July 12, 2018
They lurk. They bite. They torment. They are ‘chiggers’, ‘red bugs’ or if you like to show off, Trombiculidae. Miriam Webster dictionary defines chiggers, also called ‘chigoes’, as “six-legged red or orange mite larvae that feed by latching onto skin and leaving itchy, red welts”.
Itchy? Try ‘fiendish and teeth-chattering’. These bugs from Hell especially like shins, ankles, and feet, but they will also munch on the skin between toes or fingers or even behind knees. Recently, I even found a bite between my third and ‘pinkie’ fingers.
Why is this post appearing in an author blog? Simply because authors cannot ‘auth’ when they’re too busy scratching.
Because of my succulent, fair skin, I have suffered from chigger bites since I was a child. When I grew up, I dared to hope that I had outgrown my susceptibility to them until we moved to northeastern Georgia, in the middle of May, where it rains more often than not.
I like rain. Rain is good because it freshens the air, replenishes the earth, and makes the grass grow so my husband, a camp host, can earn extra money by mowing it. Not too long after I wade through it, my arches and heels, shins, and ankles begin to itch.
Polka-dotted by bites, I have tried drugstore potions and home remedies, some of which I found out, later, are old wives’ tales. One such example, clear nail polish, was suggested by a camper.
“It works because it smothers them,” she said.
I was willing to believe her, so I applied polish everywhere I itched.
There, I thought, after screwing on the top. Take that, Mr. Chigger. When it worked instantly, I thought that I had found my ‘forever cure’.
Then, one day, we were visiting with a man and his wife camped beside us.
“Wow! Looks like chiggers have eaten you alive!” he said. “What are you putting on the bites?”
“Clear nail polish,” I said, with confidence. “I have heard that it smothers the chiggers.”
He waited until I finished talking.
“Ahhh, but if you will Google that, you will find out that it is an old wives’ tale. The chigger cannot be smothered because it has already fallen from your body right after it bit you. Besides, Absorbine Junior works so much better.”
To help him demonstrate his point, his wife rolled some of the icy liquid originally for soothing sore muscles and arthritis pain, all over my legs and ankles. That night, for the first time since we arrived here, I was able to close my eyes and sail off to sleep, itch-free for the rest of the night.
So off we went to the grocery store to buy some, only for a clerk to tell us that the store had stopped carrying it. Seeing a bottle of Caladryl Clear Lotion, recommended for insect bites, poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes, and minor skin irritations, I bought a bottle of it, remembering how its pink predecessor once relieved my chigger bites.
Other remedies that have worked well are Vicks Vapor Rub, Tea Tree Oil, and Dermacort, an anti-itch cream put out by a company named Melaleuca. During our two months at primitive, peaceful, but chigger-infested Appalachian Campground, I have found that I need different remedies at different times: a few dabs of Dermacort, an anti-itch cream with Melaleuca (or tea tree oil) for daytime and at bedtime, Absorbine Plus for its instant, cooling, long-lasting relief.
Now, chiggers don’t bug me like they used to. Could it be that they know I’ve become a triple threat with my spray, cream, and lotion?
Back to you, gentle reader. What is your ‘go-to’ cure for ‘creepy, crawly critter bites’?
I can hardly wait to hear from you!