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Chiggers, what an itch!

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By David Harrison

There was a little chigger that wasn’t any bigger than the point of a very fine pen.… is the beginning of a youth camping song.

Just thinking about chiggers makes me itch.

You’ll find chiggers in the good old summertime in overgrown bushy areas, in shady humid areas near stream banks, and under or around shade trees or in berry thickets.

It is a myth that chiggers (actually the larval stage of a certain mite) burrow into your skin and feed on your blood. Instead, they attach to a skin pore or hair follicle and then inject a salivary fluid that produces a hard, domed area around them.

They use a feeding tube (ouch!) to withdraw liquefied tissues from hosts. The red welt rash and intense itching are allergic reactions to the salivary secretions and can last for up to two weeks or longer.

There are ways to protect yourself from chiggers. Avoid walking through unmown fields, brush and other overgrown areas. Instead, walk in the center of mown trails to avoid brushing up against vegetation where chiggers gather.

To create a chigger barrier when you are in chigger-infested areas, wear long pants that are tucked into boots or socks and long-sleeve shirts. Clothing made of tightly woven fabrics keeps chiggers from reaching the skin as easily.

You can also apply an insect or tick repellent (be sure to read and follow the directions on the container). Products containing DEET or picaradin are easy to find and use. Also, there are clothing treatments containing permethrin.

Showering or bathing immediately after coming indoors effectively removes chiggers that have not yet attached. If that is not possible, thoroughly and briskly rubbing your skin with a dry towel may remove many chiggers before they are able to attach and feed.

But the bump that it raises, just itches like the blazes, and that’s where the rub comes in!