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.