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Chiggers

  • Definition
    • Chiggers are tiny, 6-legged wingless organisms (larvae) that mature to become a type of mite. Chiggers are found in tall grass and weeds. Their bite causes severe itching.

  • Alternative Names
    • Harvest mite; Red mite

  • Causes
    • Chiggers are found in certain outdoor areas, such as:

      • Berry patches
      • Tall grass and weeds
      • Edges of woodlands

      Chiggers bite humans around the waist, ankles, or in warm skin folds. Bites commonly occur in the summer and fall months.

  • Symptoms
    • The main symptoms of chigger bites are:

      Itching usually occurs several hours after the chiggers attach to the skin. The bite is painless.

      A skin rash may appear on the parts of the body that were exposed to the sun. It may stop where the underwear meets the legs. This is often a clue that the rash is due to chigger bites.

  • Exams and Tests
    • Your health care provider can diagnose chiggers by examining the rash.

  • Treatment
    • The goal of treatment is to stop the itching. Antihistamines and corticosteroid creams or lotions may be helpful. Antibiotics are not necessary unless you also have another skin infection.

  • Possible Complications
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call for an appointment with your health care provider if the rash itches very badly, or if your symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment.

  • Prevention
    • Avoid outdoor areas that you know are contaminated with chiggers. Applying bug spray containing DEET to skin and clothing can help prevent chigger bites.

  • References
    • Diaz JH. Mites, including chiggers. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 297.

      Elston DM. Arthropods and leeches. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 367.