Chigger bite – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Chiggers are the larva-type form of mite belonging to the family of Trombiculidae.
Such chigger mites are arachnids just like ticks and spiders.
Throughout the world, chigger habitat consists of dense forested areas that are full of shrubs and bushes such as forests, gardens and grassy fields as well as areas that are rich in moisture such as regions around lakes and rivers. Normally the larva which causes the chigger bites live on plants which are close to the earth’s surface. This is due the fact that they require high level of humidity for their survival.
What do chigger bites look like ?
Some of the signs and symptoms of chigger bite are listed below:
- The chigger bite goes unnoticed for quite some time after the bite has occurred. The victim may feel and notice the bite only once the digestive enzymes of the chigger have been injected into the skin. This leads to the formation of typical symptoms, one to three hours after the chigger bite.
- Noticeable itching is the most universal symptom.
- The area where the chigger has bitten tends to become increasingly red and may either be raised or flat. At time it may look like a blister or a pustule
- The presence of stylostome causes the itching and can become irritatingly intense within 1 to 2 days after the chigger bite.
- The itching continues for several days and the full resolution of skin abnormality may take up to two weeks.
- There are no major complications that may result from the chigger bite itself. However, the intense itching that accompanies the chigger bite may result in prolonged scratching of the affected area. Such activities may lead to the development of wound in that region which may subsequently be infected by bacteria and other microorganisms.
Causes and information about chigger bite
- Chiggers are microscopic in nature and hence are rarely visible to the naked eye. They grow to just about 1/150th of an inch.
- They are red in color and may become visible when they group together on skin. The juvenile chiggers have six legs while the harmless adult mites have eight legs.
- Chigger mites infest the human skin when it comes in contact with them through various sources such as gardens and thick vegetation. The chiggers may stick to clothing at first. From the clothes they move on to the skin area where it can have optimal feeding. It is believed that the mites burrow inside the skin and remain there. But it is not so.
- Chiggers insert their feeding hose inside the skin and inject enzymes that destroy the host tissue. This causes hardening of the skin surrounding the chigger bite, which facilitates the formation of a feeding tube-like structure called stylostome. Afterwards, the Chigger larvae feed on the destroyed tissues. They continue their feeding for few days, if they are not disturbed by heavy itching.
- The chigger’s feeding hose and mouth are delicate structures and hence they are able to penetrate only those regions of the body where the skin is very thin. For example, areas of the body where the skin folds or wrinkles, or other places where the skin is delicate. Chigger bite commonly takes place around ankles, the groin areas, the crotch, armpits and behind the knees. There are several barriers to the migration of chiggers from one part of the body to the other. Such barriers may be belts or compression that results from tight clothing. Hence chigger bites are relegated to areas below the waist or to certain parts which restricts the migration of chiggers.
Chigger bite treatment
- As a home remedy, people used to apply nail polish, alcohol and bleach at the chigger bite sites to suffocate and destroy the chiggers. This treatment method was followed due the myth that propagated that chiggers burrow and remain inside the skin. But these are not effective because the chiggers are not present inside the skin.
- The main aim of the treatment for chigger bite is to get relief from itching and inflammation. For controlling the itching, calamine lotion and corticosteroid creams may be used.
- Oral antihistamines like Diphenhydramine, may also be used for getting relief from symptoms
Prevention of chigger bite
- After any outdoor activity, washing the body with soap and water can remove the chiggers present over the body, and can thus prevent chigger bites.
- Accordingly washing the clothes that you wear during the outing can destroy the chiggers present on them
- Taking note of outdoor temperatures is also helpful in containing the chigger bites. Chiggers do not bite where the climate is colder or below 60 F/15.5 C, and in hot places where the temperature is above 99 F/37.2 C. As such, people may find comfort in the rocky areas on sunny days with chigger bite free atmosphere.
- Applying mosquito repellents like DEET over the skin and clothes may work as an effective repellent towards chiggers.
- Wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts, thick socks, high shoes or boots during the outdoor trip may help, not only from chigger bites but also from mosquito bites and infection. If possible the pant legs may be tucked into the shoes or boots to prevent the chance of chigger bite.
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