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. bobWeeve Avatar

    I live in the middle of a sizeable town up and until 2 years ago we never had chiggers. I’m certain they’ve come around because of our global warmed winters. Now I can’t walk around our yard without getting bitten alive, even if I limit walking around on just the bricks.

  2. Suzanne Avatar

    I put a little sliver of garlic on the bite underneath a bandaid, and it stops the itching right away.

  3. Percy Hawkins Avatar
    Percy Hawkins

    We are in chigger hell in east Tennessee and I got my first bites of the year yesterday and I am now in the going insane itching part of dealing with them. I have tried many treatments and rubbing them with rubbing alcohol was always the one that worked best but for some reason it’s not working this time. I went all last year without a bite because every time I went in the grass I sprayed my pant legs and socks and shoes with Deep Woods Off. I wish I had done that yesterday but I forgot. Now I’m paying a heavy price. This is torture!

  4. Becky Avatar

    Anytime within a couple hours of being in my garden, I can go in a hot tub (or a bath or a pool). This always works. I garden a lot and don’t worry about covering myself up. Then I sit in the hot tub for 20 minutes. I believe that any bites you get are soaked clean before they can become itchy. If you wait more than three hours it’s too late and you’ll have to use the itch remedies. So have all the fun you want for a couple hours then soak for at least 20 minutes. I’ve been doing this for several years since I moved to the south and it never fails me. If I wait too long or forget to soak, I will have some bites.

  5. Meghann Runyon Avatar
    Meghann Runyon

    I have found that a cap full of bleach in a bath will take care of the bits and the bugs.

  6. James Johnson Avatar
    James Johnson

    All, last night I returned from work to find my lower body covered with those nasty little welts. After my first true terrible encounter almost 10 years ago I found one remedy that provides instant relief. Mint flavored mouthwash. Pour some on a washcloth and rub yourself down. The relief lasts long enough to let you get some sleep or get something done without the incessant itching. It doesn’t have to be an expensive brand either, they all work the same. AND after a liberal application not only do you feel better but you smell great as well.

  7. Shauna Avatar

    Long pants, socks and boots, those suckers find their way to me every time. When I was a kid I dusted my ankles with sulfur. I’ve been doing that but I guess not good enough. My legs are tore up and here I am up at 5am, my legs pink with calamine lotion, desperate to find something to stop the insane itching. Thanks for this article!

    1. Maddie Avatar

      ?Same! I am just laying awake at almost 4 am with so much irritation

  8. frank Tuccillo Avatar
    frank Tuccillo

    ammonia and/or acetic acid seem to be quite effective stopping the itch. More effective for me than all of the previously mentioned remedies. Not to be used together. Store strength is probably ok, but you might want to dilute to 50%. I used industrial strength, which turned out to be too strong, so I diluted by 50%. Worked right away, did not need to reapply
    until that night.

  9. Craig Seger Avatar
    Craig Seger

    Shower promptly (all over your body) after exposure with anti dandruff shampoo! The zinc pyrithione ingredient helps kill off those chiggers! Texas proven!

  10. Dawn Phillips Avatar
    Dawn Phillips

    Hand sanitizer seemed to help me dry them out. My buddy told me toothpaste worked for him.

  11. Emmie Avatar

    I’ve had these things for almost 2 weeks after doing yard work… I’ve bruised my skin from scratching. I’ve tried…
    • GoldBond (pain & itch relief spray with Lidocaine & Benze…Chloride)…
    • Cortizone 10 Maximum…
    • Benadryl topical itch…

    The ONLY thing that has WORKED was DESITIN! It was out of desperation that I tried this. The relief was IMMEDIATE! It calmed the redness, it calmed the itch!!!, and the healing finally began! I just wanted to share this since I hadn’t read about it anywhere!

    1. Lynn Wiley Avatar
      Lynn Wiley

      Bless you!!!!!!! for recommending Desitin……… I have used everything including ChiggereX ~~it helped stop the itch only for a short time. However, Desitin did the trick now maybe I can get some sleep.

  12. Robert Newcomb Avatar
    Robert Newcomb

    I had my right forearm, under the bicep to the armpit and a few down the right side of my chest, was wearing a T-shirt while pulling weeds. I took a shower that night with warm water and soap. I didn’t notice them until the next morning and they got worse all day. Took antihistamine and used creme to stop the itch, barely helped. A friend at work said to use a meat tenderizer solution, as vinegar is a great tenderizer I tried that…it cleared them up so they were completely gone, in the morning the red spots came back but no itching, looked way better.

  13. Martha Avatar

    I don’t quite understand. The chigger larva creates the tube and then goes away? What time frame? Where does it go? When the remedies stop the “bite” from itching, what are they doing physiologically? Are they neutralizing the enzyme secreted by the larva? or restoring the tissue (filling in the tube)? In other words, what is the physiological goal of what you put on the welt? If it’s the latter, since Vitamin E helps the skin, would it help here? Thanks!

  14. Kathy Avatar

    I have found that Holland’s Bioplasma is an effective remedy for the intense itching and whelting I get from chiggers, flea bites, etc. it usually only takes a dose or 2 and the itch stops and the whelting resolves. If it returns, another single dose is usually enough to return to comfort. I have also found this homeopathic works well for the itching and whelting that can arise in skin creases at elbows and knees, etc if I don’t know the exact source.

    Your response may vary, but my friends have also found relief when I’ve shared my Bioplasma with them. Three tablets by mouth quickly dissolve per dose, and an additional dose @15 min if needed. Release is usually quick, though, and additional doses may not be required. With 1000 tablets per bottle, that’s a lot of relief!

  15. melanie Avatar

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention any essential oils. Lavender oil helped the itch go away pretty quickly for my daughter. Just and FYI!

  16. Laura Tarver Avatar
    Laura Tarver

    Your so young looking, and happy to see you went on with your findings of natural ways help in the or any situation you found yourself in. I do believe a very good mother who has the passion and desire would want to give the best their children as they grew . My 3 children who are all young adults now 21, 23, and 25 world say the same that I would do the same for them as well. Being a single parent since my baby at 21 was 9 months old was a challenge Though I had dreams and goals in our participation when we were home schooling IE creating a family business in which would of been based upon the thing we are speaking about now , all that was taken from me when my ex husband just had. Have control over everything and every one
    In short while living. In Tahoe and being accustomed for that attitude and the oxygen level I thought I had it all down to the wire on natural remedies that helped my children and I
    Until a time in my life when one major incident after the other hit me and I thought coming back to my old home town for some rest and recuperation only for a short time and now this trip here has been way too long with all that I’ve encountered even more than when I lived in Tahoe (for 29 yrs) had changed my life immensely route my direction s , including the NON stop all year around mites. The bites the bruise marks I get I could write a book about how these things are but only up until now I’ve found temp relieve ment . It is inevitable cause they live in the dirt on the trees etc the altitude for oxygen is much greater, I’ve had a Dr tell me yes that they are bites, I think i saw the wrong Dr Dr Jokester he is. For now until I can manage to pack up find a way to make money to get back home my home I think I’ll wait on book but I world like for you to keep an eye out for the story I’m writing it’s called “It’s My Life” cause you see through all that I said to you, thank you very much. Nothing is as more important than this letter!
    The letter I find was the whole reason why I came here though yes it’s true these as i call em little devil child’s these mites are hugely eely affecting me not so much as watching our Gov. APS of LowerLake Ca take my dad who was functional and needed not to be taken out of his home into a nursing home only to be neglected and then into the hospital where he was pumped full of hard medication
    My dad is dead now
    They brought him to an early death and I’m speaking out
    Laura T

  17. Sara Avatar

    Thanks for the tips. I couldn’t stand the itching and and all I could think of was the nail polish like we did when I was a kid (which I would not normally resort to now because I typically use natural diy stuff). It’s still itching after the nail polish!! So, I started searching and found your post. Thanks!

  18. Dana Avatar

    Nail polish actually works remarkably well. I remember having chigger “bites” many times as a child. My mom would put nail polish on then before bed and the bumps would be gone or close to gone in the morning. Liquid bandage would probably work even better.

  19. Amanda Hutto Avatar
    Amanda Hutto

    My aunt used to take a tablespoon of vinegar before we went blackberry picking. To keep the Chiggers away she would say

  20. Fido Avatar

    I have now refined, tbrough trial and error, a very effective treatment for chigger (or other insect/arthropod) itching. 2 cups of baking soda dissolved into a bucket with hot water, about two gallons typically.. Make the water as hot as your skin can stand, and make sure the solution is thoroughly mixed, then soak your feet and ankles up to mid calve for 10- 20 minutes. This will eliminate all itching and wipe out the source as well..

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