It turns out that there is no one creature called a chigger – the word actually refers to the larval stage of a trombiculid mite. The mites are usually reddish in color and are also known as red bugs, harvest mites, and berry bugs.
One of our patrons had heard that chiggers burrowed into the skin or laid eggs in the flesh. While this is true of certain parasites (ticks and botflies, respectively), it isn’t a problem with chiggers. What they’re actually doing is drilling tiny holes in the skin with their specialized mouthparts and injecting a fluid that breaks down skin cells and allows the chigger to digest them. The itchy red bump accompanying a chigger bite is the skin’s adverse reaction to all this abuse.
Often, several chiggers will bite at once, causing a rash of red welts. They typically bite in folds of skin or where clothing is tight against the body (like waistbands or the tops of socks). Wear insect or tick repellent to minimize the chance of bites. Healthline recommends trying not to brush against vegetation, but that may not be feasible. Since chiggers usually take about an hour to attach to the skin, showering after spending time in wooded areas might be enough to avoid bites. If you have been bitten, it can take anywhere from one to three weeks for the bites to heal. While chiggers don’t carry diseases, the bites can get infected if they’re scratched too much. Keep them clean and relieve this itch with ice, hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or a baking soda and water paste.
We found our information on boyslife.org, healthline.com and in “The Complete Guide to Camping and Wilderness Survival” by Vin T. Sparano. While it didn’t have anything on chiggers, “Wilderness Medicine” by William Forgey includes information on how to treat snake bites, stingray stings, and scorpion stings.
For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.