10 Effective Remedies for Chigger Bites (You Have at Home)

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Chiggers, along with lice, are some of our least favorite creatures. Imagine there was a tiny monster in the same family as scorpions and spiders. It was so tiny, in fact, that you could barely see it without a microscope. Yet, this tiny creature was capable of causing insanity-inducing itchy skin.

These creatures exist and while the name “chigger bites” are a misnomer, these horrific little creatures can certainly cause intense itching with their spit. Read on to find out what you can do to avoid or get rid of them. And the old nail polish trick won’t help!

What Are Chiggers?

Their scientific name is Trombiculidae or Trombiculid mites. You may hear them referred to as chiggers, harvest mites, mowers mites, harvest lice, red bugs, and a host of other names. They’re so tiny you almost can’t see them without a magnifying glass or microscope. Chiggers tend to congregate in shady areas with a lot of vegetation. You’ll find them in fresh-cut grass, tall weeds, and overgrown and wooded areas.

One female can lay hundreds of eggs. Once hatched, they all tend to stay in the same area. This is why you can encounter hundreds of chiggers in one general area and not find any just a few yards away. When fully grown, these tiny mites measure only 1/150th of an inch, making them very difficult to see or avoid. And did I mention their cousins with scorpions?

If you’ve ever had a run-in with these little guys, you’re well aware of the uncomfortable effects they can cause. Chiggers leave itchy welts that look like hives, sometimes called chigger bites. In reality though, they don’t bite at all.

Chigger Bites Are Not Bites at All…

The itchy welts left behind by these little red mites are commonly called chigger bites. Technically it’s not a bug bite though.

A chigger larva can attach itself to a human host. They latch on to the skin but they’re so small you won’t feel them. Contrary to many assumptions, they don’t lay eggs in the skin or even bite it.

Instead, chiggers drill microscopic holes into skin cells with their mouth. They then secrete specialized salivary enzymes (aka- spit) onto the skin. See… not technically a bite (I know, I know, too-may-toe, to-mah-toe).

These enzymes cause the skin to break down. So the chiggers can essentially slurp up the decaying skin through a straw-like tube called a stylostome. Disgusted? I was too.

Symptoms of Chigger Bites

Many insects and plants can cause an itchy skin rash so it can be tough to know if it is chiggers or something else. Here’s what to look for to know if you’ve been attacked by these pesky larvae:

  • Initial itching in areas that may have been exposed to chiggers in tall grass, woods, wet, or shady areas.
  • Chiggers tend to target more delicate skin folds around the ankles, waist, groin, and behind the knees
  • The itchy blisters are most common around the waist and lower legs. These are the easiest for chiggers to reach
  • What starts as itching soon becomes red bumps that can look like small blisters or pimples.
  • These itch intensely for 24-48 hours and take about 2 weeks to fully go away. They start to crust over and may have a scab for several weeks.
  • The initial itching may be bad enough to keep you up at night (I can vouch for this!)

Is it a Different Bug?

The above symptoms indicate chigger bites, but there are a few other bugs that can cause similar symptoms. Here’s how to tell different bug bites apart:

  • Bed bug bites – Bed bugs leave burning red bumps that start to itch. You’ll have bites anywhere your skin touches the bed.
  • Mosquito bites – These familiar itchy red bumps can occur on any exposed skin and sometimes swell.
  • Flea bites – Typically form a zig-zag pattern of itchy, sore tiny red dots on the skin. More likely to be on the ankles, legs, and waist.
  • Scabies – Another tiny mite that can cause intense itching. Symptoms include pus-filled bumps, rash, skin crusting, and grayish lines in the skin.

Chigger Bites and Disease

My first thoughts were that chiggers aren’t a big deal, just a pain to deal with. It turns out they can transmit certain diseases though.

Scrub typhus is caused by bacteria through bites from infected chiggers. Common symptoms include fever and chills, headache, body aches, and muscle pain. Sometimes the person will get a rash or enlarged lymph nodes. This is most common in rural areas in places like Southeast Asia, Japan, and northern Australia.

More recently scrub typhus has spread to South America and could be in other new areas. Since the symptoms mimic other diseases it can be difficult to diagnose. It’s likely not a problem on your regular camping trip, but it’s something to watch out for if you’re traveling.

Our Experience With Chiggers

I vaguely remember getting chiggers a few times as a kid. But I had an experience not too long ago that trumped any of my past experiences.

On our family camping trip, all of our kids were exposed to chiggers. They didn’t notice them the first day, but by the next morning, their legs were covered in itchy red welts.

The itching was so bad it kept the kids up at night. I was afraid they would end up with scars all over their legs or a skin infection from scratching.

Since I hoped to eventually sleep again, I started researching ways to get rid of these itchy bumps. I even called a local entomologist for some professional recommendations.

Remedies That Don’t Work

Thanks to my six more-than-willing test subjects, I discovered natural remedies that work for chigger bites (and many that don’t). But first, here’s what didn’t work:

  • Nail polish– I couldn’t find where it originated, but the common advice is to paint chigger bites with nail polish. This is thought to “suffocate” the chigger. However, this doesn’t work because it isn’t a bite and nothing remains in the skin. At best, this doesn’t work and at worst, we’re putting toxic nail polish directly into an open wound.
  • Aspirin– We didn’t actually try this remedy, and I wouldn’t recommend it, at least not without a doctor’s oversight. I found no evidence this works. Since substances can be absorbed through the skin, this could actually be dangerous to kids, pregnant women, or anyone with a medical condition.

Home Remedies for Chigger Bites

If you’ve ever experienced the awful itching caused by chigger larvae, you know that you’ll do almost anything to make it stop. Thanks to our recent chigger infestation, we had plenty of opportunities to test natural remedies for the itching.

Healthcare providers often recommend over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl to stop the itching. Permethrin, an anti-parasite medication is another conventional treatment. Hydrocortisone and topical steroid creams can help reduce the swelling.

I’m not one to opt for conventional medications as a first line of treatment, especially when it comes to my kids! Here are the natural chigger bite remedies that worked for us.

1. A Hot Shower

The best way to stop chiggers is to get rid of them before they attach and start spitting on the skin. This avoids the itching completely. I think this is also the reason why my youngest and I were the least affected. It can take chiggers a few hours to find a place to latch onto the skin and start drilling. If you can remove them during this window, you can often avoid the problem completely.

Our family was exposed to chiggers on a camping trip. We were camping close to town, so when our two youngest kids got grumpy, I brought them home. I gave them both a bath and we slept in our own beds. I also showered in hot water that night. In the morning, all three of us all had only 1-2 bites each. The rest of the kids and their dad stayed overnight and had dozens of itchy bumps.

If you think you may have been exposed to chiggers, a hot shower within the first hour or so can help remove them from the skin. Obvious other steps like using soap and scrubbing the skin can help too.

2. Cold Water

I know, I know… I just said hot water can help. Cold compresses and cold showers though can help relieve the itching once it’s set in. The cold helps calm the inflammation and numb the area to reduce itching. I wouldn’t do this with very little ones though.

You can also rub an ice cube on the itchy bites for some relief.

3. Baking Soda Scrub

These work best shortly after exposure but can help even once the severe itching sets in. It’s also super simple. Make a paste of equal parts baking soda and water and rub it on the skin in the shower. Leave it on for a few seconds before showering off.

Fair warning- this will sting like crazy, but it really helps stop the itch and beats staying up all night itching.

4. Rub Salt in the Wound

Just like the baking soda solution, this will sting, but it helps. The traditional advice is to mix some salt into some vapor rub. I’d recommend using a natural or homemade vapor-rub salve instead to avoid the petroleum byproducts though.

The theory is that the menthol in the vapor-rub helps calm the itching and the salt helps neutralize the spit causing the itch.

Whatever the science, this seemed to work the best. I mixed some Real Salt into my pre-made vapor rub and it offered some relief for the kids.

5. Or Spray It On

A salt water and herbal tea spray also seemed to help. I made a strong chamomile tea and added a few tablespoons of natural salt. I kept this in a glass spray bottle in the fridge and it offered some cooling and calming relief for itching.

6. Castor Oil

This is an old remedy that the entomologist suggested. It seemed to work, though it wasn’t the most effective remedy we tried. If you have castor oil around it could be worth a try though. We dabbed small amounts on the bumps and it did offer some itching relief.

7. Diatomaceous Earth

I tried this remedy before I realized chigger bites aren’t actually chigger larvae embedded under the skin (as often claimed). Still, this worked remarkably well. My theory is that it does kill any remaining chiggers and dries out the bumps to reduce the itching.

I’m also now using this as a preventative measure. Diatomaceous earth has many uses and can kill many small pests naturally. I’ll be sprinkling it in our socks and on our boots next time we camp!

8. Natural Anti-Itch Cream

Many sources also recommend using Calamine lotion to calm the itch. I didn’t have this on hand but did have my homemade natural itch cream, which worked like a charm. Either of those should help calm the itch.

9. Cooling Aloe Vera

Mix 1/4 cup aloe vera (fresh or gel) and a drop of peppermint essential oil. Rub over the skin to soothe the itching. Lavender essential oil is a natural antihistamine that can also help.

10. Magnesium Baths

We found that all of my detox baths seemed to calm the itching, but a plain magnesium or Epsom salt bath worked best. Add 1 cup of Epsom salt or magnesium flakes to a warm bath. Don’t have those? Try just adding some baking soda instead of making the paste above.

How to Never Get Chigger Bites Again

All of that insatiable itching could be avoided by not getting chigger bites (spit) in the first place. My first gut reaction was to ban my children from camping and hiking until the first frost. Some research led to a more balanced solution. We’re taking these steps to avoid another run-in with chiggers:

  1. Wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and long socks to help prevent chiggers from getting on the body at all
  2. Liberally using natural bug spray any time we are outside until the first frost. This version is a more natural insect-repellent option than DEET. Apparently, the first frost kills most chiggers.
  3. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth on shoes and socks as a natural insecticide.
  4. Taking hot showers immediately after potential exposure.

When To See Your Doctor

Chigger bites usually go away on their own after two weeks, but there are a few things to watch out for. If you have any of the below issues, check in with your healthcare practitioner.

  • Intense itching that won’t go away after two weeks.
  • Open wounds from excessive itching
  • Pus, swelling, or change in skin color. These indicate an infection.

Ever had chigger bites? What natural remedies helped you the most? Leave a comment and share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


100 responses to “10 Effective Remedies for Chigger Bites (You Have at Home)”

  1. Gennie Avatar

    Does anybody at all supplement with Vit B6. I do not get bitten by anything, bees included, unless I stop my taking my B6 for a few weeks. Found out from a health shop when buying. the lady asked, “were my kids going camping?” Also noticed my young son took a banana for fruit break every day for two years and never got bitten. Fruit break stopped and the bites came back. Strangely, every internet reference recommends avoiding bananas.

  2. Sheri Avatar

    We live in Texas. I believe this is the chigger Capitol of the U. S. I had never even heard of it or experienced it before moving here. After trying many remedies, unsuccessfully, hands down the only thing that works is Young Living Purification essential oil. No burning, instant relief.

  3. Cheryl Avatar

    I recently had my first chigger bites. Rubbing a mixture of Epsom salts and water, left on for two minutes, with an immediate follow up of cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol and then applied polysporin. Did this every 12 hours and it relieved any itching. It’s been one week now and spots are finally healing.

  4. Mariana Gonzalez Rul Avatar
    Mariana Gonzalez Rul

    We have them where I live in Mexico big time. I have never seen the bugs but I have notice that the itchy red bumps appear about 8 to 12 hours after exposure.
    I have tried all kinds of natural bug repellents made with essential oils and none seem to have any effect. As a friend puts it “They don’t care how you season yourself, they will still go for you”.
    What I have found works for the itching is Zinc Oxide ointment, which is sold here at any pharmacy as a dipper rash remedy. If you can’t find it already made, I am sure getting the zinc oxide powder and mixing it with coconut oil or any other carrier to make a thick paste would work. You need to reapply it every few hours but it stops the itching for a while.

  5. Lisa Avatar

    Yesterday my son and I got bit by chiggers. I’m itching like crazy this morning so your article popping up in my mailbox was very timely. Thank you! 🙂

  6. Shannon Duffy Avatar
    Shannon Duffy

    We just moved to the country in western Kentucky and have battled chiggers daily! I have found the hot shower works great. After I get out I rub the bite with witch hazel and then treat it with tea tree oil. It has relived the itching!

  7. Karen Avatar

    My oldest daughter got “alpha gal” from chigger bites! Alpha gal is a meat allergy and is usually carried by the lone star tick. However, the doctor said that in our area on the east coast (NC/VA) the chiggers can also carry it! Scary!

  8. Alexandra Brown Avatar
    Alexandra Brown

    I am just getting over a bad case of chigger bites as I write this. I hope to never get them again. Last summer, while sitting on a bale of old hay with my daughter we also met chiggers. Before that I don’t think I ever encountered them. A few months after getting bit last summer I had a severe allergic reaction. I ended up at ER and the pain in my abdomen, in addition to other symptoms, was excruciating. It turns out I have Alpha Gal, which is an allergy to all mammal meat. And it’s so bad for me I can have nothing derived from mammal; milk, gel caps, cheese. I have always eaten well and taken care of myself and now I have chronic intestinal issues that I believe are stemming from that severe reaction. Alpha gal is generally believed to originate from a tick bite, but I have read when chiggers are also suspected. I can’t recall a tick bite last summer but I definitely was bitten by chiggers. So, there are possibly reasons to be wary of these little monsters aside from the horrible itching.

  9. Angel Avatar

    I have read and tryed vaseline and salt put together in a small cup and mix, then apply on the area.
    I have them here in NC and never experience these little annoying bugs everywhere I’ve live.

  10. Julia Avatar

    I always heard that if you drink a little apple cider vinegar, chiggers will avoid you.

  11. Alisa Avatar

    I get bitten through my clothes so tucking in stuff doesn’t help. My sister-in-law’s eyes are trained to see them. She uses a Q-tip and menthylated spirits to scoop them out then she crushes them between her nails. I don’t have the patience or skill to swipe away at the bumps with a Q-tip.

  12. Linda Sand Avatar
    Linda Sand

    I’ve used the nail polish technique for most of my 69 years and it always worked for me. Must be a mind over matter thing since you say it can’t work. You have to make a larger spot of nail polish than you think you need, though, and you can’t move until it sets because you don’t want it to crack. We always use clear nail polish; don’t know if that makes a difference.

    1. Lea Avatar

      Strange. We tried it multiple times when forst we moved to Texas, and it didn’t work, actually made it itch worse….

  13. Diane Thompson Avatar
    Diane Thompson

    Best article I’ve ever read on chiggers, from a chigger magnet! First I got them, I wanted to cut off my feet. Everything in the article works, I’ve tried them all. The only way I can avoid them is to wear tall rubber boots.

    1. Kathy Avatar

      I have used the hot shower method with scrubbing with a luffah sponge within a few hours of exposure. It really does help to dislodge the chiggers and the shower washes them away. I usually only get 1-2 bites when I do that. Then I use a cream that contains menthol and peppermint essential oil and that helps a lot with the itching. And , of course, if you don’t scratch them, the welts decrease in size sooner. I happen to live near Katie and the chiggers have been horrendous this year. Some of my plantings have grown quite large in my shady back yard and they are so infested with chiggers that I have to wear natural bug spray each time I go near them, such as to get to the outside water faucet. So just watering anything in my yard has become a production. But the methods I mentioned do work!

  14. Brittany Avatar

    I deal with chiggers all the time in TX. The best prevention is to tuck your jeans into your boots. Then dust your boots and lower leg area with sulpher powder. I have found a lot of itch relief using purification essential oil- it’s like instant itch relief.

    1. Lisa Foil Avatar
      Lisa Foil

      I agree with Sulphur!! I never go to the garden unless I dust my ankles with Sulphur. I always made my Boy Scouts dust with it every morning at camp- NO chiggers!

  15. Carrie Avatar

    Ugh. I hate chiggers. We had them for the first time this year and in our yard (Cincinnati, OH). We can’t find exactly where they are, but it definitely put a damper on summer fun. I can vouch for the hot shower working the best for the itch. We also found soaking a small cloth in a vinegar tincture with four theives herbs from bulk herb store and tucking the cloth into our waistband kept them away. Our main issue was them in our underwear areas.

    1. cassandra Avatar

      Wherever u think they could be get a white piece of paper and put it where u think they could be give it a few minutes and if u see them u will know

  16. Darlene Avatar

    Sulfur (not Sulfa) powder in a sock and applied to outside of clothing, on socks and waist bands. In Girl Scouts, we just banged the sock against our bodies so the sulfur poofed onto our clothing. We also tucked our pant legs into our socks. Looked weird, but it kept not only chiggers, but ticks and mosquitoes as well.

  17. Mary Avatar

    When I was a kid in TN we would occasionally get a chigger bite if we went out into the fields to pick blackberries or black raspberries, but 5 years ago I moved to Missouri as an adult, and I have never seen anything like this. The chiggers and ticks are horrendous! You can hardly walk outside without getting bites (even in short yard grass). On the upside, because chiggers in the next stage eat mosquito larvae, we have very pleasant evenings on the deck.

    What has worked the best for me is a homemade bug spray with lots of carrier oil (almond, castor, jojoba, etc) included (a Wellness Mama variation). The oil together with the essential oils seems to stop them from latching on. Once you get the bites, however, stopping the itching is so hard. We’ve tried magnesium baths, and they did help. I will try the salt/baking soda tips next time.

  18. Lea Avatar

    We live in the chigger capital of the world, central Texas!
    As a homeschooling, homesteading mom of 6 ages 13-4 living here for 12 years, here’s what works for us:
    1)-Loose clothing and mud boots. The girls wearing skirts get less than the boys wearing jeans as chiggers like tight spots. Mud boots will nearly guarantee protection if you’re not sitting in the grass.
    2) Mow your grass every 4-5 days instead of once a week! They don’t like to be in areas that are disturbed often.
    3) Spray or apply any all-natural deodorant or bug protection that has any Essential oils in it on your body and your underclothes BEFORE going into chigger territory. I have used about every kind I’ve ever had diluted appropriately, and they work. But this, hands down, is my favorite and it actually just smells like Vanilla! It’s only $6 at our local store, but here is the Amazon link:
    Bug Protector Natural Bug Spray, Deet Free Insect Repellent, Lemongrass – Geranium – Peppermint – Cinnamon Oils, 8-Ounce Pump Spray https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EXSPZZY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=wellnessmama-20&linkId=e4f65314934a5f5a72ef8ff15f6c53be&language=en_US
    4) Got “bites”? The prevention also works as a cure! But Lavender essential oil with tallow balm or other carrier oils or Aloe Vera work especially well.
    Just my .02 from hard earned experience and many sleepless nights 😉

    1. Priscilla Avatar

      Yay! Thank you! We are in San Antonio, and chiggers are horrible here!! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    2. Sheri Avatar

      Lea, Thank you so much!!! We are homeschoolers too! We have 5 children ages 12-4. 🙂 We have been in TX for five years. We recently moved to our 5 acre homestead and we are miserable! It’s like an epidemic of chiggers!!!. We’ve had to deal with rats and a snake and a few spiders. Well, we can see those so no big deal But those darn chiggers! Relentless! we have not done enough prevention so, I am copying this and printing it out right now! Thank you!

    3. Haley Avatar

      Hi! I tried your link to the spray, but it isn’t linking to a product. Could you share the name of the spray or brand? I’m coming up with lots of different natural sprays, but most don’t list the oils mentioned in your post, and you said yours smells like vanilla. I can’t stand most natural big sprays because they are so heavy on the citronella scent, so I’ve been looking for a better option scent-wise, and yours seems promising! I’m hoping you’ll see this and share the brand and name of your spray!

      Thank you!!

  19. calle Avatar

    Wow thanks

    I have not had them since childhood.
    Wonder if they are more prevalent in some areas.
    Or that so many spray their lawns now.

    Strange as we hike in the wilderness for the last 12 years and have never met a chigger.

    We do have wildlife we don’t want to meet, but if some move in we will be ready.
    And we always have buckets of DE around for gardens.

    Sad to say mom painted us with clean nail polish, she did her best.

    Thanks again

    1. Erline Avatar

      I still use clear nail polish. For some reason I have had a problem with chiggers in my yard after 10 years here. We had a mild winter and that probably had something to do with it here in Arkansas. Every time I walk through the front yard, I get 1-3 bites even after spraying the yard. They are a determined bunch of bugs.

    2. Ellie Avatar

      Thank you! Love your blog! The aloe gel and peppermint oil worked wonders for my 2 yr old!

  20. Cindy Avatar

    Chiggers – those itchy tiny critters! We had them in NE Texas. I don’t recall ever having a chigger problem in So. California. We used to soak in a hot bath with a few tbsp. of Pine Sol. It smells nice, and I guess the chiggers couldn’t stand it. We tended to notice welts where elastic or tight bands encircled the skin (usually at the waist). I only recently learned about the value of Epsom salts soaks. Wonderful stuff. A few drops of essential oils makes it oh so pleasant. Thanks Katie.

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