What are chigger bites?

Being a site about fleas, I sometimes get e-mails from people asking how to tell if they have been bitten by fleas when they're not sure. Other bug bites can sometimes be confusing - here's this question from Susan:

"i was wondering the other i was outside playing in the grass with the new puppy and know i have bites that itch always and on my ankle are bites that are circles with crust on them is that a flea bite or tick bite or even ants . but i don't know because i know i didn't get from the puppy because she doesn't have any fleas . please help they are driving me crazy . what should i do?"

   

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My response:

"I don't think it's either fleas or ticks. My guess is that they are chigger bites. Go look at these pictures to see if the bites look similar. You can read more about chiggers at this web site. They're little bugs that live in the grass. The site has some suggestions about what to do - namely don't scratch, take a bath with soap against the itchy area, and then it lists a few kinds of skin creams you can use to make it itch less until they heal."

She'd also heard that Clear Nail and other nail polish could kill chiggers - but that's a myth:

"I found this site here that says that the clear nail thing is a myth, and that just washing the area will knock them off your skin, so you don't need to put anything on to try to kill them."

So what are chigger bites, and how are they different from flea bites?

Chiggers are little bugs that are microscopic - you cannot see them with the naked eye. I always kind of thought they were a myth when I was a kid, but they are real and they are annoying. They bite at the pores in your skin and your hair follicles, and you don't find out about it until the itching starts. Having played in the grass is a dead give away - chiggers live there and will go after anyone who gets into any infested brush or grass.

Unlike fleas, you're not going to get a chigger infestation in your house. You don't need any fancy remedy - just wash your clothes a couple of times, wash your pet if they were out there with you, and take a shower with a lot of soap over the itchy areas. Chiggers can't hold on and will be washed off you. Unfortunately, this won't help the itching - you just have to leave it alone and wait for it to heal, but you can use any lotions to try to soothe the places where you were bit.

To prevent chigger bites, use an insect repellant and rub it along your legs up to about your knees. Unless you're wearing boots, you'll need to get your feet as well - they'll go right through the socks. You'll have to use insecticides to actually kill them off if they're in your yard.

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