Are you a fan of taking a long walk through the woods? Or maybe you live in an open field with lots of tall trees and grass? You might have noticed red itchy bumps on your skin and thought to yourself, “I don’t remember getting bitten.” Sounds familiar? Chiggers might have bitten you!
Chiggers are small larvae that belong to the arachnid family. These tiny larvae usually go unnoticed when they hitch a ride on your clothes or ankles as you wander through nature.
How long do chiggers live on your skin? Chiggers can stay and feed on a host for around 4 days before they fall off on their own, but the itching and rash could sometimes last for several days.
Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow into your skin and feed on your blood. They are larvae from the Trombiculidae family. They are after your skin cell fluids instead of sucking blood, which mosquitoes do.
Read on to learn more about how long chiggers live on your skin, as well as how to get rid of chiggers on your skin, some preventive measures, and common misconceptions.
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How Long Do Chiggers Live on Your Skin?
Chiggers are parasitic trombiculid mites, which only cause havoc in their larval form. They are also commonly referred to as harvest mites or red bugs.
Chiggers are so small that they are almost invisible to the naked eye. Nymph and adult harvest mites feed exclusively on plants and animals. They are found worldwide and thrive in grassy, wooden, and damp environments.
Chiggers are most active in summer through early fall, but for tropical areas, it can be all year round. When a chigger hatches, it resides on tall grass or vegetation, waiting for animals to pass by so they can jump on for the ride. It attaches itself to feed and gains nutrients for it to proceed to its nymph stage.
Many believe that chiggers burrow into your skin to feed off your blood, but they are actually after the fluids in your skin cells. They attach themselves to your hair follicle or skin pores and then inject digestive enzymes that break the cells.
The surrounding skin tissue also hardens as the enzymes are injected into the skin, forming a straw-like opening called cyclostome for the chiggers to suck the skin fluids.
The enzymes irritate the skin and cause itchiness and red protruding bumps. Chiggers are about 0.3 mm to 0.55 mm in diameter, which is why they are so hard to detect or avoid.
Usually, you will only know that you have been in contact with chiggers when your skin gets itchy. They often attach themselves to areas in your body with tight-fitting clothes like your underwear or any elastic edges. Finding any rash in these areas should be a red flag.
If you live in a damp wooded area with lots of tall grass, decaying wood, and vegetation, chances are you already have an idea about chiggers. Almost always, families residing in these areas are aware of chiggers with information being passed down through generations.
However, certain information about chiggers can be incorrect. Some are taught that if a chigger bites you, they will burrow into your skin and lay eggs, which is a misconception.
Research has found that after 4 days, chiggers naturally fall off since they are so full of the protein they need to proceed to their nymph stage.  These tiny bugs are attracted to mammals since they produce a protein-filled fluid in their skin cells, which chiggers can easily access.
Once the larvae mites fall off your skin, you will be clear from getting any further bites. However, this doesn’t mean that the itching will stop right away. Generally, itching may last for several days with bumps, blisters, or a rash.
How to Identify Chigger Bites from Other Insects?
Chigger bites often appear in groups or clusters with a recognizable pattern. They often appear on your ankles, feet, and groin. You will notice raised or flat, red itchy bumps on your skin in clusters.
The itching usually begins after a few hours or a day from when the chigger started living on your skin.
- Bedbugs: Bedbug bites may look similar to chigger bites; however, they tend to only appear on exposed skin during sleep. Their bites usually form a zigzag pattern on any part of your body.
- Mosquitoes: As soon as you are bitten by a mosquito, skin itching immediately follows. Mosquito bites often appear on exposed skin with bumps scattered on the surface. Some mosquitoes transmit diseases depending on where you are located.
- Ticks: A tick’s body may still be attached to your skin when the itching begins. A ring of redness often appears around the bite. Ticks often attack one at a time and tend to carry Lyme disease.
What to Do in Case of Chigger Bites?
1. Take a Shower
The very first thing to do as soon as you notice a chigger bite is to take a bath or a long shower with soap and water. Make sure to use a loofah or a small towel to shake off any chiggers that may still be lurking on your skin.
2. Do the Laundry
Next, wash any blankets, towels, and clothes that may have been exposed to the ground to eliminate any bugs left.
3. Apply Cream or Ointment
There are a lot of over-the-counter anti-itch creams and ointments that you can use to treat the chigger bites. Menthol, hydrocortisone, and calamine lotion can help soothe the itch. You can also buy antihistamine pills for instant relief or apply a cold compress to the bitten area.
Chiggers only live on the skin for about 4 days, and their bites often heal on their own after a few days. However, if they still persist, you might want to consider consulting a physician.
4. Avoid Scratching
Always discourage kids from scratching the bites since it can lead to a skin infection called impetigo. It is a bacterial infection with crusts and pus or cellulitis. Its usual symptoms include a large area of swelling, pain, warmth, and skin redness.
Alternative Treatment for Chigger Bites
Chigger bites are really inconvenient and irritating. If you want to be assured that you’re doing everything you can to lessen the itch and get rid of any remaining chiggers lurking, try using Minera Dead Sea Salt and Anti-fungal Tea Tree Oil Body Wash.
Chigger bite first aid includes taking a long hot shower or bath. To be extra thorough, add Minera Dead Sea Salt to your long hot baths.
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This is 100% pure, high-quality Dead Sea salt imported from Israel. The Dead Sea salt can be added to your warm bath to help soothe pain and itchiness from chigger bites.
Since it has 21 minerals, including potassium, magnesium, bromide, and calcium, it helps relieve skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, and eczema.
You can also use Purely Northwest Anti-fungal Tea Tree Oil Body Wash to help repel chiggers and soothe chigger bites. It can also speed up the time they live on your skin from a few days to only a day or so as they hate the smell of it.
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Tea tree oil is a known natural insect repellent with antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties.
To top it all off, Purely Northwest Tea Tree Oil works perfectly for any skin concerns all over your body. It helps relieve itchiness and pain from ringworm, athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, eczema, jock itch, acne, flaky scalps, and more.
Chigger Bite Complications
Below, I will discuss some of the more common complications that arise from chigger bites.
1. Summer Penile Syndrome
Summer penile syndrome is a chigger complication often observed in boys because they are more susceptible to hypersensitivity in their groin area. It usually wears off after 2 to 3 days, but it can sometimes take two weeks to heal.
Cellulitis may develop if chigger bites become infected. It is a painful skin infection caused by bacteria. Such infection may be the issue when the bite marks feel warm to the touch.
3. Scrub Typhus
In Asia and Oceania, a chigger bite may develop into scrub typhus. This infectious bacterial disease is usually endemic from Pakistan to the Korean Peninsula.
The good news is that scrub typhus can be treated using antibiotics. Consult a physician immediately after you notice symptoms, such as headache, fever, body aches, or rash on your body.
How to Prevent Chigger Bites?
- Since chiggers lurk in damp environments with tall grass and vegetation, wearing loose long sleeves and pants can help reduce the likeliness of chiggers jumping on your skin.
- Using insect repellents that contain 10-30 percent DEET or sulfur will definitely repel chiggers. Just make sure that you read the instructions very carefully since some insect repellents need to be reapplied from time to time. It is also significant to note that using flea collars are ineffective and may cause burns or skin irritation.
- When on a hike, stay on marked trails and try to avoid tall weeds and dense undergrowth.
- Once you get home, wash your clothes thoroughly and take a long shower or bath. Lather your body numerous times to ensure that there are no chiggers left on your body. You can avoid chigger living on your skin simply by taking a hot shower or bath right after your hike.
- Always use hot water when washing your clothes and body since this will quickly kill any chiggers. Chiggers are very resilient insects. They can survive cold and warm water washes.
- If you live in an open field or near wooded areas, you can do preventive maintenance. By placing a black piece of cardboard on the ground, you might be able to see if you have a chigger infestation. Chiggers are localized insects, so repeating this step in portions within your area should help you determine the specific outbreak location. Also, use pesticides accordingly.
- Another effective way of reducing the chigger population is removing any of their potential habitats, such as overgrown weeds, vegetation debris, and decaying wood. Regular lawn mowing can also significantly lessen the chigger population.
What Are Some Chigger Misconceptions?
There are a plethora of insects all around us, and as such, there are heaps of misconceptions and mix-ups among insects. The following are some of the common chigger misconceptions:
- Chiggers are parasitic insects that cling to your skin and burrow beneath it to lay their eggs and feed on your blood. In truth, these tiny larvae are only after the protein in your skin cell fluid.
The nutrients in your skin cells allow them to eventually grow into their nymph stage. They live in your skin for about 4 days before falling off. The red bite marks can stay for about 4 to 7 days after.
- Nail polish will kill chiggers and should be your go-to first aid. The logic behind this is that the nail polish will seal the bite wound and will suffocate the chigger. However, since we know that chiggers do not burrow into your skin, this is absolutely one old wives’ tale.
- Chiggers are like lice, mosquitoes, and spiders. These bugs are all part of the arachnid family; however, they differ in their behavior and function.
- The larvae mites are only active in the morning. Chiggers are actually most active in the hot afternoon, particularly when the ground temperature plays between 77 to 86 degrees. These insects generally avoid objects or mammals that have a 99-degree temperature. They instantly die if the temperature drops to 42 degrees.
- People who have been bitten by chiggers can infect people they come in contact with. There is no science behind this. Yes, chiggers can jump from one host to another, but their bites do not make you infectious.
Conclusion – How Long Do Chiggers Live on Your Skin?
Chigger bites are generally nothing to worry about. Although they are irritating and may cause you to constantly scratch affected skin areas, they naturally wear off after a few days.
So how long do chiggers live on your skin? Chiggers live on the skin for about 4 days before they fall off. These parasites simply hitch a ride, grab a few snacks to grow, and fall off when they are full. These bites are often irritating but pose no threat unless you scratch and cause your bumps to get infected.
Chiggers are easy to prevent, especially if you live in an area that is conducive to these parasites. All you have to do is check if you have a localized infestation and trim your lawn.
Prevention is the best, so keep your yard and surrounding areas well-trimmed to enjoy the great outdoors in peace. If they do jump on you, don’t worry, as they will only live on your skin for about 4 days before falling off.
You can reduce this time by having a hot bath – ideally with Epsom salt added and applying tea tree oil to your skin.