Summer Pest—the Chiggers, How They Attack, Remedy
( Originally Published 1936 )
The name is Trombicula irritans, ladies and gentlemen. And if you meet the little fellow this summer you will know the irritans was not spoken in jest. Chiggers, to you.
They are eight-legged creatures and belong to the family of mites, more closely related to the spiders than the insects.
The chigger forms which attack human beings are larval stages of the adult mite, whose normal host is not definitely known.
They are most abundant where there is a heavy growth of shrubs or berry vines. They live on the sap of berries or berry trees until the more agreeable possibility of a meal of human blood comes along.
It is commonly supposed that they bury themselves in the skin, but this is not true. They attach themselves to the skin by the mouth parts and feed on blood for several days, after which they drop off. Their bite causes intense itching, and if the distribution is wide, may even cause fever and sometimes a definite form of nervous trouble.
In Japan a mite very similar to the American chigger is the carrier for a very serious disease known as Tsutsugamushi, or Japanese river fever.
In treatment, a hot bath with plenty of soap, followed by a light sponging of the affected parts with weak ammonia solution or alcohol will usually kill or remove them. Sulphur ointment and carbolized vaseline are also efficient.
Best of all, but attended with some element of danger, is to take a wooden toothpick and dip it in a solution of carbolic acid and then just touch the spots on the skin where the chigger has become attached. Do not use cotton on the toothpick or there will be danger of the carbolic running down the skin and making a burn. All you need to do is to touch the spot lightly and the toothpick need be only moistened with the carbolic. The carbolic not only kills the mite but also acts as an anaesthetic to the skin and stops the itching. After the application has been made take a hot bath, washing with plenty of soap.
Prevention has been successful with powdered sulphur on the clothes. People whose work compels them to be in the woods or fields should try it. They should also wear high laced shoes or puttees. Wearing socks and pants, and even shirts, which have been dipped in a solution made by dissolving one-fourth of a pound of naphtha soap in a gallon of water and adding one-fourth of a pound of powdered sulphur, and allowing to dry overnight, has afforded excellent protection. The feet of the socks should not be dipped.