- What Are Chiggers?
- What Causes Chigger Bites in Children?
- How Do Chigger Bites Happen?
- Signs & Symptoms of Chigger Bites
- Which Children Are at Risk for Chigger Bites?
- How Are Chigger Bites Diagnosed?
- Treatment for Chigger Bites in Kids
- How to Prevent Chigger Bites
- Home Remedies for Chigger Bites in Children
- When to See a Doctor?
Chiggers are tiny invisible species of arachnids that go unnoticeable within grassy areas like lakes, streams, and forests. One may get bitten by the chigger on or near grassy vegetation areas or locations that receive maximum sunlight. However, chigger bites on humans can cause itchiness and nagging discomfort. Learn ways to identify chigger bites in children and their various treatment methods.
What Are Chiggers?
The increasing temperature of the summer months invites an excessive number of insects like Chiggers. These are tiny red mites called trombiculid mites or red bugs. Their bites may not be too painful but can cause itching or redness. Chiggers are small and can be visible only under a magnifying glass. Both humans and animals can get bitten by them at the same time.
What Causes Chigger Bites in Children?
Chiggers are a particular variety of small insects or parasites that draw the blood from the skin of animals and humans that they feed on. More commonly found in warm weather like late spring or during the height of summer months, they bite on the skin and cause symptoms like redness, swelling like round bumps, itching, or pain. Although chiggers are bugs that do not necessarily bite, they aren’t exactly very harmful or cause any serious health issues. Children who spend more time outdoors during summer are more likely to get bitten by insects outdoors as their skin is more exposed to getting bitten by insects. Chiggers don’t burrow and reside in the skin. Instead, they use their sharp jaws to inject saliva containing an enzyme that breaks down skin cells. Chiggers use this enzyme as food, which allows them to stay on the skin’s surface area for several days. Usually, Chiggers get attached to tight-fitted clothing, mainly around the waistline, groin area, bend of elbows, the backside of the knees, bra line, within armpits, or on the ankles.
How Do Chigger Bites Happen?
After hatching, baby chiggers sit on plants using their claws and wait for human or animal hosts. Once they pass by, Chiggers get attached to them, pierce the skin, spit and inject their saliva. The chigger’s saliva contains chemicals that dissolve the skin cells and provide the protein needed for an adult chigger to grow. A chigger bite rash looks like a reddish bump on the skin surface two days after the chigger drops off. Once bitten, the skin starts itching within 3 to 6 hours post attachment. It can be more intense in the first couple of days and may last a week or more. A maximum of 2 weeks is required for the affected areas to regain their normal appearance.
Signs & Symptoms of Chigger Bites
A chigger bite symptom can cause varied kinds of reactions in different people. Here are some of the reactions caused by the mite’s saliva when injected into the skin:
- A red welt with a white and hard center that may itch intensely
- Small reddish swelling on the skin with accompanying fever
- Pain or excessive itching in the surrounding area
- Redness, pimples, or blisters
- Hive-like rash
- Small, reddish bumps on the skin
- Possible swelling or blistering or a hive-like rash
- The itch gets more intense over the next few days as the rash appears in a group
- Chigger bites on private parts can cause itching, swelling, and pain
Which Children Are at Risk for Chigger Bites?
The risk of getting bitten on the exposed skin by the chigger bug is more for children who spend more time outdoors during summer.
How Are Chigger Bites Diagnosed?
Doctors or healthcare providers usually identify chigger bites by examining your child’s affected area. It may be difficult to ascertain the type of insect that caused the chigger bites. Here are some common methods of diagnosing chigger bites.
- Based upon the location of the itch on the skin
- Correlating the child’s symptoms, health history, and recent outdoor activities
- Having a history of outdoor activities, including contact with vegetation and signature itching, can help diagnose chigger bites
- Generally, diagnostic tests are not needed for identifying chigger bites
Treatment for Chigger Bites in Kids
Depending on the type of skin, insect bites to treat Chigger bites can affect them in more ways than one. Chigger bite is not a transmissible disease; however, they can get infected due to excessive scratching. Treatment can thus vary based on your child’s symptoms, age, general health, and the severity of the condition. Here we discuss some methods of curing chiggers in toddlers to relieve their pain and itching.
- Use soap and water to wash off and clean the affected area of any chiggers still on them.
- Apply antiseptic to bitten areas.
- Use over-the-counter medicine like hydrocortisone or calamine lotion to relieve itchiness.
- Oral antihistamines can be taken as a pill or liquid to reduce itching. Apply topical ointment or cream to the area.
- A cold compress can be done to relieve itching and pain
- Hot baths or showers must be avoided.
Avoid giving ibuprofen or aspirin to children below 6 months of age. Consult your child’s doctor before administering any medications, especially if your child has chronic liver or kidney disease or if they had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.
How to Prevent Chigger Bites
Chigger bites aren’t contagious but can be annoying. Here we note some measures that can be taken to prevent chigger bites in children:
- Before starting outdoor activities, it is always good to apply a safe insect repellent, preferably containing 10%-30% DEET.
- Avoid using soaps, lotions, and other artificial products with a strong scent.
- Wearing clothes that fully cover the torsos, such as those with long sleeves or long pants, socks, and shoes, protects from chiggers, especially while hiking. In addition, the protection extends to other biting critters like ticks and mosquitoes too.
- Tucking your child’s pant legs into their socks or shoes
- Avoid getting into thick woods, brushy or grassy areas if and when possible.
- Use products to protect your pets from fleas.
- On your return from the outdoors, a hot shower will help wash off any leftover insects or critters on the skin.
- Wash the clothes used for outdoor activities in hot water. Safe insecticides can be used to ensure thorough cleaning of the pests.
Home Remedies for Chigger Bites in Children
Chigger bites can be controlled using Over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Apart from anti-itch creams and medications, many home remedies can help treat chigger bites. However, using these medications is an individual choice due to their lack of scientific backing. Here are some home remedies for chigger bites in children.
- Putting a cold compress on the chigger bites, taking cool showers or baths, or colloidal oatmeal baths might ease the itching and swelling as per anecdotal evidence.
- Lemon contains antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that can reduce swelling and itching.
- Put a drop of peppermint oil into one-fourth cup of aloe Vera gel and rub it gently over the bumps to soothe the area and reduce the itching.
- As apple cider vinegar contains antiseptic properties, it can help to ease the pain and itching.
- Put baking soda or Epsom saltwater on the area of insect bites to relieve the itching.
- Nail polish
When to See a Doctor?
Usually, chigger bites can heal after weeks and typically be managed at home without any immediate medical. However, if the need arises to see a doctor, here are some ways to deal with these Chigger bites.
- A Chigger bite needs medical care if signs of a secondary bacterial infection of the skin develop or the areas of redness increase, becomes warm, pus forms, and tenderness or pain increases.
- Call your child’s health care provider if symptoms like pain and itching develop or worsen.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Call 911 if you see signs of allergic reactions, such as breathing problems and tightness in the throat or chest.
Necessary precautions can prevent your child from Chigger bites as prevention is always better than cure. However, a parent can note down all about the diagnosis, any new medicine, treatments, or side effects of a new medicine referred to for your child. Find out any alternate methods of treatment, the reason behind a test, procedure, and its results before proceeding with the treatment for Chigger bites.