Chiggers are smaller than a period at the end of a sentence (most can only be seen with a magnifying glass). These members of the arachnid family are found all over, including in grassy fields, along lakes and streams, and in forests. It's the baby chiggers (or larvae) that bite people and animals.
Chiggers have tiny claws that allow them to attach tightly to people and animals. Once attached, they pierce the skin and inject their saliva, which contains digestive juices that dissolve skin cells. Chiggers then consume the dissolved cells and fall off after a few days, leaving a red welt on the skin.
These itchy red bumps (which can look like pimples, blisters, or small hives) are typically found around the waist, ankles, or in warm skin folds. They get bigger and itchier over several days, and often appear in groups.
Extreme itching begins within hours of the chigger attaching to the skin. The itch resolves after a few days, and the red bumps heal over 1-2 weeks.
Doctors can diagnose chigger bites just by looking at them and getting a little information about your child's recent outdoor activities.
No specific medications are designed to treat chigger bites, but calamine lotion, anti-itch cream, and/or cool compresses can help with the itching. Washing bites vigorously with soap and water usually helps to remove any chiggers that are still attached to the skin.
Discourage your child from scratching the bites because this can lead to:
Keeping fingernails short can help your child resist scratching the bites. Antibiotics may be needed if a skin infection does happen.
Call if the itchiness doesn't improve with over-the-counter remedies or if the scratching has led to an infection of the bite (watch for warmth, redness, swelling, tenderness, or pus).
Some boys who have chigger bites on the penis develop an acute hypersensitivity reaction known as "summer penile syndrome," which causes swelling of the penis, itching, and painful urination. Doctors might prescribe antihistamines and recommend cool compresses to treat this problem.
Insect repellents that contain 10%-30% DEET are most effective at preventing chigger bites. When possible, dress kids in long-sleeved shirts and long pants that are tucked in when they'll be playing outside, especially if they'll be hiking or playing in fields. Have them take a hot shower after returning indoors and wash their clothes in hot water. Clothes also can be treated with a specific insecticide to help prevent bites.
Chiggers aren't contagious, so kids don't need to refrain from activities unless the itching makes them too uncomfortable to participate.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2014
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|Hey! A Flea Bit Me! A flea is a small (no bigger than the head of a pin) brown bug with a hard shell. Learn more about fleas and how they affect you in this fun article just for kids.|
|Hey! A Bedbug Bit Me! A bedbug is a small (about the size of a pencil eraser), flat, reddish-brown bug that can be found in homes all over the world. Learn more about bedbugs.|
|Bug Bites and Stings In most cases, bug bites and stings are just nuisances. But in some cases, they can cause infections and allergic reactions. It's important to know the signs, and when to get medical attention.|
|Bug Bites and Stings Generally, insect bites and stings are harmless. Find out how to keep pests from ruining your fun.|
|Help With Hives Hives are red, itchy blotches that can appear because of an allergic reaction. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|What to Do When You're Bugged by Bugs Ugh. Bugs. They're cool, but they also can ruin your day by stinging or biting you. Find out how to handle them in this article.|
|Hey! A Chigger Bit Me! Chiggers are a tiny red type of mite. Learn more about itchy chiggers in this article.|
|Chiggers Chigger bites aren't painful but they do cause intense itching. Find out more about the tiny critters that cause these itchy bites and what you can do to deal with and prevent them.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.