Chiggers Bites

Medically Reviewed on 5/17/2023

What are chiggers?

Chiggers are the larval (juvenile) form of a type of mite (Trombiculidae).

Chiggers are barely visible to the naked eye (their length is less than 1/150th of an inch). A magnifying glass may be needed to see them. They are red in color and may be best appreciated when clustered in groups on the skin. The juvenile forms have six legs, although the (harmless) adult mites have eight legs.

Chiggers vs. bed bugs bites

If your itchy bites are keeping you up at night, you may be trying to figure out what’s biting you. While their bites may look similar, there are key differences between chiggers and bed bugs.


Chiggers are found in clusters and feed on your body for several hours or days until you wash or scratch them off. You may feel them on your skin but cannot see them due to their microscopic size.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs tend to live near where you sleep. Look for the following signs on your bed sheets or mattresses:

  • Little spots of blood
  • Rusty-looking stains (crushed bugs)
  • Black dots
  • Live bugs around the seams or tags
Table: Chiggers vs. bed bugs
Chiggers Bed bugs
  • Tiny, red
  • 0.1-16 mm
  • Mostly look like spiders
  • Small, flat, reddish-brown
  • 4-5 mm
  • Egg-shaped
Feeding habits Feed on humans and animals Feed on humans, other mammals, and birds at least once every 14 days
Living conditions Active when the ground temperature is between 77-86 degrees F Survive and remain active at temperatures as low as 45 degrees F
Hiding places
  • Outdoors
  • Grassy fields
  • Lakes and streams
  • Forests
  • Beds 
  • Crevices in chairs, couches, curtains, rugs, dressers 
  • Cracks of walls and floors
Bites Itchy, red bumps that can look like pimples, blisters, or small hives Itchy, red bumps similar to mosquito bites or flea bites

What are the signs and symptoms of chigger bites?

A chigger bite itself is not noticeable. After the chigger has begun to inject digestive enzymes into the skin (usually after about 1-3 hours), symptoms and signs typically begin.

Signs and symptoms of chigger bites include:

  • Pronounced itching is the most common symptom.
  • The area of the bite may be reddened, flat, or raised; sometimes it resembles a pustule or blister.
  • The itch is due to the presence of the stylostome and usually is most intense within 1-2 days after the bite.
  • The itching persists for several days, and complete resolution of the skin lesions can take up to two weeks.
  • If multiple bites are present, the condition may be mistaken for eczema or allergic contact dermatitis. History of outdoor activity can suggest that chigger bites are the cause of itching and characteristic skin changes.

How do chiggers burrow under the skin?

Chigger mites infest human skin via areas of contact with vegetation, such as pant cuffs or shirt sleeves and collars. They migrate on the skin in search of an optimal feeding area. A common myth about chiggers is that they burrow into and remain inside the skin. This is not true. Chiggers insert their feeding structures into the skin and inject enzymes that destroy host tissue. Hardening of the surrounding skin results in the formation of a feeding tube called a stylostome. Chigger larvae then feed upon the destroyed tissue. If they are not disturbed (which is rarely the case because they cause substantial itching) they may feed through the stylostome for a few days.

The chigger's mouth and feeding structures are delicate and are best able to penetrate the skin at areas of wrinkles, folds, or other areas of skin that are thin. Most bites occur around the ankles, the crotch, and groin areas, behind the knees, and in the armpits. Barriers to migration on the skin such as belts may be one reason that chigger bites also commonly occur at the waist or in other areas where their migration is prevented by compression from clothing. The location of chigger bites contrasts with that of mosquito bites, which are usually in exposed areas of skin where mosquitoes can land.


Chiggers (Bites) Symptoms, Pictures, Home Remedies, Medicine, and Cure See a medical illustration of chiggers plus our entire medical gallery of human anatomy and physiology See Images

What home remedies and OTC medications ease itching and pain from chigger bites?

Many home remedies for chigger bites are based upon the incorrect belief that chiggers burrow into and remain in the skin. Nail polish, alcohol, and bleach have been applied to the bites to attempt to get rid of the chiggers by "suffocating" or killing the chiggers. However, because the chiggers are not present in the skin, these methods are not effective.

Home remedies to help relieve the itching associated with chigger bites may help some people, such as:

  • Taking a cool shower or applying cool compresses
  • Sitting in a cool bath
  • Using bath products that contain colloidal oatmeal
  • Using certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications

OTC medicine for chigger bites

Treatment for chigger bites is directed toward relieving itching and inflammation.

Chigger bites themselves do not produce any long-term complications. However, because of the intense itching, prolonged scratching may lead to skin wounds that may become infected by bacteria. Chiggers in North America are not known to carry any diseases, unlike some other arthropods.

How can you prevent from getting chigger bites?

You can prevent chigger bites with the following methods:

  • Washing with soap and water after outdoor activity may remove any chiggers that may be migrating on the skin and prevent their bites. Likewise, washing clothing that was worn outdoors in hot water will kill any chiggers remaining on the clothing.
  • Attention to the outdoor temperature can help with the prevention of chigger bites. Chiggers do not bite at colder temperatures (below 60 F or 15.5 C). Chiggers also are not found in areas hotter than 99 F or 37.2 C, so hot rocky areas on sunny days can provide chigger-free seats.
  • As with mosquito bites, proper outdoor clothing can help prevent chigger bites. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts, as well as thick socks and high shoes or boots, can help prevent infestation. The pants' legs should be tucked into shoes or boots if possible.
  • All mosquito repellents (such as DEET), applied to skin and clothing, are effective at repelling chiggers.
Medically Reviewed on 5/17/2023
Bruns, BD, DO. "Insect Bites." Medscape. Updated: May 16, 2017.