Heat and humidity, poison ivy, mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers - the challenges of going outdoors in August.
I can tolerate the heat and humidity - my Prius air conditioner puts out a good chill.
I watch where I walk - and avoid touching the three shiny leaves.
The mosquitoes are a major, but temporary annoyance. Buzz, swat.
But when I don't put my pant cuffs inside my socks (and spray with DEET) ... sooner or later, ticks and chiggers are going to get me.
I've had a couple of ticks this summer, but it's been a long time since the chiggers had me for lunch. And yes, I'll admit it: I asked for it when I ignored my rule about the DEET.
I just didn't think I was at risk. I wasn't planning to go off into the woods - just to the edge of the road. No ticks, no chiggers there. Right?
I woke up this morning with itchy chigger bites - on my thighs and waist.
So how do these tiny, red "mites" make those itchy red bumps that drive me insane?
Chiggers - also known as harvest mites - are 8-legged arachnids about the size of a pin head. Unlike mosquitoes, their 6-legged microscopic larvae are not after blood - they want your skin. Like ticks, they lie in wait for you, and when you brush by, they hop on, find your skin and sink their mouth parts into you. Their saliva has a chemical that liquifies your skin, allowing them to suck it up.
When they're through with you (or when you brush them off), they return to the soil and continue with their metamorphosis.
The nymphs and adult chiggers feed on soil insects and mosquito eggs. How's that for irony?
Meantime, I'll be itching for several torment-filled days - however long it takes my body to get rid of the chigger larvae's skin-liquefying enzymes and replace my damaged skin cells.
I read somewhere that putting nail polish on the "bite" suffocates burrowing critters. No so. (They don't burrow). The best treatment is a soap and water - then an anti-itch cream (calamine lotion, hydrocortisone, etc).
The best "treatment" is precaution. Chiggers are everywhere - even along roadsides.
Use that DEET! Shower when you get home (don't wait).