Facts About Chiggers
Chiggers, which are also called harvest mites or red bugs, are very small and can not usually be seen without a magnifying glass or microscope. Their 'bite' also isn't usually noticeable, which is why you usually don't even know you were around chiggers until you start itching and notice the rash about 12 or 24 hours later.
Once on your body, they typically move around looking for a good place to feed, which is usually a thin layer of skin. They will also begin to feed if they reach a barrier, such as the waistband of your clothes or your armpit.
But chiggers don't even really bite you in the traditional sense, like a mosquito does. Instead, they attach themselves to your skin, inject saliva with digestive enzymes that helps to break down your skin cells, which the chigger drinks. It is these enzymes that cause the itchy rash.
Although chiggers can stay attached to your skin for several days and continue eating, they are very easily brushed off and are usually knocked off once you begin to scratch the rash or take a shower or bath. That is why it can be a good idea to have your kids take a quick shower or bath after they have been playing outside in any type of 'wild' areas of your neighborhood. Another good reason is just so you can wash off any insect repellent that you had put on.
Myths About Chiggers
One of the biggest myths or misconceptions about chiggers is that they can burrow under your skin and drink your blood. This leads to the common treatment for chiggers of putting clear nail polish on chigger bites to suffocate the chiggers. Since chiggers don't actually burrow under your skin, this 'treatment' is unnecessary.
Treatments for Chigger Bites
While nail polish isn't a good treatment for chigger bites, anything that can help control the itching can be helpful, including:
take a bath or shower as soon as possible after any possible exposure to chiggers
apply your favorite OTC anti-itch medication, such as hydrocortisone, Calamine lotion, Sarna, oatmeal baths, etc.
a prescription strength steroid cream
any placebo effect such as wood ash, pickle juice and liquid sugar
Although chiggers in North America don't usually carry any diseases, the bites themselves can get infected.