Can Chiggers Stay In Your Clothes? Everything You Need To Know
While out camping, you may be the accidental host to an itching rash brought on by invisible pests. Chiggers are tiny insects that must be seen using a magnifying glass. Although not harmful, their bites might give you a strong need to itch, which can make your time outdoors less enjoyable.
However, with the right information, you can learn to prevent the nasty little bugs and make your trip as bug-free as possible.
What Are Chiggers?
These organisms are known as “trombiculid mites” by scientists. They may also be called red bugs, mower’s mites, harvest mites, harvest bugs, or harvest lice. However, these creatures are not insects, technically speaking, as they belong to the arachnids family, which includes ticks and spiders.
Chiggers are mites with eight legs that resemble many different types of mites and measure less than 1/150 inch in diameter for larvae; about 1/60 inch for adults.
Chigger adults do not bite; however, you need to be cautious of the larvae. They are less than 0.3 millimeters long and have a red, orange, yellow, or straw tint.
The young cannot fly and can only move a short distance on their own after emerging from the eggs.
They frequently remain grouped together and less than a foot off the ground on leaves and grass, attaching to passing animals or people.
Where Chiggers Live
Chiggers are found in berry patches, woodland regions, long grasses, and weeds. They might be gathered along your favorite hiking trail, in your home, or by the lake. They are most active in the afternoons of spring, summer, and fall in warm weather, and they usually disappear when the temperature drops below 60F.
Sadly, you can find these little creatures in every part of the world.
How to Identify a Chigger
Chiggers are so tiny that it is highly unlikely you will see one unless you look with a lens or microscope. Instead, you can tell they are there by the incredibly itchy welts they leave behind, typically found in areas of your body where your skin is thin and delicate and where tight clothing creates a barrier.
In addition, the remnants of a scab-like tube your body developed in response to the chigger’s stinging saliva are sometimes visible as a little red dot in the center of chigger bites.
What a Chigger Bite Looks Like
Chiggers will crawl until they find a piece of skin after latching onto your shirt or pants. Then, they pierce tiny holes with their razor-sharp, jaw-like claws there. They next administer saliva, which causes part of your cells to liquefy.
Chigger bites can occur anywhere on your body, although they frequently appear in groups in the lower legs or waist.
You may not feel anything for several hours and then start itching like crazy. Usually, the scratching typically lasts for a few days and can occasionally keep you up at night. Additionally, you might see that your skin becomes red and develops pimples, blisters, or a rash resembling a hive that takes a week or two to go away.
Although chiggers do not carry any diseases, scratching them may cause skin damage, discomfort, or an infection.
Lifespan of Chiggers
Chiggers lay eggs first, typically found on the ground among leaf litter. Then, they emerge as almost minuscule, six-legged, bright red larvae. Next, the larvae start looking for a suitable host and start eating.
Next, they fall to the ground and molt into nymphs before undergoing one last molt that transforms them into adults with eight legs who mate and lay eggs. On average, a chigger can only live 50 to 70 days.
How Long Do Chiggers Live on People
Chiggers do not penetrate the skin of their hosts (aka you) or ingest blood. Instead, their pointed mouthparts penetrate the skin and inject a digesting enzyme that breaks down skin cells.
However, the chigger may become completely enclosed in the welts they cause, giving the impression that the chigger has burrowed into the host’s skin.
The chigger larvae can remain on your skin for a few days after they discover your flesh and begin to feed. They fall off after consuming a full meal, which takes three to four days so that they can change into nymphs.
Nymphs consume insect eggs and develop into adults, who reproduce by laying eggs and repeating the entire life cycle.
Because chiggers require a warm body to consume their three- to four-day meal to transform into nymphs and become adults, they cannot survive in your bed. Before depositing eggs in the spring, the adult mites spend their winter in the soil.
The three-legged chigger larvae clamber onto foliage before jumping onto a host to feed.
How Long Chiggers Live on Clothes
If you go hiking or camping, chiggers are likely to land on your clothing as it’s tough for them to attach to your skin. Chiggers prefer to reside on clothing that is made of loosely woven fabric. There could be thousands of them, but there might only be one that bites after remaining on the garment for a few hours.
Since clothing acts as a barrier against the skin, many chigger bites will occur close to the waist and remain on your clothes for a few hours.
While chiggers will fall off after a few hours, you can prevent them from attaching to your clothes with protective gear. You can avoid these bugs by tucking your slacks inside your boots.
When you return from any area that may be chigger-infested, take a shower and wash your clothing in hot, soapy water to get rid of any chiggers you might have taken with you.
Symptoms of Chiggers
Most of the time, multiple chiggers can attach to a person when they pass through an infectious area. You are left with crimson pimples once the chigger dies. The tube your skin produced in reaction to the chigger’s saliva may still be visible in the center as a bright red dot.
The bumps could resemble pimples, welts, blisters, hives, or blisters. Chiggers can remain attached to the same area for several days, and it is typical to get multiple bites from them. So, for a few days to a week, bites will typically develop in clusters and get bigger.
Chigger bites are unpleasant, irritating, itching, and can interfere with sleep. Although, chigger bites often have no negative effects on your health. Chiggers do not eat blood; they just consume skin cells. Therefore, they do not harbor or spread disease.
However, excessive scratching can cause chigger bites to become infected. Call your doctor if you experience edema, fever, or other infection-related symptoms.
Chiggers vs. Ticks
Ticks can bite people and are frequently found in vegetation and undergrowth, which is quite similar to chiggers, except the latter are on the tops of plants, not the bottom. Additionally, chiggers are too small to see, while ticks are quite visible, which makes removing them a little easier.
In addition, ticks are noticeable immediately, while chigger bites can take a few hours to start itching. Finally, tick bites have a red center with a spreading red rash, while chiggers leave pus-filled bumps.
Chiggers vs. Fleas
Fleas leave behind little, irritating lumps after sucking blood from their hosts to feed. While chiggers have vivid red pus-like welts, flea bites are reddish brown. Also, flea bites are easier to see and are not clustered together like chigger bites.
Chiggers vs. Bed Bugs
Chiggers are found in groups and will continue to feed on your body for hours or even days until you wash them off or scratch them. Due to their minuscule size, you may feel them on your skin but cannot see them. Also, they do not live on your bed as they need a warm host.
Bed bugs typically reside close to where you sleep and are large enough to notice when they are old enough to bite. Also, they leave blotches of blood on your bed and can be found in the seams and tags of the mattress.
The only way to fully remove bed bugs is to steam them and everything in the room.
Chigger Bite Prevention
Wearing bug repellent is the best way to avoid getting chigger bites. The DEET-containing insect repellents on the market offer the best protection against chiggers of all different kinds.
Every time a person is outside in a grassy or wooded location, especially in the summer, insect repellent should be applied. Using bug repellent is crucial for campers and hikers in particular.
Also, dress in long sleeves and long pants tucked in when possible if you plan to spend a lot of time outside for further protection. Closed-toe shoes, wide-brimmed hats, and tucked-in socks will also help.
Spraying insect repellant on the tops of shoes, cuffs of sleeves, waistbands of pants, and shirt necklines is crucial.
Preventing chiggers from entering your home in the first place is the greatest approach to keep them under control. Cut your lawn frequently and trim around the edges and remove extra vegetation.
By keeping trees and shrubs pruned, you can lessen the natural habitat of chiggers.
Sit on dirt instead of grass if you must sit on the ground to avoid the annoying little critters who love grass. Avoid camping in regions where there are chiggers since these insects prefer moist, humid climates.
They are not found in areas devoid of thick grass, vegetation, or drier temperatures.
Next, keep to trails and clearings, as you will have a much better chance of avoiding chiggers if you can keep to the trail and avoid brushing up against plants and tall grasses.
Next, place your tent far from plants and thick grasses. Finally, parking your RV or car in areas with clearings will prevent you from having to navigate dense vegetation.
How to Treat a Chigger Bite
Start by checking your entire body if you suspect you have been exposed to chiggers. You may notice tiny red dots that are either connected to your skin or moving very quickly.
If you notice any, it’s time to hop in the shower and scrub up well with soap and water to remove the minuscule irritants.
Next, wash your clothing in hot water and any blankets or towels, and put them in high heat in the dryer. If you can wash your tent and sleeping bag too, as chiggers may want to settle in those too.
Check cooler bags and any other camping gear with fabric to ensure you are fully read of the tiny bugs.
Using a cold compress or taking antihistamine medications can help with the discomfort from chigger bites. Most anti-itch ointments are over-the-counter, so patients may want to experiment with a few different types to find the one that works best for them.
To reduce the risk of infection, you should apply the lotions with cotton swabs rather than their fingers.
Bandage the welts to help them to stay clean and avoid infection. Usually, chigger bites heal on their own. However, if yours are still hurting you after a few days, visit your doctor.
Rarely you could require steroid injections to reduce swelling and itching. If your bites become infected, your doctor might also advise you to take antibiotics.
Questions About Chiggers
Can Chiggers Live in Human Hair?
Chiggers are another insect that can be discovered in people’s hair; they are also widespread in the US, particularly in the southeast. Chiggers are actually arachnids, despite frequently being mislabeled as insects.
Chiggers and botfly larvae both tunnel under the skin, where they can infect a person. Chiggers cannot survive only on human blood, meaning they will eventually die inside your body.
Can Chiggers Cause Serious Harm?
While chiggers are excessively annoying, they do not cause serious harm. Although, people who are ill, older, or injured, may have more complications. If you have chigger bites that become infected, they can cause harm and require a visit to the doctor.
Do Chiggers Transmit Illness?
Although some species of chiggers in East Asia and the South Pacific are known to spread a type of typhus, chiggers in North America are not typically associated with disease transmission. Scratching chigger bites, however, can expose the skin to bacterial diseases.
When are Chiggers More Prevalent?
Although late spring and early summer are the best times to see chiggers, they often go through two or three cycles and are considered to be in season from May until frost.
Chiggers are possible year-round in areas without frost, but they are more common in the wetter months.
Can Chiggers Pass From One Person To Another?
A chigger typically does not begin a meal on a human or animal after the feeding process begins. Once it has the ideal location, the larva pierces the skin with its chelicerae, which resemble clamps.
After, they just fall off and often die, meaning you do not have to worry about them moving around like lice or bedbugs.
They pick their victim and stay but can be passed if you share the same clothing.
So how can you stay away from ticks while camping? Avoiding regions where chiggers are frequently encountered, using bug spray with DEET, and covering up exposed skin with closely woven clothing are the best ways to keep chiggers away.
Due to the unpleasant markings that their bites leave on your skin, chiggers can be a pain to deal with, especially while out in the woods, but they are completely preventable.
For more tips on how to make your camping trip more enjoyable, be sure to read our camping hacks post.