Archive for Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Watch out: Chiggers ‘ready and waiting’

Hannah Scott, 7, Topeka, plays with Kaden while her family camps at the Cedar Ridge campground at Clinton Lake in this file photo from May. Kids, animals and adults can all be bitten by chiggers climbing out of the grass.

Hannah Scott, 7, Topeka, plays with Kaden while her family camps at the Cedar Ridge campground at Clinton Lake in this file photo from May. Kids, animals and adults can all be bitten by chiggers climbing out of the grass.

July 14, 2009


Chiggers thrive in humid weather

Have an itch you just can't scratch? Could be the fault of chiggers, a plentiful and annoying insect. Enlarge video

Hot and humid — perfect weather for chiggers.

The tiny creatures are lurking in grass and plants, eager to feed on the skin of humans and pets.

“Any time during the day, the chiggers are waiting and ready to feed,” said Ludek Zurek, Kansas State University associate professor of medical entomology. “When people do get chiggers, it’s not one. It’s usually a relatively large number of them.”

The number could be something like 50.

Chiggers don’t fly or drop out of trees; they climb.

“They get attached to somebody’s legs and then they can climb up,” Zurek said, adding they like sweaty areas. And what one likes, the others are sure to also like.

The chiggers feed for only one day and then drop off. They are not dangerous and do not transmit diseases.

The best prevention is to use a DEET-based repellent and stay out of areas prone to chiggers when outdoors. Once inside, take a hot, soapy shower.

If bitten, use creams with antihistamines and calamine lotion. If people develop a severe allergic reaction, they should seek medical help.

Lawrence resident Kim Crotchett’s 2-year-old son Keaton woke up Friday night crying and itching. He had red spots all over his diaper area and under his armpits. He had two swollen lymph nodes on the base of his skull.

Crotchett thought that perhaps it was an allergic reaction to his diapers. The next morning, the doctor said he had gotten into a batch of chiggers and mosquitoes.

“I was completely shocked,” she said, adding that her son had been outside for only about 20 minutes. After taking medicine, he is doing fine.

Dr. Tom Liebl, of Clinton Parkway Animal Hospital, said chigger bites are also common among dogs and some cats this time of year. Chiggers often leave a red rash on a dog’s abdomen, inner thighs and between toes, spots where there’s not much hair. A dog’s reaction can vary.

“A lot of those patients — there is just no itch at all,” Liebl said. “I mean they have these very unsightly rashes, but the dog seems to be fairly comfortable with it.”

The best treatment is to use flea shampoo and spray. He also recommended applying insect control on the lawn.


gr 8 years, 8 months ago

Actually they are less active at certain times of the day and temperatures and they DO transmit disease though not usually here. They also feed for more than one day - articles say up to four or five.

Jock Navels 8 years, 8 months ago

best chigger repelant ever: make a paste of sulfur and baby oil...put it on your ankles and lower leg, around your waste under your belt and in your armpits. do this when going out into grassy or wild areas, take a hot hot soapy shower when you come in.

antney 8 years, 8 months ago

use antiperspirant beyond the armpits. crotch, belt line, back of knees, etc....

John Spencer 8 years, 8 months ago

A couple of things I have found that help are: Stay the heck out of the grass! If you are out in grassy chigger ridden areas, take a bandana or a facecloth and every 15-20 minutes, wipe off the areas that get chiggers, ankles, belt armpits, they like moist areas. Although I have not tried the baby oil/sulfur, I would not do it, I think that would make me sweat more and give the chiggers more places to attack. when I was in the boy scouts, we made a mixture of 'flowers of Algernon'( sulfur) and talcum powder (50/50), and put that on the above areas. Also filled a sock with fistful of it and took that along with us and applied often.

Shardwurm 8 years, 8 months ago

jocknavals is correct - but you don't have to mix the sulphur with baby oil if you don't want to. The product is called 'Flower of Sulphur' and it comes in powder form. You can dust your socks with it, etc. Apply as jocknavals suggests.

The other remedy you can do is put clear nail polish on the site of the bite. It will smother the little bugger.

KansasPerson 8 years, 8 months ago

That clear nail polish thing has never worked for me. I have a pretty intense reaction to chigger bites (but not as bad as my son, who swells up terribly). And I'm surrounded by people who don't get bit by them at all, no matter how much grass they walk through. Do some people just taste better than others? I am like Chigger Prime Rib.

KansasPerson 8 years, 8 months ago

Hahahaha! Try this if you're on Facebook - the "How Much Do You Hate Chiggers?" quiz.

(I scored pretty high, which surprises me not at all)

(If you hate Facebook even more than you hate chiggers, then never mind!)

John Spencer 8 years, 8 months ago

Shardwurm thats a old wives tale, putting stuff on the chigger bite does not kill it, as there is nothing in there. Some topical anti-histamine will help reduce the itch. I also slap mine and try had not to scratch them. Chiggers are more like a tick than a burrowing insect. they stick a pipe-like mouth part in a pore, or hair folicle opening and regurgitate an acidic liquid into the hole, then slurp it back up along with the dead skin the liquid dissolved. The itch comes from your body sending histamine to the area. If you wipe off with a towel you can easily knock them off. I didn't mention it previously, but I also take a shower as soon as i get home.

Shardwurm 8 years, 8 months ago

Wereallmonkeys - thanks for calling me out...but I gave that advice just this week to someone and they told me "It worked" - so it may be wive's tales...but at least it convinced someone!

rabb 8 years, 8 months ago

Unbelievable that in 2009, in some parts of this country, they're still referred to as "Chiggers".
They're "Arachnid Americans". Arachnid Americans, people. Arachnid Americans.

puddleglum 8 years, 8 months ago

oh gawd, here is the best/worst chigger story ever:

one time, at band camp-no wait thats not it.

one time, I was spray painting this flat-bed trailer of mine out in the rural western part of the county. My dad had mowed the grass in a big rectangle, so I had plenty of room to work in, and I thought i was safe from bugs...wrong-o! I had over 250 chigger bites on my legs-and spent the next week trying various formulas like covering the bites with clear nail polish and stuff like that. it was horrid!

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 8 months ago

Because I have no memory of these from my childhood though it is reasonable to think I must have had them as I roamed the woods, I had to google.

They begin as eggs, hatch as larvae, develop into nymphs and finally become adults. Nymph and adult harvest mites feed mostly on plant life and don't bother people or other mammals, but in the larval stage, many of the species in the prostigmata suborder are parasitic. After a parasitic chigger hatches, it finds a good position on tall grass or other vegetation so it can spring onto a passing animal. When it finds an animal, it attaches to the animal to gather the protein it needs to grow into the nymph stage. ­

I find the complexity of even the smallest life form to be wonderful. This is a good time to be alive as science now has the means to see things never seen before because of better technology with which to investigate our marvelous world.

gr 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure "spring" onto a passing animal is as accurate as grabbing hold of one.

If a chigger falls off a grass blade, does it make a sound? Wheeeeeeeee....

I'm not sure if you are implying chiggers are too small to see. You can see them. They are a little reddish orange dot about half the size of a period - bigger than the width of a hair. Look for them when you first notice the rash. They are easily scratched off at that point, but your tissues continue to dissolve and itch.

jjt 8 years, 8 months ago

Coming from the UK we never had to deal with chiggers. Chiggers are particularly partial to English skin. We have found that TCP (BRITS) has a soothing effect. Does not work for every one. A great deal seems to hinge on how quick one catches the infestation.

puddleglum 8 years, 8 months ago

"They are easily scratched off at that point, but your tissues continue to dissolve and itch"

this is due to the chiggers' saliva-which is the actual irritant. the bite itself doesn't do anything. I hate em

KEITHMILES05 8 years, 8 months ago

If you get bit by chiggers the clear finger nail polish works wonders!

I had an emergency room doctor tell me this years ago and sure neuralizes the itchiness very quickly.

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