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Chiggers

With school back in full swing now, kids have a much easier time sharing things.  Some share crayons.  Some share homework or answers.  And unfortunately, others share things such as chickenpox, lice and even, as some parents complain – chiggers!

In Florida, the rates of reported chigger bites have been increasing steadily since 2008. However, as one long time Floridian once quipped, “It’s always been this bad, but only the transplants complain about them.” Whether that’s true or not can be debated elsewhere.  In the meantime, here is some information about chiggers for you.

What is a chigger?

A chigger is the larvae of a mite in the Trombiculidae family and a cousin of the tick.  Chiggers are microscopic parasites that need some type of host in order to develop into the adult mite.  They live in grassy, moist areas and will usually attach to small animals or birds.  Every once in awhile, the chigger will attach to a human host, but those that do don’t live very long as humans make very poor hosts for them.

Although it’s not impossible for chiggers to jump or crawl from one human host to another, it’s a rare occurrence.  If groups of people (like school children) show up with chigger bites, it’s usually because they all travelled through tall grasses where chiggers are present.

Treating them

Chigger bites look like little red welts.  They can sometimes blister or develop some type of head on the top of the welt.  Because chigger bites are extremely itchy, anyone who gets bit by a chigger will definitely notice them within hours of the bite.

If you notice a chigger bite, the best thing to do is to take a soapy shower.  This gets rid of any chiggers that might still be left on the skin.  Then it’s time to treat the chigger bite itself.  Unfortunately, time is the best healer of chigger bites.  The best thing you can do is to treat the symptoms with over-the-counter anti-itch creams or topical Benadryl so that you do not scratch enough to get an infection.

Getting Rid of Chiggers

When it comes to chigger control, the best defense is a good offense.  You will want to keep your grass cut short and remove any areas of standing water.  They love anything overgrown and shady, so take a good look around your yard and focus on those types of areas.

If your kids are playing outside, make sure they get a good dose of insect repellant before venturing out.  For your pets, you will want to use a flea and tick repellant as many of those do work against chiggers as well.

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