Chiggers and Camping

Chiggers and camping are two words that no one wants to see together, let alone experience. The thought of chiggers can send some people’s skin crawling and make them hide indoors for fear of the red bugs. Here are some things you should know about chiggers that can help alleviate your fear of them while camping.

Chiggers aren’t really insects; they are mites that are in the larval stage. They belong to the same group as ticks. Chiggers have six legs and will feed on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. People aren’t really targeted by chiggers, but you can find that you are an accidental host for them. The good news is chiggers that do attach to people will die within 1 to 3 days because our immune reaction to their bites doesn’t give them the nourishment they need.

Despite what many people believe, chiggers don’t move around a lot. They generally will stay around the area where they hatched. These areas are known as “chigger patches.” This means that the likelihood of coming across a single chigger is small. You’ll either run into a patch of them or probably none at all.

The chigger patches that people run into are generally found in areas that a chigger’s desired hosts live—hosts such as lizards and mice. Brushy areas, areas where there is low lying vegetation, or damp marshy areas are often where most chigger patches will be found.

To protect yourself against chiggers while camping, wear protective clothing when you are out exploring, or hiking. The way you should dress is like how you’d dress to avoid ticks. Wear long pants and tuck your pants into your socks, or boots. You should also wear shirts that cover your arms and tuck your shirt into your pants. You should also use an insect repellent that contains DEET. Liberally spray your feet, ankles, legs, and waist area with it. Try to avoid walking directly through, or brushing up against, tall grasses and thickets.

If you’ve been exploring and come across a chigger habitat, or if you’d just to reassure yourself that you’re free of chiggers, check your body for chiggers. Look in areas that are dark and snug. Chiggers generally like to go under the arms, around the groin, behind the knees, and around the ankles. You should take a hot shower within an hour or two of being in a known chigger habitat.

If you’ve been bitten by chiggers you’ll experience intense itching and have red welts, even after the mites have died off. This can last up to three weeks and can make you miserable. Bacterial infections can set in from scratching and can make it hard for the wounds to heal. Keep the area as clean and dry as you possibly can and apply an antibiotic ointment or lotion to it. You may want to seek the advice of physician if the bites are terribly bothersome and don’t appear to be healing.