Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
A few hours after a walk in the woods, you break out in a series of red bumps that itch like crazy. The red bumps are concentrated along the waistband of your pants, behind your knee, and any other pressure points. Scratching just makes them itch more. You have chiggers!
Minute, and invisible to the naked eye, chiggers are mite larvae. It takes a chigger about 15 minutes to travel from the ground to your waist, where it attaches itself to a hair follicle or pore and inserts its piercing mouthparts. The chigger injects a fluid into your body to help it feed, and your immune system reacts to that fluid, making you itch.
Old wives’ tales say painting the bites with clear nail polish helps stop the itching because it suffocates the chigger, but sadly this is not so – all the nail polish does is remind you not to itch. The best offence against chiggers is to wear long pants and spray your clothes with insect repellent. Repellant combined with a quick bath as soon as you come in from the woods will go a long way to preventing the chiggers from biting!
If you do get bitten, and you probably will if you spend time outdoors, I have found the most effective itch stopper to be ‘Campho-phenique’. The little green bottles of camphor-phenol are available over the counter in most pharmacies.
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