My son recently came down with a bunch of chigger bites on his legs after playing in the yard. What are chiggers and will mosquito spray keep them off?
Chiggers are not insects, but are actually young mites. Mites are closely related to ticks and spiders and are members of the arachnid family. Chiggers are very tiny, only 1/150th inch in diameter. A common myth about chiggers is that they burrow into our skin and eventually die within the tissues, thus causing the persistent itch. They do not burrow under skin or drink blood. Chiggers attach by inserting tiny mouth parts into skin depressions, usually at skin pores or hair follicles. Their saliva contains an enzyme that dissolves skin cells. The chigger ingests this liquid tissue for food. The saliva is what causes the persistent itching. Most chigger bites are around the ankles, the back of the knees, around the groin, under the belt line and in the armpits. If undisturbed, chiggers will take three or four days, and sometimes longer, to eat their dinner. Although most humans accidentally brush or scratch off the chiggers before they finish their meal.
Mosquito sprays will work at keeping chiggers from climbing onto you, but only for a couple of hours. Repeated application may be necessary. In chigger infested areas, wear tightly woven socks and clothes, long pants, long sleeved shirts, and high shoes or boots. Tucking pant legs inside boots and buttoning cuffs and collars as tightly as possible also helps keep the wandering chiggers on the outside of your clothes. Once inside, remove and wash your clothes before wearing them again. If you are bitten, there are some over the counter treatments to help relieve the itching. Try calamine lotion, soaking in a cool tub with Aveeno, or hydrocortisone cream (with at least 1% hydrocortisone).