Chiggers

Alternative names
Harvest mite; Red mite

Definition
Chiggers are the larvae of a type of mite found in tall grass and weeds. Chigger bites cause severe itching.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The mites are found in the southern part of the U.S. and in other countries. They are usually restricted to certain habitats such as berry patches, tall grass and weeds, and woodland edges. The larvae attack humans around the waist, the ankles, or in warm skin folds.

The itching usually occurs several hours after the larvae attach to the skin. The larvae can sometimes be seen in the center of a red, pimple-like bump that has not been scratched.

Symptoms

     
  • Severe itching  
  • Red pimple-like bumps (papules) or hives  
  • Skin rash or lesion on sun-exposed area only       o Red       o With itching  
  • Skin rash or lesion with visible larva in the center of lesions

Signs and tests
A doctor can diagnose chiggers by examining the rash.

Treatment
The objective of treatment is to relieve the itching. Antihistamines and corticosteroid creams or lotions may be helpful.

Expectations (prognosis)
This condition heals itself without treatment.

Complications

Secondary infection may follow intense scratching as a complication.

Calling your health care provider
Apply home treatment and call your health care provider if there are signs of complications.

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if rash is itching intensely, or if symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment.

Prevention
Avoid outdoor areas contaminated with chiggers, if known.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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