Q. When I told my dermatologist that you could cover your chigger bites with clear nail polish to get rid of them he laughed at me and said that was an old wives tale that was nonsensical.
I remember this cure from when i was a child. The idea was that the chigger is alive and burrows and continues to spread and the nail polish kills them by suffocating them. What’s your perspective?
A. Sorry, we side with your dermatologist. Although we have heard about the nail polish trick for years, we have never seen anything to support this notion.
Dermatologists tell us that chiggers (a kind or mite or tiny spider) inject proteins from their saliva into our skin when they suck our blood. The reaction we experience to the bite (itching, redness and sometimes blisters) results when our bodies react allergically to those enzymes or proteins.
The best approach is to prevent the bites in the first place. We generally recommend spraying socks and shoes with insect repellant such as DEET. If you would prefer to avoid DEET, sufulr powder sprinkled on shoes and socks may also repel chiggers.
We have discovered a new product, Chigg Away, that contains sulfur to repel the bugs plus benzocaine to ease the itch. We would apply it around shoes, socks and ankles to keep the chiggers from climbing aboard.
Once you have the bites, though, you may want a strong corticosteroid gel to control the allergy reaction and the itching. A dermatologist can prescribe something that will really do the job. Over-the-counter steroids like hydrocortisone are probably not strong enough to overcome the reaction.

Join Over 52,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

  1. Jennifer

    I have to agree with you. Clear Nail polish all the way. Immediate relief.

  2. Vendetta Dressel

    I wrote last year on how I got into chiggers and poison ivy at the same time. I read where it helps soaking in Epsom Salts. I tried it and it worked. I felt relief right away.

  3. Sam I Am

    I went to an archery 3D shoot this past Sunday, and now I’m itching like mad with red chigger bites all over my legs and ankles. I didn’t get much sleep last night. I tried Coritzone and some Benzocaine spray, but neither gave me any relief. I went to Target while ago to get some Benadryl thinking maybe it would at least help me sleep tonight, and the check out lady told me to out finger nail polish on it. Being desperate, I figured it was worth a try. I put it on me before even searching the internet to see if other people thought it worked. This thread has been encouraging because it apparently works for a lot of people. We’ll see. I put it on a few minutes ago, and I still itch. I want some INSTANT relief! This is maddening! I took my 11 year old nephew to the 3D shoot with me, and they didn’t bother him at all. Lucky kid!

  4. KH

    Our backyard backs up to the woods in TX and we have a huge chigger problem every year.
    It’s so funny how everyone has their own remedy and they swear it’s the ONLY thing they’ve found that works. I guess we’re all just different!
    Well, here’s mine. Please proceed with caution and don’t blame me if you burn yourself–be smart: Turn your hairdryer on low heat. Put it over the bite, fairly close. It will itch as if you’re scratching it and then it will start to burn a little. When it feels like you need to pull it away bc it feels like a hot needle prick, pull away and the itching will stop for about 6 hours. It undoubtedly numbs the nerves in there.
    This is NOT burning my skin on the outside–you couldn’t hold the hairdryer there long enough to do that, your body shouldn’t let you without making you jerk it away. Just give it a try.
    I have a hairdryer on-hand in our house over the summer and this is my total relief. When I say it works, I’m not even remotely exaggerating. The caveat is that you cannot do this to someone else (i.e. your kids), so I’m always looking for and trying other natural solutions as well.
    So far, Arnica Montana (a homeopathic remedy) isn’t a miracle, but it does soothe. And the baking powder paste is somewhat helpful–it at least helps the kids stop scratching. Good luck!! Chigger bites are the worst.
    Do be careful. One could burn oneself with a very hot hairdryer if not extra careful!

  5. Shane

    Nail polished worked for me when I was a kid. In fact, I never even worried about them knowing the nail polish would relieve the itch and quickly heal. It stopped the chiggers dead in their tracks. Dermatologists do not know everything and they are just practicing after all.

  6. paul klamm

    Benadryl Gel worked fantastic. These little buggers are annoying…

  7. Vendetta

    Believe it or not but I have come in contact with chiggers and poison ivy at the same time! Talk about miserable! I even got a cortisone shot from the doctor and itch terrible all over. I am going to try some of these remedies.

  8. Logan

    I was bit 2days ago every where I have nail polish on it but under my knees still itch does any one know what to do

  9. Madalyne

    I have some too and everytime I put nail polish on there it helped I would rub it on the chigger bite and around it a little. I have also put hot water on it and it helped a little with the itching and I put hydrocortisone on there 2 to 3 times a day have good luck!!

  10. kbtwiss

    Well this is my first encounter with chiggers, and how does the nail polish work? How long do you leave it there? I have done nothing but put oil on my skin (soaked) and then sat in bathtub with soap… will that work? How do they die? Do chiggers live on you forever…? itchy!!!!!!!!!

  11. Vw

    I have chiggers and there is nail polish all over me! This isn’t the first time I’ve had chigger bites, but the nail polish trick does work. Put nail polish on all bites and let dry and leave it there! If you go to school and don’t want people to see nail polish all over you , you can put it on every night and sleep with it on. It takes about a week and a half for these bites to heal with the nail polish. :)

  12. Dan S

    Well I certainly didn’t get re-infected from a car, I was on my bike that evening. I’d say in the last 5 days they have finally disappeared. It took nearly 4 whole weeks for the bites to go away totally. It was an awful ordeal. Funny but some outbreaks itched like mad while others didn’t .

  13. DB

    Seems you have been exposed again. I recently was exposed while walking in the woods. Came home and showered with citronella soap. No bites. Two days later I had to drive somewhere, in the same car I sat in after being exposed to chiggers. Well now I have bites all over. Apparently they stayed in the car and waited for a meal of ME! I didn’t wash right away like before because I didn’t know that I had been exposed. Seems to me you may have the same problem. I now have sprayed my car seats and my coach with spider mite Raid. Hopefully this will kill any little buggers left.

  14. Dan S

    I need some opinions: I’m certain I’ve got chiggers bites, no doubt… BUT I was exposed 8 days ago, classic red bumps on the ankles/feet, moved up behind the knees. I was a strong steroid cream on them (rx) and the itching was not too bad.. around day 4-5 the bites on the ankles/feet were fading .. I thought great, this pain in the butt exposure to these critters was about gone…
    WRONG , the past 24 hours which is now 9 days post exposure I’m exploding in new bites around the waist and buttocks, and they seem to be moving up my torso — Is this possible from being bitten late on Aug 4th ? This is the AM of the 14th. I’m 100% sure it was chiggers, I found one of the red devils on my leg the night I got exposed. Should what seems like new bites be popping up 9 days after? Thanks Dan S

  15. Toni

    I’ve used nail polish, and Chiggerid. (which seems to be just pricier nail polish!) and, THEY BOTH WORK!
    Those bites are THE most painful itch I’ve ever experienced!
    Good posts everyone… Hooray for common sense and the tried and true!

  16. JJ

    I completely disagree with this article. Last week I had chigger bites all over my ankles and shins. The itching and burning was nearly unbearable. After several days of suffering a friend told me about clear nail polish. I bought a bottle for $1.29 and put it on each bite. The itching and burning went away immediately. I removed the polish the next day and have had no problems since. It was nice to have a good nights sleep again.

  17. Somer W.

    I have recently had chigger bites. Chiggers nest in pine trees. A remedy for getting rid of chigger bites is clear nail polish. It does suffocate the bite. I thought it was poison ivy at first then I asked my mom if we could go to the store and pick up clear nail polish. Turns out it was chiggers. It soon went away after 1 time of applying the nail polish. And it had went away by the en of 3 days! :) thank you. :)

  18. Andrew

    I know the response’s is the standard line these days, but I have found it to be a load of hooey. In my experience, nail polish (or comparable) has consistently made the difference between and 2-3 day vs WEEK! time course. When you strip it from my cold, dead hands! The good lord protect us all from conventional wisdom dispelling “old wives tales”!
    Btw, I think what itches is the results of their metabolic digestion (ie. excrement), but I have not analytically verified that. They stop digesting (ie. “die”), the stop excreting. Simple as that.
    I’ve heard that sulfur thing, too! Gotta try it! :)

  19. jim a.

    I’ve lived in the country since I was 2 (I’m 72 now) and for a decade I lived in the tick and chigger capital of the world — well, if it isn’t, it should be.
    My record number of ticks in one afternoon was probably well over 5000… they were seed ticks and mama tick can lay from multiple hundreds up to 2 or 3 thousand eggs. When they hatch, the whole batch crawls up plant stems to ankle or knee height and when a friendly meal on feet walks by, the whole batch climbs aboard in less than a second. And that afternoon, a got 3 clusters (I think it was only that much, not 4 or 5 clusters). None of those bit me, because I took them off with my de-ticker tape — about 3 to 4 feet of duct tape wound around a stick … peel out several inches of tape and dab, dab, dab on the ticks till the tape is no longer sticky. Wind up the used tape and pull out another few inches and dab, dab, dab again till they are all gone. It’s why I wear short shorts and sandals when walking in the wilds. The hairs on my legs let me know when a tick is creepy-crawlying on me and I can take it off with my de-ticker tape without having to pull down my pants or check under my socks.
    20 to 30 chiggers were also possible in a normal afternoon walk thru the pastures and dry woods of southwest Missouri. When ticks bite, they burrow their heads into the skin till they find a blood vessel, then they cement themselves in place and suck till they’re full. Chiggers, or so I’m told bite, and in a few minutes get their fill of whatever part of us they eat and then they drop off.
    What itches, initially, in both cases is the protein dissolving saliva they inject into us. To diminish the saliva, I use a showerhead on set on “massage”on a hose to spray very hot water on the tick or chigger bite. It warms the skin, which increases circulation. And there is a very satisfying intense itch right at the beginning of the hot water spray and the saliva is moved past nerves to my circulatory system. And almost as quickly, the itch subsides — for the moment. Light massage, and some of the micro-predator’s saliva is moved away thru capillaries to veins to kidneys and liver where it is either excreted or recycled back into my body as a useable nutrient. I find if I spray/massage the bite 3-4 times the 1st day, 1-2 times the 2nd day, and maybe once on the 3rd day, the saliva is gone.
    If you are like me, however, you scratch the bites, and this introduces a 2ndary infection that will itch for a couple weeks. Salt water, or fingernail polish will kill the 2ndary infection. I prefer to use Bag Balm, a veterinary medicine that farmers use on cuts, wounds, sores, rashes, etc. (p.s., I’m also a farmer) I can carry a small container with me; it doesn’t burn the way salt does on open cuts wounds or bites, and it doesn’t pull hairs the way fingernail polish does. It does wonders on scratched tick and chigger bites. It means that tick and chigger bites rarely last longer than 4 or 5 days. And because of these treatments, I don’t mind going into the unkempt and weedy places where these itchy wild things live.
    So, enjoy the wilds of nature.

  20. Darlene

    the nail polish always worked for me for over 60 years. I was very grateful for the relief. Maybe there is an ingredient in it that counteracts the bite. Our family always dusted our socks and pantlegs with sulphur also. And since I always have nail polish close at hand I will continue to use it when needed.

  21. D Guidry

    Years ago when I lived in Texas I found that using a mouthwash called Dr. Tichenor’s full strength worked wonderfully on both chiggers and mosquitoes. Just soak a cotton ball with it and swab where it itches. If you can remember you can wet down the exposed skin with it before going out. It smells a lot like Listerine, but has arnica and peppermint in it. I won’t be without it even though it is getting harder to find.

  22. OB

    I am extremely sensitive to chigger bites. Since I live in the south, I get bitten every time I work in my yard or garden.
    Over the years, I have tried nail polish, alcohol, clorox, hot water, ice water, calamine, plus other things. Every bite would last for two weeks, keeping me awake at night.
    I don’t like to spray on DEET so I take an old sock, put several spoons of sulfur powder in it & secure it with a rubber band. Every time I go out to work in the yard, I pat the sock all around my shoes & socks, ankles, & waist. If I apply it carefully enough, I get no bites. If I get a couple of bites, the only thing that works for me is to take benadryl tablets, & apply hydrocortisone cream 3 times a day for two days & the itch is gone!!

  23. abigail

    When you say “around” do you mean around the socks or on them? I’m not sure what a sulfur compound is and whether it is safe on skin and clothing.

  24. PP

    The nailpolish works for me, and has for over 60 years!

  25. L.A.

    When my sister and I were children our family vacationed in California. We visited a national forest where my sister and I were attacked by chiggers, making us miserable. We then went to the seashore and while standing by the edge of the water while our mother took our photos, a large wave crashed over our heads and pulled us back into the surf. We were soaked in the salt water but, amazingly, it stopped the itching. From then on when I get chigger bites, I either sit in a tub of salt water, depending on the number of bites, or soak the area with a cloth saturated with salt water. This works for me. Prevention is much better, though!

  26. alxzba

    Ah, chiggers! The itch that feels SO GOOD to scratch ! ! ! And you guys know where they loved to settle in! ! ! Haven’t had them for years and don’t miss them at all. As a kid, we used fingernail polish also. If in fact it doesn’t kill the chigger, perhaps the coating helps reduce the irritation— which ever, it seemed to work. A pox on Dermatologists!

  27. JBM

    Well, clear nail polish may not “kill” chiggers, but it certainly helps defeat the bites’ itch. There’s a satisfying sting when the polish is dabbed on the bites, and then the itch slows down substantially.

  28. KB

    Wouldn’t Adolph’s meat tenderizer work for the itch after the ‘bite’ has been done?

  29. TomJ

    I remember being bitten several times when I was a youngster (60 years ago) and the severity of the itching. When I found out about clear nail polish and tried it, it always provided immediate, permanent relief, and I used it numerous times as a child and adult.

  30. paulbyr

    I haven’t had chigger bites in years but when I was a kid (about 1945, I think), we used to put regular drugstore sulfur (flowers of sulfur) around waist, socks and pant legs and shirtsleeves and collars. Just a handful of sulfur makes the medicine (sorry, I mean the chiggers) go away. As I recall, it was completely effective. Now spray on Deet works just as well.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.