefer to bite in skin folds as well as areas where clothing fits tightly. Most chigger bites are found in the waist, ankles, crotch, armpit or area behind the knees.
Symptoms of chigger bites
The individual will not feel anything once the chigger attaches or delivers a bite. Nevertheless, most experience symptoms within hours after the bite. The most annoying symptom is the severe itchiness and strong urge to scratch. Oftentimes, the bites appear as clusters and can form a rash.
Treatment of chigger bites
It might take 1-3 weeks for the chigger bites to completely heal. You have to instruct the individual to avoid scratching the bite site since this can lead to an infection. Over-the-counter anti-itch medications such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone can be used.
You can also apply an ice pack to help reduce the itchiness. The individual must avoid hot showers or baths. If the bite site becomes infected or the symptoms do not improve, a doctor must be consulted. For those who love to spend time outdoors must be prepared to manage chigger bites. With this in mind, you can enroll in a course on first aid that covers wilderness preparedness.