Chiggers are tiny (most can only be seen with a magnifying glass) and red, and
they are a type of mite. Mites aren't insects — they are arachnids
and part of the same family as spiders, scorpions,
Chiggers are found all over the place, including in grassy fields, along lakes
and streams, and in forests. There are adult chiggers and baby chiggers (called larvae),
but only the baby chiggers bother people and animals.
Chiggers have tiny claws that allow them to attach tightly onto people and animals.
Once attached, they can pierce the skin and inject their saliva (spit), which contains
digestive juices that dissolve skin cells. The chigger then slurps up the dissolved
skin cells. To the chigger, this is a tasty meal! Having a chigger do this is very
irritating to your skin.
After a few days, the chigger will be done feeding and fall off a person's skin,
leaving behind a red welt where it had once been.
What a Bite Looks and Feels Like
If a person gets bitten by a chigger, the bite will be very itchy.
A chigger bite will cause a tiny red bump, which will get bigger and itchier as time
goes on. The itchy bump can last for days or even a couple of weeks.
What You Should Do
If you think you've been bitten by a chigger, wash the bite with soap and water. To help with the itching, put some calamine lotion or a cold compress (like ice wrapped in a clean towel) on the area. Or
an adult can find an anti-itch cream or medicine at the drugstore for you. Try not to scratch the bites too much because this can
make them become infected.
What a Doctor Will Do
Because chigger bites are so itchy, many people do get an infection from scratching
them so much. If this happens, the doctor will prescribe a medicine to help with the
itching and a medicine to clear up the infection.
How to Avoid Getting Bitten
The best way to avoid getting bitten by a chigger is to wear an insect repellent.
Ask your parents to apply one that contains 10% to 30% DEET.
When it's possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outside, especially
if you'll be hiking or playing in fields.
Once you come in from being in an outdoor area that may have chiggers, take a hot
shower and use plenty of soap. Also, be sure to wash your clothes in hot water to
kill any chiggers that might be living there.