Everything To Know About Avoiding Chiggers While Camping


Insects and bugs are one of those pests that everyone wants to avoid on their camping trip. Bugs can bother you, bite you, and end up in your food. Nobody wants that, including me and so that’s why I  am always doing my research to find out how to avoid them (chiggers included).

So, how do you avoid chiggers while camping? The best way to avoid chiggers while camping is to avoid the areas where chiggers are commonly found, using bug spray with DEET, and covering up exposed skin with tightly woven clothing. If you do come into contact with chiggers then you need to know how to quickly and efficiently get rid of them.

Chiggers can be a hassle to deal with because their bites leave some nasty marks on your skin. Luckily, there are some proven ways to avoid chiggers while camping and ensure that you get rid of them just in case you do come into contact with them.

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What Are Chiggers?

Chiggers Are Mites

Chiggers are technically not insects, they are mites. They are in the same family as spiders and ticks. The adults are not the ones that bite you, it is their babies (larvae) that cause all the itchy red bumps. The adult mites can barely be seen by the naked human eye. They will appear as tiny red specks whereas the biting larvae are so small that you will not be able to spot them with the naked eye. If you do see the adult mites then odds are that there are chiggers nearby or already on you.

What Chiggers Eat

Chiggers normally feed on reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small mammals. They are normally not interested in feeding on humans, but we do accidentally become their hosts. Unfortunately for them, they do not receive the nourishment they need from us and will die within a few days of attaching to humans.

Where Chiggers Are

Chiggers are a huge nuisance in many parts of the country, especially on camping trips. They are found in every state in the United States and in most of the world. However, they are a particular nuisance in the humid south and midwest of the United States. Their bites are similar to a mosquito however they are noted as being smaller and more intense. You will want to avoid scratching the bitten area and consult a medical professional or digest for proper treatment.

How To Avoid Chiggers While Camping

Avoid Chigger Prone Areas

Perhaps the best thing to do in order to avoid chiggers when you are camping is to simply avoid the areas where chiggers are commonly found and situated. This can be very difficult while camping because naturally you have to explore and might be sleeping very close to chigger habitat. The areas that chiggers are commonly found in are referred to as “chigger patches”. Some common chigger areas include:

Brush

  • Tall Grass
  • Weeds
  • Marshes
  • Swamps
  • Rotting Leaves
  • Stick Piles
  • Downed Logs
  • Tall Vegetation

Stay off of vegetation

In addition to avoiding chigger prone areas, you can go a step further and try to avoid contact with vegetation. Try to not sit directly on the ground and instead sit on your camping chair. If you are out hiking then avoid going off-trail and stick to the center of the trail where vegetation is scarce and the path is cleared from human traffic. If you need to sit down outside of your campsite then do so on a rock instead of a log or downed tree.

Avoid Warm Temperatures

Chiggers are most active in the south and the Mideastern United States when it is warm outside. If you can avoid going out during the middle of the day then you have a better chance of avoiding chiggers when you go camping. Chiggers become less active when it is cold outside (below 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and they will perish in temperatures below 42 degrees Fahrenheit.

How To Keep Chiggers Away From You

Insect Repellant

The most notable way of deflecting chiggers is by using insect repellant containing DEET. DEET is a common active ingredient in insect repellent that works very well against biting insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and chiggers. You should liberally spray insect repellant on your exposed skin and on your clothing. Do not spray insect repellant directly onto your face or ears.

Permethrin

Permethrin is a medication used to treat lice but is also an insecticide. It can be sprayed onto your clothing so that chiggers and other bugs that come into contact with your clothing will die upon contact. You shouldn’t apply Permethrin directly to your skin since it can cause a rash and irritation. This insecticide has been shown to be effective against killing chiggers.

Cover Exposed Skin

Proper clothing layers is one of the best ways to prevent chiggers from biting you. First off, try to cover as much exposed skin as you can with clothing. This means wearing long-sleeve shirts, pants, socks, and closed-toed shoes. Think of preventing chigger bites just as you would try to prevent tick bites.

To further deflect chiggers you should tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your boots. This makes it harder for chiggers and other bugs to access your skin. Additionally, tightly woven clothing can help tremendously since chiggers are small and can fit through the holes in some clothing.

Sulfur

A more natural repellent of mites is Sulfur. It can be used in powder form or in spray form. It has been shown to be effective against chiggers. The smell of sulfur is usually not so pleasant (often compared to rotten eggs) so if you don’t mind using insect repellent then sulfur may be an inferior choice for use on yourself.

How To Get Rid Of Chiggers

Even if you take all the necessary steps to try and avoid chiggers while camping, it may be inevitable that you make contact with them. If that is the case, what you want to do it to get rid of them as soon as possible, preferably before they have time to feast on you and spread.

Take a Warm Shower

As soon as you are able to you should take a warm shower after being exposed to chiggers. Chiggers can easily be rinsed off of your body unlike ticks because they do not burrow into your skin. The hot water should help remove and kill any that may be on your body.

Change Your Clothing

Change your clothing before entering your car and home and then place the old clothing in a separate bag. The idea is to not let the chiggers get access to your skin even if they are already on your clothing. 

Wash Clothing With High Heat

At the same time you will want to wash and clothing that you were wearing immediately after leaving a chigger area. Use the hot water setting to ensure their removal from your clothing. Don’t forget to wash any other camping items that may have come into contact with them. Keep all of your “contaminated” items separate and out of your house until you wash them in order to avoid spreading the mites.

How To Treat Chigger Bites

Chigger bites are small red bumps that are flat or raised with intense itching sensations. They appear to resemble a blister. In order to treat these bites after you get back from camping, you can use an over the counter ointment such as menthol, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone. Try your best to avoid scratching and they should go away in a week or so. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice.

Related Questions:

What Are Chiggers Attracted To?

Chiggers are attracted to the carbon dioxide that our bodies give off just like mosquitos are. This is hard to avoid when camping since you will probably be doing a lot of physical activity and letting off a lot of carbon dioxide.

Can Chiggers Bite Through Clothing?

Chiggers cannot necessarily bite through clothing, but they can potentially make their way through your clothing since they are so small. To help prevent this you should wear tightly woven clothing.

How do you kill chiggers on your skin?

You can kill chiggers that are on your skin by simply taking a warm shower and thoroughly washing your body with soap. Chiggers do not burrow themselves into your skin and are relatively easy to brush off.

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Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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