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. Gary D Ryder Avatar
    Gary D Ryder

    A friend of mine called one day saying his 13 year old daughter was literally covered with Chigger bites,from head to toe.He asked if I had any ideas since I am a avid outdoorsman.I said to him,I know how to stop her itching instantly.Go to any grocery store and buy big bottle of Meat Tenderizer “With no MSG”.Two way to apply this,1st way is shake small amount in hand and add drop of water to salt,just enough to soak up powder.And then pinch a small amount with other hand and rub on chigger bite.2nd way is for large area of bites.Dump large amount of Meat Tenderizer into bowl and add just enough water to make paste and start rubbing paste all over bite area.Wait 5 minutes to see if you missed any spots and get them with 1st means of application.This remedy works great.I spent many years in agony because of chiggers.Not one bit concerned about them now.I tell everybody I meet in outdoors about this simple solution,I myself use Adolfs Meat Tenderizer with no MSG.I carry a small bottle everywhere I go now.

  2. Morgan Reece Avatar
    Morgan Reece

    Thanks so much for this! My friend is covered in blistery “bites” after mowing her lawn / weed whacking yesterday. You are always my go to source for all things health.

  3. Pam Avatar

    I live in Texas. I got chigger bites while working in my back yard. Just wanted to share home remedy I tried. I am from India living here for past 20 + years. I tried turmeric powder(dry powder) with coarse salt, rubbed it on the itchy spots. It was hot and burning sensation for few seconds , later I got great relief. Make sure you are wearing dark clothes because the turmeric powder stains your clothes yellow. But definitely it was a great medicine.
    I wanted to post on this blog because I tried a couple of suggestions from this blog and modified it with this one.
    Hope it helps.

  4. Verlyn Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this. I also homeschool and the chiggers in TX are horrific! I’ll try your remedies and I hope they work.

  5. Gail Avatar

    My first encounter was so miserable that I called the doctor for a prescription. Before I could pick it up, I heard of another remedy that worked and so I never got the Rx. Now in this day of heightened awareness of natural products, most of you would scream but it worked and I was desperate! Soak in a hot, hot bath with about a cup of the brown bottle Lysol disinfectant! Now, all of that said, I had another encounter years later but no Lysol so, like a fool, I tried: a) a bath in Pinesol, b) a bath in bleach water. c) a bath in –(I forget!)!!! The end result???? Chiggers still a problem but my skin had absorbed so much of these products that I could taste them in my saliva for about a week! I would still do the Lysol (ONE time) again but never build up with these other products!

  6. Stephanie Avatar

    I grew up constantly camping, hiking, playing in the woods and I even had several jobs where I camped full time… yet I never got the dreaded chiggers. For the past 2 years I occasionally got this groin rash. It would itch at the randomest times and the itch was more extreme than anything I’ve ever experienced. I take epsom salt super hot baths almost every night, and I use aloe for a lotion quite often. These baths, bleach baths, and way too much tea tree oil were the only relief I could get. After 2 yrs I realized today it is our yard in our new house. It is INFESTED. This also explains why our dogs will get a sudden wimpering itch and I can never find a flea. They also take epsom salt baths sometimes because we all have arthritis/pain. Anyway I’m horrified to find out what it is finally, but now I see that the only times I had true relief was from the epsom salts. I’m going to figure a way to make the yard infestation bettter, but I only would get a few on my ankles occasionally, i think the reason it was only my groin is that I always wear flip flops and skirts (once in a while pants) and chiggers like tight spaces! So glad I like a breeze and not closed shoes and tight pants! !! Could have been a full body experience although having an itchy groin rash is absolute torture.I do appreciate when natural solutions end up helping you out in more ways than you realized!

    1. Laurie Avatar

      Can you spray your tree with sulphur? I’ve always heard that’s how to rid them but my yard’s too large for this cure so I rely on chigger prep before I spend time outside … If that fails me, Zostrix arthritis pain relief (sold in tube at drug stores.)

      It may not be “natural” but a couple applications on itch for maybe two days and that problem’s solved. Be careful if applying in groin area as it’s hot stuff.

      Is there a way you can restrict the dogs from chigger area unless your vet can recommend something for them.

  7. Laurie McLeod Avatar
    Laurie McLeod

    North Texas chigger season already … and I love to work in the yard so, over the years, have found Chigg Away that I rub on certain areas before I dress in my loose uniform – label says it’s Precipitated Sulfur USP 10% and is “the soldier’s choice”. On the back deck I spray boots and pants with Deet spray. Of course, when I come in I strip in laundry room, throw everything in hot water washer – next I run to bathroom to scrub myself. In case I do wake in the middle of the night with itching I have found very best help is Zostrix arthritis pain relief. Drug stores sell tubes and I try to buy an extra when it’s on sale since it’s not cheap but it’s the very best itch stopper I’ve found. Just be careful if you get it on your fingers since it must have hot pepper so you must wash your hands to avoid getting it in your eyes.

  8. sam anto Avatar
    sam anto

    Nice blog. Proven natural home remedies like applying natural Calendula lotion on heat rash affected areas is well known cure.

  9. Gail Avatar

    Mostly a word of warning! I was at my wits end with my first chigger encounter and called the doctor for a prescription. bEfore picking it up, I learned about a a hot bath with (the brown bottle) Lysol! It worked like a charm and I never got the prescription filled. While at camp one year with only cold showers, I tried davbing the Lusol on the bites but it didn’t seem to work as well. Later, on another encounter, out of desperation, I tried baths with: a) bleach, b) Pinesol, c) Lysol again (but it didn’t seem to work as well this time. What I DID get???? basically, toxin poisoning! I had absorbed so much of these products through my skin that I could even taste the products in my mouth!!!! I am SURE this was NOT a good thing! Just a note from experience! I will give the soda and the salt ideas a tey if there is another time!

  10. Phyllis Vick Avatar
    Phyllis Vick

    Years ago we got them!!! “GUNK” a clean solvent used in the army for cleaning airplane and car parts! run on all areas. Stops them at once. it penetrates the pores and they can not breath. Then take a shower.

  11. ashley Avatar

    Vinegar is the best neutralizer, and garlic is the best preventative! Eat extra garlic(raw if possible) before heading out into the wild(Ocean, woods, lakes, etc.), and all the pests will leave you alone! The flying ones may still buzz around, but they will not bother biting once they get a whiff. My friends complain that they don’t want to smell like garlic, but I would rather that than suffer attacks!

  12. Al Avatar

    My beloved Kitties bring the red *suckers*(isn’t that what they do?…) home,get onto or into our bed,and then share teir collection with us;this happens every spring and end of summer,and I’m always checking teir ears to see “what they got”; results is,each year,at some point,I spend a couple of weeks scratching and seeking revenge…
    I’m gonna try all o’ yer tricks at once,Welness Mama,even though I’ll never know wich works best!!!

  13. Judy Andrew Avatar
    Judy Andrew

    I don’t have a cure or preventative idea for chiggers, but I do have something weird going on and wonder if anyone else has experienced this. I was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic in 1999 and probably had it for five years before that before being diagnosed. The really weird thing (and the only good thing!) about being diabetic is that nothing seems to want to bite me. I haven’t had a mosquito bite in years, although I often see them land and try to bite my husband and sons right next to me. If we’re too slow with the swatting, they do get bit but I don’t. We experienced a nightmare bedbug situation three years ago that caused horrible rashes and scars on my husband but I never got a bite. No chigger bites, either, although I don’t do a lot of hiking or rolling in the grass. Now, how weird is that? I’m certainly not feeling left out. I’m just curious. Any other diabetics having the same thing happen?

    1. Alicia Avatar

      Unless it’s a particular medication that you’re on, I’d say no. I have a family member who is Type 2 & the exact opposite–gets eaten alive!

  14. Barbara Avatar

    Chiggers were particularly bad here in eastern PA this year. More in the shady boggy parts of my garden in the woods. They would even bite me on my feet inside my socks, not to mention those unmentionable areas. I could have painted on calamine lotion with a brush I had so many. They leave scars too, so I look like I have had some awful disease. Deep woods off was the only thing that could discourage them. I got a rash from the natural homeopathic remedies.

  15. Vicki Avatar

    I tried to share this on my FB page, but got a security warning and wouldn’t let me post???

  16. Pat Avatar

    Some old farmer told my husband years ago, using plain old Amber colored Listerine BEFORE you go outside will prevent you from getting chiggers. And IT WORKS! Our grandkids NEVER get chiggers when they come see us because they know to use Listerine. We keep it in a spray bottle, it smells nice, won’t harm your clothes and CHEAP (you can buy the generic brand)? Use it before you go outside and spray again when you come back inside, especially if you’ve been places like the woods or weeds. I work outside ALL the time and the only time I get chiggers is when I don’t spray?. We live in the country, and are surrounded by woods and farmland here in Missouri…trust THIS works!

  17. Doug Avatar

    To go along with the idea of salt, I just use a Himalayan pink salt block/bar. After taking a fairly hot shower, and targeting the specific areas with even hotter water, I rub over the areas with the salt block/bar, and let it dry. It may sting a bit at first, but I know it’s working and there is relief shortly after. It tends to dry it all up, and the itching and welts go away much more quickly. I also use this method with poison ivy and any other bug bites. I also like to use Calagel made by Tecnu which also provides some temporary relieve in between showers or during the day while working.

  18. Gwen Avatar

    Wheat germ oil! Recommended by my alternative doctor, this was an itch lifesaver. I had 14 bites over my waist and torso area this summer. I’d poke a hole in the capsule and rub the oil on each bite, morning and night. Itch only started up towards reapplication time.

  19. Sharon Avatar

    We have lots of chiggers in central Texas. We use homemade soap, which chiggers don’t seem to like as well, but the main remedy is lavender essential oil diluted with half oil. If you put this on the bites, it clears them up almost immediately. Powerful stuff!!!

  20. Emily Avatar

    I won’t go into the bad chigger experience I had a few years ago (300 bites!) but after that I learned about sulphur powder as a repellent. It really works. Unfortunately after a couple of weeks of using it I get a little tired of the scent, even though it’s pretty light. So… bathing after outdoor activities – or alternatively, wiping skin with a damp, or even dry, washcloth after being outdoors seems to work for me. What you want to do is dislodge any chiggers that are on your skin.

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