Preventing And Killing Chiggers Before They Attack
Chigger bites are terribly irritating and itchy, but there are effective ways of killing chiggers that will bring much needed relief. Preventing chigger bites from occurring in the first place will avoid several days of discomfort. These annoying creatures can ruin an outdoor excursion and cause victims days of persistent and unbearable itchiness if left untreated. Prescription medications or self-treatment can rid the body of chiggers, but it is also important to understand some basic facts about chiggers in order to treat and avoid infestations.
Chiggers are often thought of as small red insects, which is technically incorrect. A chigger is actually a juvenile form of a mite, more specifically, Trombiculidae. Mites are actually an arachnid, as are spiders. A chigger will only feed on vertebrate animals, and only in the larval stage of their life. As adults, chiggers no longer dine on animals, and instead become plant eaters.
At less than 1/150th the diameter of an inch, they are virtually invisible to the naked eye. It becomes easier to distinguish chiggers when many of them cluster together as they do outdoors. Once attached to the skin, they do not burrow. This is a common misconception. With such a tiny size, a chigger can only penetrate parts of human skin that are thin. At this point, much like a tick, the chigger may feed for several hours unnoticed. They do not ingest blood, however. As they feed, saliva is injected into the skin that dissolves the skin cells, and the cells are ingested. It is this saliva that causes the irritation experienced by victims. If the chigger is not removed, the feeding can go on for a few days before the chigger becomes engorged and yellow. Itching is at the worst stage at 2-3 days after a chigger feeds.
If left untreated, the affected site will itch and form a red welt lasting for as long as 10 days. Luckily, chigger irritation can be minimized at the first signs of discomfort. Common mosquito repellents will prevent a chigger attack, as well as wearing socks and tucking in pants at the ankles. As for remedies, the sooner treatment occurs, the better. Even after treatment, the feeding tube of the chigger will likely remain in the skin, taking several days for the body to break it down and heal. Therefore, preventing bites is very important. Scrubbing in a warm and soapy bath will kill any chiggers embedded or crawling on the body. Anesthetics are somewhat effective, although temporary, in relieving itch and can be prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter. Keep in mind that anesthetics are useless for killing chiggers.
Secondary skin infection is possible if a chigger infestation is severe enough to cause extreme scratching. In North America, chiggers carry no diseases such as Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Because of the extreme allergic reaction, a chigger infestation on the body is difficult to deal with, but with time the body completely heals. Preventing and killing chiggers before a bite remains the best defense.