Flea, Mite, or Chigger Bites

What are flea, mite, and chigger bites?

Fleas, mites, and chiggers are bugs that are so small you often need a microscope to see them.  They aren’t dangerous. But their bites cause a very strong urge to scratch your skin.  

What causes flea, mite, or chigger bites?

Exposure to places (indoor or outdoor) that are infested with these different bugs is the main reason people are bitten.

  • Fleas. They generally live in floors and rugs. They are often found in homes with pets.

  • Mites. These bugs are so small they can’t be seen without a magnifying glass. Crowded living conditions raise the risk for mite infestations. Mites can affect people of any age and income level.

  • Chiggers. Chigger bites are due to infestation with chigger babies (larva). They can be found in grasslands and forests, and around lakes and streams.

The bites are not serious. It may be hard to figure out which type of insect caused the bite, or if the rash was caused by something else.

What are the symptoms of flea, mite, or chigger bites?

Symptoms may be a bit different for each person. Symptoms may include:

  • Small, raised skin bumps

  • Pain or itching

  • Allergic reactions with swelling or blistering

Call your healthcare provider if the symptoms don't go away or if you have any concerns or questions.

Call 911 or your local emergency medical service (EMS) if there are signs of a severe allergic reaction. The signs include:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Tightness in the throat or chest

  • Feeling faint

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Raised, red, itchy bumps (hives) over a large part of the body

  • Nausea and vomiting

How are flea, mite, or chigger bites diagnosed?

  • Flea bites. These are often identified when many small bumps are grouped together on the skin. They are often seen on parts of the skin where clothes fit tightly and on the lower extremities

  • Mite bites. A healthcare provider may think you have mites based on your health history and a physical exam. Intense itching and many small, red bumps, like pimples, are seen. Burrows may also be seen. These look like thin, wavy lines.

  • Chigger bites. These are diagnosed based on the type of rash, and your recent history of being outside in an area likely to have chiggers.

The flea, mite, or chigger bites may look like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are flea, mite, or chigger bites treated?

Treatment may include:

  • Cleaning the area well with soap and water.

  • Using an antihistamine, if needed, for itching. This can be in the form of a pill, liquid, cream, or ointment.

  • Applying cool compresses or an ice pack to the area to decrease itching and swelling. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.

  • Using other creams for swelling or pain.

  • Taking acetaminophen, as directed, for mild pain.

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Lasting pain or itching

  • Signs of infection at the site of the bite such as increased redness, warmth, swelling, or drainage

  • Fever

How do I prevent flea, mite, or chigger bites?

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about a safe insect repellant that you can use.

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants outdoors when possible.

  • Don't use heavily scented soaps, lotions, or other products.

  • Use products to protect your pets from fleas.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Pain or itching that lasts

  • Signs of infection at the site of the bite, such as increased redness, warmth, swelling, or fluid leaking

  • Fever of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

Key points about flea, mite, or chigger bites

  • Fleas, mites, and chiggers are bugs that are so small you often need a microscope to see them.

  • These bugs aren’t dangerous. But their bites cause an almost overpowering urge to scratch your skin.

  • Symptoms may include small, raised skin bumps and pain or itching. There may also be swelling or blistering.

  • Call 911 if you have signs of a severe allergic reaction. These include trouble breathing, tightness in the chest or throat, or feeling faint or dizzy.

  • Treatment may include cleaning the area with soap and water, using antihistamines to stop the itching, and applying a cool compress or ice pack.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2020
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