How to Avoid Chigger Bites

Keep Them Away While You're Outdoors

Hiker spraying bug spray with DEET
Getty Images

Chigger bites might be some of the most uncomfortable bug bites you can ever experience. They itch incessantly, and some say they're far worse than mosquito, flea, and bed bug bites combined. Fortunately, you can avoid chigger bites by taking some simple precautions.

1. Use an insect repellent containing DEET on both skin and clothing.

Apply DEET liberally to your shoes, socks, and pant legs. Treat your waist area and shirt if you'll be in tall vegetation.

Carefully apply the repellent by hand to your face, neck, and ears; you don't want DEET in your eyes or mouth! Adults should apply DEET products to young children. You may need to reapply DEET products after several hours.

2. Apply permethrin to clothing, hiking boots, and your backpack.

Permethrin products should never be used directly on skin, but they remain effective on clothing through several washings. Permethrin is sold under the names Permanone and Duranon.

3. Wear long pants with sneakers or hiking boots.

Tuck your pant legs into your socks, and keep your shirt tucked into your waistband. In areas where chiggers are abundant, you might even want to wrap some duct tape around your ankles, over the top of your socks. You'll look ridiculous, but it works.

4. Choose tightly woven fabrics for working or walking in chigger-prone areas.

Because chiggers are so tiny, they can actually work their way through your clothing to get to your skin.

If you know you'll be exposed to chiggers while outdoors, wear the tightest woven fabrics you can find. The smaller the space between threads, the harder it will be for chiggers to penetrate your clothes and bite you.

5. Outfit yourself in bug repellent apparel.

Want a sporty, outdoor look with built-in chigger protection?

Ex-Officio sells a line of clothing that is pretreated with permethrin. The treatment lasts through up to 70 washings.

6. Stay on the trail.

Chiggers hang out in high vegetation, waiting for a passing host. When your leg brushes through the vegetation, the chigger transfers to your body. Walk on designated trails, and avoid blazing your own through meadows or other high vegetation areas. You'll avoid chiggers and leave a minimal impact on the wild places we love.

7. Avoid chigger-infested places.

In some places, chiggers may be too abundant to avoid, even with the best repellents and long pants. If an area looks like prime chigger habitat, avoid it. If you think you may have chiggers in your yard, do a sampling test to find out.

8. If you see chiggers on your body, wash them off immediately.

If you wander into a chigger patch by mistake, the best thing you can do to avoid chigger bites is get the chiggers off your body immediately. Take a hot, soapy bath or shower right away. Chiggers usually take a little time to settle on a place to feed, so just washing them off quickly can make a big difference.

9. Wash any chigger-infested clothing in hot, soapy water.

If you've picked up chiggers while hiking or working in the yard, strip down quickly and put all of your clothing in the wash.

Launder the clothing in hot, soapy water. Don't wear that clothing again until it has been washed and dried.

10. Eliminate chigger habitat in your yard.

Chiggers live in moist, shady areas with thick vegetation. You can effectively eliminate almost all chiggers in your yard by simply minimizing such habitat from your landscape. Follow these control measures to keep chiggers from spoiling your time outdoors.

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Hadley, Debbie. "How to Avoid Chigger Bites." ThoughtCo, Aug. 5, 2017, thoughtco.com/avoid-chigger-bites-1968598. Hadley, Debbie. (2017, August 5). How to Avoid Chigger Bites. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/avoid-chigger-bites-1968598 Hadley, Debbie. "How to Avoid Chigger Bites." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/avoid-chigger-bites-1968598 (accessed January 21, 2018).