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You may not know it, but chiggers are related to spiders. They are a member of the arachnid family, and just like many common household spiders, they can and will bite you. Unlike most spiders, however, chigger larvae are parasites, and their hosts range from birds, reptiles, and even some amphibians to mammals, including humans.
How do chiggers find hosts? Adults tend to lay eggs in areas with damp soil and overgrown vegetation like clumps of weeds or tall grass. Chiggers prefer warm conditions and become inactive when the temperature dips below 60 degree Fahrenheit (and die if it falls below about 42 degrees), so you’re much more likely to become a host when the weather is warm.
As larvae hatch they climb to the top of vegetation and wait. When you (or other animals) pass by, the larvae simply jump aboard and hitch a ride, accompanying you home. Chances are you won’t even notice since the critters are roughly 1/150th of an inch in size, but bites from their powerful jaws will certainly leave a mark in the form of red, itchy, and possibly painful bumps.
The irritation caused by these bites, which tend to occur in clusters, can be maddening. However, scratching is the last thing you want do since it can lead to infection. How can you treat chigger bites and prevent future occurrences? Here are a few home remedies that can help you to recover and stave off further attacks.
When you first notice that you’ve become a feast for chiggers, it will likely be within hours of the first bite. However, there could still be tiny larvae attached to your skin, causing damage.
In order to remove any larvae hanging around at the free buffet, start by taking a hot shower and thoroughly washing with soap to remove any hangers-on. Try to avoid vigorous scrubbing or scratching as this can irritate bites, but clean systematically, especially in areas of the body where there are folds that chiggers prefer.
As a side note, you’ll want to avoid hot showers after this initial cleansing to remove any remaining larvae. The heat can irritate bumps, so try to take cooler showers or baths for a few days to soothe itchiness. You can also apply ice to affected areas at short intervals for some relief.
Treating Itch and Irritation
In and of themselves, chigger bites don’t tend to be very serious. If you can’t stop yourself from scratching, though, you could end up with a much more severe condition: infection. This can all be avoided by simply using a few simple home remedies to treat the itch and irritation.
- Baking Soda
This miracle product and common kitchen item can not only help your baked goods to rise, but it can also be used to clean and deodorize your home, as well as brush your teeth. In addition, it provides respite from all kinds of skin irritation, including itchy bug bites. Simply mix baking soda with a small amount with water to form a thick paste and then apply the paste directly to the bumps left by chigger bites. When the paste dries it should flake off.
- Tea Tree Oil
You may be familiar with this essential oil because of its robust fragrance, but if you know of its many uses in skin care, you likely have some on hand to treat acne, fungal infections, or other common skin conditions. It can also be used to treat bug bites thanks to anti-inflammatory properties.
- OTC Options
Many households keep over-the-counter items like aspirin and calamine lotion on hand. The calamine lotion is an easy solution to most bug bites that cause itch. If you don’t have any in the house, however, simply crush up a couple of aspirin tablets, mix the resulting powder with just enough water to form a paste, and then apply it to affected areas.Aspirin has anti-inflammatory properties, so it only makes sense that it would help to reduce the itch and sting of bug bites, including those caused by chiggers. Leave the paste on until it becomes dry and flakes off.
Now that you’ve treated your bites, you probably want to avoid future encounters with chiggers at all costs. During warmer months, when temperatures rise above 60 degrees, your best chance to avoid chiggers is to wear long clothing any time you’re moving through tall grasses and apply mosquito repellant as an added precaution.
Also, if you are in wooden areas that could be chigger-infested, make sure that you don’t brush up against the vegetation. If you are hiking, walk in the center of the trails and not along the sides.
The other things that you must do is shower as soon as you get indoors. When you wash your clothes, make sure that you do it in hot water. You should also use an insect repellent that contains DEET and apply it to your clothing and skin.
The type of clothing material is also important. You should wear tightly woven fabrics because chiggers are to small that they can get through your clothing to get to your skin. You can also use permethrin. Don’t use it on your skin, rather use it on your clothing. It remains effective on clothing through several washes.