Home Remedies For Chigger Bites & Prevention Tips

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Bhakti Kapse, MBBS
By Shaheen Naser

If you have been looking for some home remedies for chigger bites, you have certainly come to the right place. Chiggers are pesky parasites that are invisible to the naked eye. Red in color, chiggers quickly become yellow once they start feeding on bodily fluids. What’s more, they are so small that you don’t see them until the first sign of their bite appears in a day or so. Next time you go for a nice trek or camping trip, be careful of your surroundings. In this article, we look at the symptoms of chigger bites and a few natural ingredients at home that can deal with them easily. Scroll down to know more!

What Are Chiggers?

Chiggers, also known as red bugs, are tiny larvae belonging to the arachnid family. Although these larvae are extremely small, their bites cause intense itching.

Chiggers can quickly get on your skin from blades of grass and vegetation if you happen to brush up against their habitat. They are so tiny that you won’t even notice their presence until your skin begins to itch. They can also enter your home surreptitiously. However, these larvae become inactive at temperatures below 16°C and die when the temperatures fall below 6°C.

How Do Chiggers Bite Humans?

Once chiggers attach themselves to the human body with the help of their claws, they attach their mouth to the skin and inject their saliva. The presence of an enzyme in the saliva of chiggers breaks the human cells into liquid form. The human body responds to this by hardening the skin cells around the saliva, thus creating a tube via which the chiggers suck on the body fluids. Chiggers usually feed on our body for 4 to 5 days before falling off on their own.

Other than the persistent itchy sensation, you may notice other symptoms after a chigger bite. Some of them are listed below.

Signs And Symptoms Of Chigger Bites

The common signs and symptoms that accompany chigger bites include:

  • Reddish bumps on the skin with a bright red dot in the center
  • Bumps that occur in groups and grow for up to a week
  • Bumps that usually occur around the armpits, crotch, ankles, waist, or behind your knees

Though there are hardly any serious health consequences of chigger bites, one of the major problems is the intense itchiness that follows. In fact, you may even start to bleed as a result of itching constantly. This can, in turn, cause skin infections, worsening the appearance of the bites. Thus, it is best to treat the problem. We have listed some of the best remedies that can help you in your quest against chiggers and their bites. Take a look.

How To Treat Chigger Bites Naturally

  1. Baking Soda
  2. Vicks Vapor Rub
  3. Bleach Bath
  4. Essential Oils
  5. Epsom Salt
  6. Rubbing Alcohol
  7. Apple Cider Vinegar
  8. Nail Polish Remover
  9. Hydrogen Peroxide
  10. Oatmeal Bath
  11. Coconut Oil
  12. Toothpaste
  13. Ice Pack

Home Remedies To Treat Chigger Bites

1. Baking Soda

You Will Need
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • Bathwater
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of baking soda to your bathwater and allow it to dissolve.
  2. Soak in the bath for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Alternatively, you can also make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the chigger bites.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this once a day for 2 to 3 days or until the itching subsides.

Why This Works

Baking soda is one of the most widely used home remedies for treating inflammation (1). The alkaline nature of baking soda can neutralize the affected areas, and this, in turn, can reduce the itchiness caused by chigger bites to a great extent. Baking soda can also prevent the existing rashes from spreading further (2).

2. Vicks Vapor Rub

You Will Need
  • Vicks Vapor Rub (as required)
  • Salt (as required)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a pinch of salt to a little Vicks Vapor Rub and mix well.
  2. Apply this mixture to the chigger bites.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this once every night for 3 to 4 nights.

Why This Works

Vicks Vapor Rub contains menthol, which exhibits strong anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the swelling, inflammation, and itchiness caused by chigger bites (3), (4).

3. Bleach Bath

You Will Need
  • 1/4 cup of standard household bleach
  • Bathwater
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one-fourth cup of household bleach to a tub filled with warm water.
  2. Soak in the water for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. You can also mix equal parts of bleach and water and apply it directly to the chigger bites.
How Often You Should Do This

You may take a bleach bath immediately after your encounter with chiggers.

Why This Works

The chlorine in the bleach makes the chigger bite dry faster, kills any leftover chiggers on your body, and reduces the itching caused to a great extent (5).

4. Essential Oils

a. Tea Tree Oil

You Will Need
What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a drop of tea tree oil to the affected areas.
  2. You can either apply it directly or with the help of a cotton pad.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 2 to 3 times daily until you notice an improvement.

Why This Works

Tea tree oil is widely used to treat acne and insect bites due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can hence be used to treat chigger bites. It also possesses antimicrobial properties that can prevent further infection of the affected area (6) (7).

b. Lavender Oil

You Will Need
What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a drop of lavender essential oil to the affected area either directly or with a cotton pad.
  2. Leave it on and allow it to dry.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this 2 to 3 times daily until the itching subsides.

Why This Works

Lavender oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which help reduce the itchiness, pain, and inflammation in the affected area (8).

5. Epsom Salt

You Will Need
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of Epsom salt to your bath water and wait for it to dissolve completely.
  2. Soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this once daily, for a week.

Why This Works

Epsom salt contains magnesium, which has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation, itchiness, and swelling caused by chigger bites (9).

6. Rubbing Alcohol

You Will Need
  • 2-3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton pads
What You Have To Do
  1. Take two to three tablespoons of rubbing alcohol in a small bowl.
  2. Soak a cotton ball in it and apply it to the affected areas.
  3. Leave it on.
How Often You Should Do This

You can repeat this procedure as required.

Why This Works

Rubbing alcohol possesses disinfectant properties that can protect the affected area from further infection. It can also help in soothing the area by relieving the itchy sensation (10).

Caution

Individuals with sensitive skin should not use this remedy as it may cause peeling and further irritation of the skin.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar

You Will Need
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a small bowl.
  2. Soak a cotton pad in it and apply it to the chigger bites.
  3. Allow it to dry.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily for a week.

Why This Works

Apple cider vinegar can help neutralize the affected area due to its acidic nature, thereby relieving itchiness. Its anti-inflammatory properties help in reducing the inflammation, swelling, and pain, while its antimicrobial properties protect your skin from further infection (11), (12).

8. Nail Polish Remover

You Will Need
  • 1-2 tablespoons of acetone
  • Cotton pads
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little nail polish remover (acetone) on a cotton pad.
  2. Apply this to the affected areas.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily, for 2 to 4 days.

Why This Works

Using acetone or nail polish remover on the chigger bites helps dislodge any attached chiggers and also prevents further itching (13). This remedy is also popularly used for dislodging ticks.

Caution

Those with sensitive skin should not use acetone on their skin as it may lead to other complications.

9. Hydrogen Peroxide

You Will Need
  • 2 tablespoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • Cotton pads
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix two tablespoons each of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water.
  2. Using a cotton pad, apply this solution to the affected areas.
  3. Allow it to dry.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily for a few days.

Why This Works

The antiseptic properties of hydrogen peroxide help in destroying the chigger enzymes that are responsible for making your skin itchy and inflamed (14). It also helps soothe and cool the affected areas with its anti-inflammatory properties (15).

10. Oatmeal Bath

You Will Need
  • 1 cup of ground oatmeal
  • Bathwater
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of ground oatmeal to your bathwater and soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Alternatively, you can also tie some oatmeal in a muslin cloth and replace your loofah with it.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this once daily for a week.

Why This Works

Oatmeal plays an important role in dermatology and is used for treating various inflammatory skin conditions like acne, pruritus, and atopic dermatitis. This is mainly due to its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which make it one of the best options to treat chigger bites (16), (17).

11. Coconut Oil

You Will Need

1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little coconut oil and apply it to the affected areas.
  2. Leave it on and allow your skin to absorb the oil.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily for a few days.

Why This Works

Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid and capric acid. These fatty acids possess strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help reduce the itchiness and inflammation associated with chigger bites (18). Additionally, coconut oil can also help in keeping your skin well-moisturized and nourished (19).

12. Toothpaste

You Will Need

Toothpaste (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Dab a little toothpaste gently on the chigger bites.
  2. Allow it to dry, after which you can wash it off with water.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily for a couple of days.

Why This Works

The minty nature of toothpaste can help relieve chigger bites and itching (20).

13. Ice Pack

You Will Need

An ice pack

What You Have To Do
  1. Take an ice pack and apply it to the affected areas.
  2. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this at least twice daily for a few days.

Why This Works

Ice packs can help reduce inflammation and pain due to their numbing and anti-inflammatory properties. They help in relieving the bites and combating the inflammation and swelling (21), (22).

The effect of the remedies mentioned above can be observed almost instantly. Here are a few tips you can follow to avoid such experiences in the future.

Prevention Tips

  • Be careful and steer clear of brushing against vegetation when you are in wooded areas.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and full pants tucked in socks while indulging in any outdoor activities.
  • Shower after you are back from any outdoor activity like trekking.
  • Wash your clothes in warm water as soon as you return from a trek or hike.
  • Scrub the affected area with soap and water to remove the mites. Applying calamine lotion can help in soothing the burning sensation and itching. You can also take oral antihistamines and topical steroids if recommended by your dermatologist.
  • You can also spray permethrin sprays on your clothes 1 or 2 days in advance to allow them to dry before wearing them in the wild.

Chiggers, or red bugs, as they are commonly called, are tiny larvae belonging to the arachnid family. Though these bugs are so small that they are not noticeable on the surface of the skin, their bites can cause intense itching and discomfort. Other symptoms of chigger bites include reddish bumps that have a bright red dot in their center and appear to keep growing for a week or so. The home remedies for chigger bites discussed here can help you get rid of the chiggers and soothe the itch and inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do chigger bites last?

Chigger bites usually last anywhere from 2 to 5 days. The bite usually develops a welt within 10 to 16 hours and may continue to itch for a few days.

Where do chiggers live?

Chiggers usually live in moist and grassy areas like fields, forests, or even your lawn. However, they become inactive or die if the temperature falls below 16°C.

 

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author
Shaheen holds a postgraduate degree in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology. She is a Geneticist with proficiency in Biotechnology, Immunology,... more

Dr. Bhakti Kapse

(MBBS)
Dr. Bhakti Kapse is a General Practitioner with over 10 years of experience in family medicine. She obtained her Bachelor... more

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