Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One of my sons came in today with the worst case of Red Bug Bites I have seen in decades. Hey, Fire Ants are supposed to be controlling the chiggers!

Chiggers, also know as red bugs, live throughout the southern area and their range even goes far north. Many a camper and hiker have become a chiggers feast. The chigger is actually a near microscopic mite and is a relative of the spider family. Only the "larva" attacks humans. Chiggers or red bugs, live around pine straw, Spanish moss, tree bark, dead vegetation and high grasses. The chigger is about 1/100th of an inch in size and is chrome-orange in color.

When walking through areas where chiggers are present, the chigger crawls onto the victim when he or she brushes against whatever the chigger is on. The chigger will begin to search for its meal spot. This is usually around tender, warm and moist skin, most likely around the ankles, wrists, waist or groin areas, where clothes are tight and body temperature is high. Once the chigger finds the area, usually a hair follicle or pore, it attaches its mouth parts to the skin and secretes saliva which digests and breaks down the tissue. The chigger nourishes on the resulting "soup". The victim becomes aware of the chiggers presence when intense itching occurs. The more one scratches, the worse the itch becomes. Often the victim will scratch so violently, the skin will become super sensitive and raw. The itch is actually caused by the saliva from the chigger. Often there will be red spots on the victim, particularly if on the arms, wrists or ankles. If on the groin area, usually a solid red rash will be seen and is characterized by inflamed, broken and raw skin areas, usually where the legs meet the groin.

The burning itch can be unbearable and keep even the most sound of sleepers awake scratching all night long. Unless treated by over the counter medication, the chigger can remain for as long as 7 or 8 days before falling off the victim. With treatment, the itching will last less than 24 hours. Scratching the area will only make matters worse. One other thing... chiggers are rarely alone. Usually, if you have a chigger, you have many chiggers.

A popular over the counter treatment is "Chigger Rid" and can be found at most area stores. Treatment should begin as soon as the itch begins,
avoid scratching or rubbing and wear loose or no clothing around the affected area.
A cool bath will often help relieve the intense itching temporarily.

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