Chiggers Bites

“They tend to be in grassy areas, under vegetation and in shady areas with high humidity,” Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, Ph.D., an urban entomologist and coordinator with the New York State Integrated Pest Management community program at Cornell University, tells

Chiggers can stay on your skin for a few days while they feed. Once they’re full, they’ll drop off. But you don’t need to wait for that to happen. Scratching or washing the area is enough to bump a chigger off even sooner.

A chigger bite itself is not noticeable. After the chigger has begun to inject digestive enzymes into the skin (usually after about 1-3 hours), symptoms and signs typically begin.

How to Prevent and Treat Chigger Bites

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Chiggers often bite the ankles, leaving behind clusters of itchy, red bumps. Courtesy TimVickers/Wikimedia Commons. via Wikimedia Commons

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How do you get chigger bites?

Chiggers are no more than 0.3 millimeters long, but zoom in and you’ll see that they’re hairy and red. (And turn yellow once they’re full.) Once chiggers become adults, they have eight legs, but the young ones that bite you only have six. And while chiggers do have mouth parts that can pierce your skin, these pinchers are short and not very strong. That’s why chiggers bite soft parts of your skin that fold or wrinkle.

Chigger mites infest human skin via areas of contact with vegetation, such as pant cuffs or shirt sleeves and collars. They migrate on the skin in search of an optimal feeding area. A common myth about chiggers is that they burrow into and remain inside the skin. This is not true. Chiggers insert their feeding structures into the skin and inject enzymes that destroy host tissue. Hardening of the surrounding skin results in the formation of a feeding tube called a stylostome. Chigger larvae then feed upon the destroyed tissue. If they are not disturbed (which is rarely the case because they cause substantial itching) they may feed through the stylostome for a few days.

What do chigger bites look like? Photos to help you identify and treat them

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The clearest sign you’ve been bitten by a chigger: the itching. A few hours after you’ve been bitten, you’ll have an urge to scratch – a lot.

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Chiggers are closely related to ticks and spiders, but they’re almost invisible to the naked eye, according to Cleveland Clinic. After chiggers hatch, they feed on the skin of a human or animal until they fall off and turn into an adult mite.

And, often, “you’ll have a history of a patient who was out in the grass in a wooded area,” Levoska says. “It’s really (common) in areas where there’s tall grass where the chiggers will lay their eggs, and then they’ll attach to your clothing and then get on your skin to actually bite you,” she explains.

Keep in mind that these treatments won’t get rid of chiggers for good. They’ll likely only clear your yard for a week or two.

Chigger Bites: Should I Worry? And How Should I Treat Them

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When you do spend time outdoors where chiggers may be, use an insect repellent that has DEET or wear clothing treated with an insecticide like permethrin. As you put on bug spray, pay close attention to areas where chiggers might travel from clothing to your skin, like the waist of your pants and the tops of your socks.

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What are the signs and symptoms of chigger bites?

People are likely to encounter chiggers while hiking, having a picnic, working outside or really “doing anything in the great outdoors,” Gangloff-Kaufmann says. “It could be farming or it could be mowing your lawn.”

How long do chiggers stay on you?

The itching is usually at its worst 24 to 48 hours after the bites appear, Cleveland Clinic explains. From there, the itchiness will subside and eventually stop completely after two weeks.

Chiggers Bites

Chigger Bite

While chigger bites aren’t generally harmful, they can still be itchy and bothersome. Here’s how to identify and manage chigger bites, according to experts.

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What do chigger bites look like?

Chiggers are found in clusters and feed on your body for several hours or days until you wash or scratch them off. You may feel them on your skin but cannot see them due to their microscopic size.

Treatment for chigger bites is directed toward relieving itching and inflammation.

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