Monday, July 5, 2010

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

There is nothing worse than an attack of chiggers.

Okay, there's war and death and pestilence. Oil spills. Drug addiction. There's a lot of stuff worse than chiggers, actually. If you're talking short-term personal misery however, chiggers get my vote.

I made the mistake of taking a brief stroll across a lawn to talk to some friends. By the time I'd made the six-block walk home, I felt the overwhelming urge to claw my ankle. I'm like filet mignon to bloodsuckers. They love me; chiggers especially. I look like a Braille library from the neck down.

So how do they manage to make us miserable? Unlike ticks, chiggers don’t actually suck blood or burrow into your skin. After attaching themselves to a pore or hair follicle, these parasitic beasties inject you with a digestive enzyme that ruptures surrounding cells. They then feast on the fluids from said cells. Hm, yeah. That’s a LOT better than the whole tick thing. Ick.

Now then, from whence cometh the chigger? I have my private opinion, but I will say that they are the larvae of harvest (or scrub) mites, Trombicula alfreddugesi. At barely 1/50th of an inch in diameter, they’re pretty much impossible to see. You can, however, avoid the nasty little things. This is a prime picnic weather, so be prepared. If you’re not a big nature lover, you won’t have any problem avoiding grassy or overgrown places. If you’re like me, you’ll turn into a walking welt in no time.

So what makes for effective preventatives or remedies? Wear loose clothing. Chiggers love warm, confined areas. This includes waistbands, sock cuffs, and other, ah, constricted places. You might also try taking a shower as soon as possible after a trip through the Great Outdoors. This will help wash away any unattached chiggers. Those unattached chiggers should be hanging out at chigger singles bars, anyway. Hah.

My friend Mary Lou recommends B12 to those who would “B” chigger-free. She takes a daily dose and swears that it protects her from the evil that chiggers do. Another friend, Tammy, clued me in on a great bug spray. Fill a four-ounce spray bottle with water and add a quarter teaspoon of lemongrass essential oil and a few drops of tea tree oil. Shake and spray. It’s non-toxic, effective, and it makes you smell like Froot Loops.

If you are the victim of chigger bites, there’s not a whole lot to be done. Sorry. Some folks swear by painting over the bite with nail polish to suffocate the chigger. Other sources state that chiggers have dropped off and gone their merry way by the time itching begins, so painting won’t work. Use the itch-relieving remedy of your choice (Witch Hazel helps) and DON’T scratch. Excessive scratching can lead to infection, which leads to a very bad time, indeed. At least around here, we don’t have to worry about chigger-borne scrub typhus.

Now all I have to do is not think about scratching. Starting... now.

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