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Chiggers vs. Scabies: Are They the Same?

Reviewed on 4/6/2020

What Are Chiggers and Scabies?

Picture of a chigger.
Picture of a chigger.
  • Chigger bites and scabies are two conditions that cause itchy skin.
  • Scabies is an infestation of the skin by a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei).
  • Chiggers are the juvenile forms of a mite (Trombiculidae) that bite humans and feed on human skin.
  • A chigger may feed through the stylostome (feed tube) for up to a few days.
  • Scabies mites may live for up to a few months on a human host. 
  • Chiggers are tiny and barely visible to the naked eye.
  • Chiggers are less than 1/150th of an inch in length, and an are red in color.
  • Juvenile chigger forms that bite humans have six legs, although the harmless adult mites have eight legs.
  • Scabies mites that infest humans are female and are 0.3 mm-0.4 mm long.
  • Males scabies are about half the size of females.
  • Scabies mites can be seen with a magnifying glass or microscope.
  • Scabies mites can crawl but are unable to fly or jump.

Are Chiggers or Scabies Contagious?

Chigger bites are not contagious. Scabies is contagious and can be spread by close skin-to-skin contact.

What Are the Differences Between How Chiggers and Scabies Are Spread?

  • Chiggers spread from areas of vegetation onto human skin from areas such as pant cuffs or shirtsleeves.
  • Scabies mites can live off of a host body for 24-36 hours under most conditions.
  • Spread of scabies mites involves close person-to-person contact of the skin-to-skin variety with an infected person, including sexual contact.

Which Symptoms and Signs of Chigger vs. Scabies Bites Are Different and Similar?

Different Symptoms and Signs Between Chigger vs. Scabies Bites

  • Chigger bites are most common in skin folds and areas of thin skin.
  • The characteristic locations for the rash of scabies are are somewhat different.
  • Scabies mites also cause the typical burrows not seen with chigger bites.

Similar Symptoms and Signs Between Chigger vs. Scabies Bites

  • Both chiggers and scabies can produce red bumps on the skin that are very itchy.

Where on the Body Do Chigger and Scabies Bites Occur?

Chigger Bites

  • Chiggers do not burrow into the skin. They bite and inject digestive enzymes into the human skin.
  • Chiggers insert their feeding structures into the skin and inject enzymes that cause destruction of host tissue.
  • Hardening of the surrounding skin results in the development of a feeding tube called a stylostome.
  • Chigger larvae feed upon the destroyed tissue and may feed through the stylostome for a few days.
  • Chigger bites are usually found on the skin at areas of wrinkles, skin folds, or other areas of skin that are thin. Most bites occur
    • on the ankles,
    • on the crotch and groin areas,
    • behind the knees, and
    • in the armpits.
  • The chigger bite itself is not noticeable, but symptoms occur after the chigger has begun to inject digestive enzymes into the skin (usually after about 1-3 hours).
  • Symptoms of chigger bites include itching and a reddened, raised or flat bump at the site of the bite.
  • Sometimes a chigger bite may look like a blister.
  • The itching from chigger bites lasts for several days.

Scabies Mite Bite

  • Scabies mite bite symptoms may not appear for up to two months after being infested with the scabies mite.
  • The most common symptom of scabies is severe itching that may get worse over a period of time.
  • The itching of scabies mite bites is often worse at night.
  • Scabies also produces a skin rash with small red bumps and blisters.
  • Scabies may involve the webs between the
    • fingers,
    • wrists and backs of the elbows,
    • knees, around the waist and navel,
    • underarms,
    • areas around the nipples,
    • sides and backs of the feet,
    • genitals, and
    • buttocks.
  • Scabies also produces characteristic “burrows” under the skin. 
  • Burrows are tiny threadlike streaks that range from 2 mm-15 mm long.
  • Burrows can be hard to see, and scratch marks can be mistaken for burrows.

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Where Do Chiggers and Scabies Mites Infest?

Chiggers Habitat

Chiggers can also be found worldwide. They are most commonly found in damp, grassy, or wooded areas such as the edges of forests.

Scabies Mites Habitat

Scabies mites are found worldwide and can live for up to a few months on human hosts.

Scabies has been reported in

  • epidemics in nursing homes,
  • hospitals,
  • long-term care facilities, and other institutions.

What Is the Treatment and Cure for Chigger vs. Scabies Bites?

What Home Remedies Treat Chigger vs. Scabies Bites?

The itching of both scabies and chiggers can be relieved by:

  • Cool baths, baths with colloidal oatmeal products, and cool compresses.
  • Calamine lotion and over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can also help relieve the itch of chigger bites.
  • While the itch of scabies may be relieved by cooling measures, there are no home remedies that cure scabies.
  • The symptoms of chigger bites go away after a period of up to two weeks. 

What Medications Treat and Cure Chigger vs. Scabies Bites?

Curing scabies requires the administration of prescription drugs. There are no approved over-the-counter medications that are effective at eliminating scabies. Chigger bites do not require prescription treatment. 

Can You Get Infections From Chigger or Scabies Bites?

Since both chigger bites and scabies cause itching, scratching of the skin can lead to bleeding and inflammation of the skin that may be complicated by secondary bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues.

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Reviewed on 4/6/2020
References
Scabies. CDC. Updated: Nov 02, 2010.
<https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/index.html> Chiggers. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. 2020.
<https://www.aocd.org/page/Chiggers>

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