Chiggers are also known as red bugs or harvest mites. These insects are so small that you need to use a magnifying glass. They are about 6 of them attached per square centimeter of your skin to feed. The chiggers are actually larval form of arachnid, a mite form of the family Trombiculidae. They are six-legged wingless larvae that will mature into a type of mite. They hide themselves in tall grasses and weeds waiting for their human prey. The adult form of chiggers feeds on vegetation.
The larval form, that is, chiggers, infests humans skin after one comes in contact with vegetation. They will tend hop on around the pant cuff or sleeve cuff as well as collar area. They will insert their feeding structures into the skin and inject some enzymes. These enzymes help destroy the surrounding skin tissues into a pulpy mass. The surrounding tissues immediately harden and form tube like structure called stylostome. The chigger larvae will tend feed on the pulpy tissue. If left undisturbed, they will continue to feed for a few days. They drop off after having their full and then encapsulate themselves and mature into a mite. They normally feed on birds, but won't mind feeding on a human host.
Trombiculosis or trombiculidiasis is the rash that is caused by chigger bites. The rash also like the bite of trombiculid mites.
Folklore About Chiggers
Many people believe that chiggers bury under your skin and drink blood. These tiny larvae are not blood sucking vampires. In fact, they do not bury themselves under the skin. Many people apply clear nail polish over the chiggers rash to suffocate the buried chigger. But this chigger rash treatment is clearly unnecessary as there are no chiggers present.
How Does One Get Chiggers Rash?
Chiggers tend to get on the clothes of people while they walk past the grasses and bushes outdoors. As they are so small, no one really notices them on their clothes or body. These insects then travel in search of warm, moist places on the body. They love areas with thin skin like waist, ankles, skin folds, arm pits, etc. as their mouth and feeding structures are very delicate. The thin skin in these area is favorable for them as it is easy to penetrate and feed.
Once they reach a favorable spot, they begin feeding. They actually don't bite you like a mosquito. In fact, they attach themselves to your skin and inject digestive enzymes present in their saliva. This digestive enzyme breaks down your skin cells by liquefying them. This juice is than sucked by the chiggers.
This digestive enzyme is what makes a rash appear. A chigger can continue feeding for many days, but the intense itching makes you brush off these chiggers aggressively. Also, they are washed off if you run to take a bath or pour water to clean the chiggers rash. If it wasn't for the effects of the digestive enzymes, chiggers would continue to party till they are finally displaced. You will be surprised to know, by the time you see a chiggers rash, a good 4 to 5 hours must have passed since your initial contact with the insects.
What are the Symptoms of Chigger Bites?
As you have read in the preceding paragraph, a chigger bite is not readily noticeable. It takes at least 1 to 4 hours for the signs of bites to appear. The most prominent symptom is itching. The bite area becomes red and may become raised like a blister.
Chigger Bite Treatment
Chigger bite treatment mostly consists of using antihistamines, anti-itch creams, calamine and cortisone lotions to reduce the itching. Hydrogen peroxide creams are also effective in relieving the discomfort caused due to chigger bites. You can even apply heat to get rid of the itching. Take a hot bath or blow hot air from the hair dryer on the bite. This will help reduce the itching for a few hours. You should immediately take a bath and wash off any chiggers sticking to your body. Epsom salt bath is very helpful in alleviating the itching. You can take oral Benadryl or visit a doctor for a prescribed steroid cream. You can apply some petroleum jelly to relieve the skin irritation. NEVER rub, scratch or disturb the skin aggressively. This will not help in any way and aggravate your condition further. You can try these chigger treatments for decreasing the irritation and itching.
Chiggers rash looks like red pimples or bumps. The itching can last for several hours to several weeks. You should avoid scratching it as it may lead to secondary infection. If the rash itches severely or your symptoms worsen, seek medical attention. You should always try different ways to get rid of chiggers, if your area is prone to chigger infestation. When children come home after playing outdoors, make sure you make them take a bath immediately, especially during the warm weathers or springtime.