Outdoors Column: Chigger Attack

I am usually a bit hesitant to use insect repellants as I figure if some chemical is strong enough to kill a bug, it is probably not doing a person much good. There are some of them that even say not to get on your skin. I do not care if an insect gets on my clothes, I just don’t want them crawling around on my skin biting me. Though I spend a lot of time working outdoors, I usually forego even the mild repellants in hopes of avoiding places insects hang out. This does not always work.

Saturday, Damon and I decided to put in the food plots for the deer. We plant turnips in areas near the timber where deer will feel safe to feed during the winter. As the turnips grow, deer will browse the new leaves off the turnip patch. Later, when it is cold and food becomes harder to find, the deer will dig the mature turnips out of the ground and eat them. This provides a high energy food to sustain them during the cold weather. By early spring, the food plots look as though they have been plowed and very few turnips remain.

Damon started with the tiller on the tractor and I met up with him in the truck with the seeder. When all the plots were tilled, we switched implements and I went back over them planting. The thoughts of being attacked by biting insects only briefly crossed my mind as most of the time was spent either in the truck or on the tractor. There were a few places I did find it necessary to walk through the tall grass. These must have been the places that all the chiggers in the world live.

When we were done and I got home, as well as being covered with dust, I noticed a couple of bites around my ankles. I promptly took a shower and changed clothes. Apparently, this was not soon enough. By the next morning, I had welts around my ankles, around my waist, and a few bites scattered on my chest and arms. Later that day, red itchy welts covered where my socks touched my skin as well as a few more across my body, just for good measure. The itching was becoming unbearable.

I can ignore a lot of things. The pain of breaking a small bone can be tolerated. I can ignore smashing a thumb with a hammer after the initial shock. I can not ignore the itch of chigger bites. If a person gives into the temptation to scratch where it itches, the itch only becomes worse. It is necessary to treat the bites or lose one’s mind.

So far, I have used creams, one of cortisone and one with Benadryl. I have tried Icey Hot, hand lotion, and first aid spray. Everything works for a while, but nothing lasts very long. Reading up on treatments, I learned symptoms should subside in a week or two, with or without treatment. Until that time, I will go on, concerning myself about the possibility of getting an overdose of Benadryl from a cream or trying to concentrate hard enough to ignore the constant itch.

In the future, even though I do not like to use it, I believe I will put on insect repellant every time I go into the timber. Prevention has to be better than dealing with the results of a chigger attack.