Chiggers are the larvae, or immature stage, of a mite. These larval mites climb onto people when they walk through infested areas. The chiggers climb up the person's body seeking out a suitable feeding spot. They prefer to feed in areas where skin is thinnest or where clothing fits tightly. This often leads them to ankles, waist area, behind the knees, armpits and the groin area.
Chiggers do not- let me say that again....DO NOT- burrow into the skin as many people believe. "Smothering" them by painting the bite area with nail polish will not do anything to relieve discomfort. Instead of burrowing, chiggers inject a digestive enzyme into the skin which breaks down skin cells. The chiggers eat the broken down skin cells. Itching and redness from chiggers is caused by the body's reaction to the enzymes chiggers inject. Itching typically begins 3-6 hours after being bitten, peaks at 24 hours and may last up to 2 weeks.
Try to avoid chigger infested areas. If that is not possible, then here are some suggestions:
- wear protective clothing: tightly woven items that fit loosely that include long sleeves and pants with shoes and boots
- tuck pant legs into boots
- avoid sitting on the ground
- remove and launder clothing ASAP after being in infested areas
- shower/ bathe after being in infested areas; scrub vigorously with a washcloth
- before entering chigger infested areas, use an insect repellent with DEET or picaridin
- keeping the lawn mowed
- maintain vegetation; do not allow vegetation to grow high and keep brush cleared
- fill in any low lying areas that remain damp or moist
- try treating with residual pesticide sprays (pyrethroids)- read and follow all label instructions!