Biggest Lie in the Outdoors

Chiggaway Chigger TreatmentSpringtime in the South means dogwoods and azaleas in bloom, turkeys gobbling, tents pitched in the woods and hikers dotting back-country trail ways. The out-of-doors springs to life as do outdoorsmen. For years, springtime and even summer and fall sportsman and recreationalist have been living a lie though.

Trekking the hills and hollows, we come in contact with hundreds of creatures, some large, some small and some almost invisible. Many we enjoy and spend hours observing. Others we’re sorry we ever came in contact with at all. One of those less desirable of our woodland inhabitants is the well-known and much disliked chigger (redbug). An encounter with this member of the no-see-em family can mean a painful rash-like condition on the skin that itches intensely for as long as a week to 10 days. The little guys burrow under your skin to feed on your blood........STOP.

That’s where the biggest lie in the outdoors begins.

For decades, outdoorsmen have believed chiggers burrow under the skin to feed on blood, and the only way to kill them and treat the rash-like trail of bumps they leave behind is to smother them with nail-polish-type treatments. These axioms just aren’t true.

Like ticks, red bugs hitch a ride from their perch on grasses and bushes onto your clothing when you brush by them as you walk. Then they travel to places on your skin which are moist and warm. Areas around the waist band of pants or tops of socks are two favored resting sites. Once in position, the redbug inserts its mouth parts into the skin which lightly attaches the chigger to your body. The chigger then injects a digestive fluid into the skin which breaks down the cellular tissue. The skin around the bite hardens in reaction to the digestive fluids creating a tube through which the redbug feeds on the liquefied skin tissue.

As soon as you scratch the area where the chigger injected the fluid, the redbug is rubbed off the skin. It’s the presence of the feeding tube and continued itching and swelling left behind by the chigger that causes many people to believe the chigger is still burrowed under the skin.

Because of their size, redbugs are very difficult to detect either crawling on clothing to their final destination or on skin. The redbug poses a problem to humans during its larval stage. At this stage, the chigger is only 0.2 millimeters in size, almost undetectable by the human eye (125 larva redbugs lined up would measure only one inch).

There are two ways to beat the rash and itching of a chigger attach, either before or after the fact. Chiggers can be repelled from the skin or the rash can be treated after the chiggers bite. The first option certainly is the most desirable. One product on the market, Chigg-Away, manufactured by HUMCO, in Texarkana, TX, takes care of both situations and is widely used by military personnel to combat chiggers. When applied to the skin, Chigg-Away repels redbugs before they get you or ease the discomfort of bites if and when they do attack.

The good news about chiggers is, unlike their cousins the tick, they are not know to spread disease. Beyond the rash created by chigger bites, the only secondary problem commonly found is slight skin infection due to scratching the rash.

Picture of Chigger

Chigger Mite (Redbug)
Trombicula alfreddugesi
Magnified 255 Times
Illustration Provided by CHIGG-AWAY®