Chiggers, also known as berry bugs, harvest mites or red mites, are tiny red mites belonging to the arachnid family.
These mites are usually found outdoors, especially in grassy fields, forests and slightly moist areas alongside lakes and streams. Their tiny claws allow them to attach tightly to people and animals.
As these tiny mites can only be seen with a magnifying glass, it’s difficult to see them with the naked eye and prevent getting bitten.
You may not even know when a chigger bites you. However, the symptoms start showing within hours. The most common symptoms include intense itching, swelling, rashes and red bumps on the skin.
In most cases, chigger bites are not harmful to your health. However, they are uncomfortable and can even make it difficult to sleep. Chiggers usually bite around the waist, ankles or skin folds.
It takes about 1 to 3 weeks for chigger bites to heal. To control itching, pain and swelling in the meantime, you can try some simple home remedies.
Note: Avoid scratching the affected area, as it can lead to infection. If an infection develops, it is important to consult a doctor.
Here are the top 10 ways to treat chigger bites.
1. Hot Shower
Once you are aware of being bitten by chiggers, the first line of defense is a hot shower. This will cause any chiggers on your body to fall off and will minimize skin reactions from the bites.
- Use a mild antiseptic soap and gently rub your body thoroughly while showering.
- After the shower, thoroughly pat dry your body with a soft towel. Do not rub your body vigorously, as this can lead to rashes and more pain.
- Apply some olive oil or a mild moisturizer to keep the skin moisturized.
Note: Do not use very hot water for showering. Also, make sure to wash your clothes in hot water.
2. Vicks Vapor Rub
Once you have taken the hot shower, the next step is to look for a jar of Vicks vapor rub.
This common product in your medicine cabinet can put an end to itchy chigger bites immediately. It’s the cooling menthol in it that relieves itching by affecting itch receptors in the skin. It will even reduce the risk of blisters.
- Take some Vicks vapor rub and add a little table salt to it.
- Mix properly and then apply it to the affected area.
- Repeat again if there is any inflammation and swelling, otherwise there is no need of it.
3. Cold Compresses
A cold compress can help reduce the itching associated with chigger bites. Its numbing effect helps reduce the sensation of itchiness.
- Wrap some ice cubes in a thin cloth. Apply this compress to the bites for 10 minutes. Take a break and repeat if needed to relieve itching.
- Soaking the affected area in cool water may also help alleviate the itching. Repeat as needed.
4. Baking Soda
Baking soda is another effective remedy to reduce rashes as well as itchiness. It acts as a natural acid neutralizer that helps relieve itching. It even reduces the risk of infection.
- Add 1 cup of baking soda to a bathtub filled with cool water. Stir well and then soak in this water for 15 minutes. Pat yourself dry with a soft towel. Do this once daily.
- Alternatively, prepare a thin paste of 2 teaspoons of baking soda and a little water. Apply the paste on the affected areas. Leave it on for about 10 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water. Do not use this remedy more than once or twice a day.
Note: Never use baking soda on broken skin or open wounds.
Oatmeal contains anti-irritating, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that provide instant relief from itching, one of the common symptoms of chigger bites.
It is recommended to use colloidal oatmeal, meaning oats that are ground into an extremely fine powder.
- Add 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal to a bathtub filled with lukewarm water.
- Stir thoroughly to help the granules distribute evenly.
- Soak in this water for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times a day, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has antiseptic and anti-itching properties that help get rid of itching as well as inflammation and swelling.
- Add 2 cups of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bath water. Soak in this water for 15 minutes. After pat drying your skin, apply a light moisturizer to prevent dryness. Do this once or twice a day.
- For localized itching, apply raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar directly on the affected areas using a cotton ball. Wait 30 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water. Use this remedy once or twice daily for a few days.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera contains excellent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. Its vitamin E content helps keep the skin moisturized, which in turn reduces itching.
- Extract the gel from an aloe vera leaf and apply it on the affected area. Leave it on for 15 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Use this remedy 2 or 3 times daily.
- Another option is to mix a few drops each of peppermint oil and olive oil in ½ cup of fresh aloe vera gel. Apply this mixture on the affected area. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil can also be used to get respite from the irritation and inflammation. It is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants that reduce itching and facilitate healing.
- After rinsing the affected area with water, put some olive oil on it. Reapply several times a day.
- Alternatively, prepare a paste with equal parts of olive oil and honey. Apply it on the affected area a few times daily until it heals completely.
- Another option is to mix a few drops of tea tree oil in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and apply it on the affected area. Repeat a few times daily.
Chamomile is another useful remedy for a chigger bite. Its anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties soothe the skin, relieve itching, reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Make 2 cups of chamomile tea and allow it to cool in the refrigerator. Soak a washcloth in this cool tea, then place it on the affected area. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Do this a couple of times a day for a few days.
- Alternatively, add 4 or 5 drops of chamomile essential oil to 1 tablespoon of coconut or castor oil. Apply it on the affected area a few times daily, until you get relief from itching and rashes.
10. Indian Lilac
Indian lilac, also known as neem, can also help get rid of the discomforts associated with chigger bites. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties help reduce itching and inflammation. It even reduces the risk of an infection.
- Simmer a handful of neem leaves in 2 to 3 cups of water for 15 minutes. Strain the solution and allow it to cool. Use this water to wash the affected area, a couple of times daily for a few days.
- You can also apply a neem-based cream or lotion on the affected area, a few times daily.
- As summer and fall are prime time for chigger bites, it is best to take necessary precautions when going to wooded areas.
- When hiking, avoid brushing up against vegetation.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants when going out in the woods.
- Apply mosquito repellent on your hands and feet before going out.
- Resist the urge to scratch to relieve the itching, as this can cause infection.
- You can also use calamine lotion, anti-itch creams, or simply Listerine mouthwash to deal with itching.