It was a routine day at the deer lease, getting equipment and stands ready for a fall of whitetail hunting and a date with a certain big buck that had been playing hide-and-seek with me and my boys. I spent the day working on woodsy projects designed to put me into bow range that fall, I should have been thinking more about the tiny, unseen critters – chiggers – that were starting to feast upon my skin.
By the next morning, all thoughts of big bucks were gone as I wrestled with more than two dozen bright red bumps and insane itching to my lower extremities. While I had gone into the woods hoping for a big antlered payoff a few months later, it was the bite of the tiny chigger that had brought me some of the worst itching known to mankind.
If only I had some Chigarid handy, my discomfort would have been greatly reduced. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and the scratch fest was on!
Odds are, if you’ve spent any time outdoors during the warm days of spring and summer – from a simple hike in the woods, to getting a hunting spot prepped for the fall – you’ve likely encountered the tiny chigger.
Mark A. Gardner, head man of Dallas-based Chigarid – an external analgesic product that uses a mixture of camphor, phenol, menthol, collodion, and oil of Eucalyptus to dry the wound and calm the bite’s itch – knows first-hand about the Texas-size misery the tiny little chigger can inflict on unsuspecting souls.
“They (the bites) are horrible,” he said. “I’ve had them so bad before where I had numerous blisters pop up. It’s hard to associate the itch with any other type of bite, it’s way worse than those other bites. In fact, I really can’t compare the itch of a chigger bite to anything else that I know of.”
At first glance, it would seem impossible for something so small to inflict so much discomfort. Belonging to the class Arachinida (along with scorpions and ticks), chiggers are so tiny they are virtually unnoticed at first. Adults – which are bright red, hence the nicknames “red bugs” or “berry bugs” – are only about 1 mm long. The larvae are especially tiny, measuring only 1/100-inch (0.15 to 0.3 mm) in diameter.
It’s the tiny larvae that causes all of the big problems – itching wise, that is — according to the Texas Cooperative Extension of Texas A&M University.
According to TAMU, contrary to what urban myth might pass along, chiggers don’t suck away the host’s blood or crawl into their hide.
Instead, they use the sharp portions of their tiny little mouths to inject a powerful digestive enzyme that is designed to breakdown a host’s skin cells for the chigger’s food supply. That enzyme – which comes from bites of larvae, not adult chiggers – causes problems some three to six hours later when reddish bumps or welts start to appear, and the intense itching begins.
While chigger larvae don't actually burrow into one's skin, the swollen nature of the bites they leave behind can make it appear so. Thankfully, unlike other biting pests – ticks and mosquitoes come to mind – experts say chiggers don’t actually carry or transmit diseases within the United States.
But because of the intense itching and welts that can arise from a chigger bite, secondary infections can result when the skin gets broken as a sufferer tries to find some relief from the maddening itch. It’s all but impossible for someone suffering from chigger bites to avoid scratching the wound.
Obviously, the first line of defense against chigger bites is to avoid them altogether. That means limiting time spent in weedy, overgrown spots when possible, or sitting on the ground in a shady, grassy area where the tiny critters are likely to be found.
Experts like Chigarid’s Gardner note that high boots and trousers of tightly woven fabric, especially when tucked into socks or boots, can help deter chiggers. The same goes for insect repellents applied to shoes, socks and pant cuffs, particularly repellents containing DEET or permethrin. In addition to applying such repellent to your shoes and ankle areas, anyone going into taller vegetation will want to apply it to the waist region, zippers or button fly areas, and collars and cuffs. Apply such repellents heavily enough to dampen clothing, not saturate it.
“They like to get just about anywhere on your body where sweat accumulates,” said Gardner. “The ankle area is one of the more susceptible places where many bites occur. But keep in mind that they can crawl up and affect other areas of the body too like the area behind your knees, your waist, your arms, and even the chest and neck areas, just about any place on your body that is warm and moist.”
Another way to combat chiggers in advance is to borrow from an old-time farmer’s trick, keeping a sock filled with sulfur in the back of a pickup truck. When you get out to work on a barbed wire fence, fill a deer feeder, or head for your favorite fishing hole, slap the sock against your lower extremities a few times, creating a cloud of sulfur dust that will coat your pants legs and help keep the tiny critters away.
A final way to combat the pesky little vermin is to keep weeds and brush to a minimum, keeping lawns and property mowed and manicured. And if your property is especially susceptible to chiggers – which seem to do well in places of high heat and humidity – then consider mowing the lawn tightly and then applying an applicable liquid insecticide, following the directions carefully of course.
“You’ll definitely want to keep your grass mowed low,” said Gardner. “Basically, don’t let weeds take over and that will help out a lot. So too will applying lime, something that I’ve found can also help reduce any chigger infestation problems.”
But for all the preventative methods mentioned above, eventually, a chigger will make it through the first line of defense and an itchy bite or two – or many more – will be the unfortunate result.
That’s where using Chigarid comes in according to Gardner, a solid solution for the itchy bites that has been around for more than 50 years now.
“My wife’s grandfather, Richard E. Colgin, who founded the Liquid Smoke Company, started Chigarid back in 1963,” said Gardner. “Like many others, he was simply trying to figure out how to get rid of chigger bites when he was younger, or at least stop the itch. He had a company create the product for him and the rest is history.”
First using the product as a kid looking for his own chigger bite relief, Gardner has tried most of the other products out there over the years, always coming back to Chigarid. And now, he believes in the product so much he’s the company’s head man because it’s effective for many things ranging from chigger bites in the woods to sand flea bites on the beach to mosquito bites on a favorite fishing lake.
In fact, if it bites or stings, there aren’t many itches and irritations that Chigarid won’t work on.
“In addition to chigger bites, the product works on minor scrapes, fire ant bites, bee stings, mosquito bites, and really, just about any sort of insect bite,” said Gardner. “Wash and clean the bite area with soapy water, dry it thoroughly, then apply Chigarid.”
Since the product applies like a liquid Band-Aid covering, Gardner says it doesn’t wash off easily from sweat, a summertime rain shower, or even a dip in the swimming pool. With the easy to use stick applicator that comes in the 0.5-ounce package, simply cover the area around the bite mark’s red dot three or four times a day and let the coating air dry for a few seconds afterwards.
After that, let Chigarid’s time-tested formula go to work to reduce swelling and inflammation, form a protective barrier over the wound, and help bring soothing relief to the bite area as healing begins.
According to Gardner, in addition to Chigarid being available at many outdoor retailers, box stores, and pharmacies around the nation, the product is also can be purchased online at www.chigarid.com. More information can be found by e-mailing the company or calling (888) 226-5446.
“Our product is very effective, and we have a pretty loyal following,” said Gardner. “I’ve used the product since I was a kid, long before I ever worked here. Why? Because it works, that’s why.”
So, if you find yourself with some unwelcome chigger bites this summer after a day of work at deer camp, some time spent on the water fishing, or simply getting the yard mowed, find a bottle of Chigarid and see if you don’t agree!