Chigger bites are small reddish bumps on the skin that may result in blister or swelling. These are usually found in areas where the skin folds, such as the ankles, waist, armpits, groin, or behind the knees. The bites generally appear in groups and might spread with time.
They are often found in children who play outdoors. Although these bites do not pose much harm, they could cause itching and discomfort. If you often find such bites in your children, here is a post on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for chigger bites in children.
What Causes Chigger Bites?
Chigger bites, medically known as trombiculosis, are rashes caused by chiggers, the larvae of trombiculid mites, also known as red mites or red bugs. These mites dwell on plants and grass and are barely visible to the naked eye.
These parasitic mites attach themselves to the skin of humans and animals. They cling onto the skin surface with their claws, and then pierce the skin and inject saliva, which dissolves the skin cells. The chigger larvae feed on the dissolved skin cells for a few days and fall off, leaving a red bump.
Signs And Symptoms Of Chigger Bites In Children
Chigger bites are often seen in areas where the clothing is tight or the skin is folded and generally appear in groups.
Some of the prominent symptoms of chigger bites are
- Round, reddish bumps on the skin
- Severe itching
- Swelling and pain
Sometimes, these chigger bites might appear on the penis and cause summer penile syndrome, which may exhibit symptoms such as (1):
- Swelling of the penis
- Painful or weak urine stream
Your child’s doctor would do a physical examination to diagnose chigger bites. The doctor might also enquire about your child’s medical history and other symptoms.
Treatment For Chigger Bites
A chigger bite may or may not be painful, but it might itch for ten to 21 days. If your child does not show any serious signs of infection, the chigger bites can be treated with some over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Here is what you could do if you spot chigger bites on your child.
- Ask them to shower and scrub the skin with antiseptic soap to get rid of any chiggers attached to the skin.
- Wash the clothes, blankets, or towels that your child has touched to kill any chiggers latched onto them.
- Apply OTC anti-itch creams or ointments, such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, to relieve the itching and pain.
- If the itching persists, contact your doctor, and they might prescribe antihistamine drugs.
- If your child has a fever or chills, take them to the doctor and do not use OTC medications, such as Ibuprofen or
The itching and bumps might subside in a week or two. During this time, make sure your child does not scratch or squeeze the bumps as it might lead to infection in the form of impetigo and cellulitis.
Home Remedies For Chigger Bites
You could also use some of these home remedies to ease the itching and swelling caused by chigger bites. However, note that these home remedies do not have any scientific backing to prove their effectiveness, and it is important to speak to your doctor before trying these.
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that putting a cold compress on the chigger bites might ease the itching and swelling.
- Lemon is said to have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. So, it might help in reducing the swelling and itching (2).
- Mix one-fourth cup of aloe vera gel with a drop of peppermint oil and rub it over the bumps. It might help soothe the area and ease the itching.
- Oatmeal is said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are important to soothe the itching. Add two to three cups of oats in water, gently scrub the chigger bites, and rinse it off(3).
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that apple cider vinegar contains antiseptic properties and can help ease the pain and itch from chigger bites. However, use this with caution in case the bites appear infected.
- Soaking the bites in baking soda or Epsom salt water might also help in relieving the itching.
Prevention Of Chigger Bites
Observe these precautions to protect your children from chigger bites.
- Make sure your children wear long-sleeved shirts and full pants while playing outdoors.
- Apply anti-bug ointments all over your child’s body before they go out to play.
- Spray your child’s shoes, boots, and backpacks on the outside with anti-bug sprays containing DEET to repel the chiggers (4). Don’t allow DEET to come in direct contact of the child’s skin as it is a toxic compound.
- Tuck in your child’s pant legs into their socks to prevent the exposure to chiggers.
- You can also apply essential oils, such as tea tree oil, that might work as insect repellents.
- Instruct your children to have a hot shower as soon as they come home after playing outdoors.
When To See A Doctor?
Chigger bites usually do not cause harm and are treatable using OTC medications. However, it is best to consult your doctor if
- The OTC medications do not help in relieving the symptoms.
- The bite is warm, swollen, tender, or filled with pus.
- Your child develops allergic reactions, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting, or has trouble breathing.
Chiggers do not transmit diseases, but there is a chance for the wound to get infected if your child scratches or pinches the bumps. Also, chiggers cannot burrow and enter the skin; they only live on the outer layers of the skin, feed, and fall off. These bites are also not contagious, so you can allow children to perform all normal activities unless there is severe itching.
Chigger bites may not be harmful but might cause itching and discomfort; so, make sure you take the necessary precautions when your child is going out to play, as prevention is always better than cure.
2. Ehigbai I. Oikeh, et al.; Phytochemical, antimicrobial, and antioxidant activities of different citrus juice concentrates; Food Sci Nutr. (2016).
3. Andrea Perrelli, et al.; Biological Activities, Health Benefits, and Therapeutic Properties of Avenanthramides: From Skin Protection to Prevention and Treatment of Cerebrovascular Diseases; Oxid Med Cell Longev. (2018).
4. Stephen Frances; Efficacy and Safety of Repellents Containing Deet; Insect Repellents (2006).
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