The People's Perspective on Medicine

Hot Peppers Ease Itch of Chigger Bites

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Q. I had 38 chigger bites on both my feet. I thought a little burning would be much better than the monumental itching. Capsaicin ointment worked, and there was absolutely no more itching, which sometimes lasts for months.

A. Some people are extremely sensitive to the enzymes chiggers inject when they bite. The immune response creates intense itching and sometimes leads to severe inflammation in the area of the bite.

Capsaicin is essence of hot chili peppers. It is used to ease arthritis pain or the persistent pain and burning associated with shingles and neuropathy.

Another option that might be even more effective is a topical corticosteroid. An over-the-counter cortisone cream is probably not strong enough, though. Ask your doctor or dermatologist about a prescription for a more powerful topical steroid. Applying a dab of betamethasone, fluocinonide or triamcinolone at the very first sign of a bite may prevent that terrible inflammatory reaction.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    I was hunting ginseng two days ago…came home and quickly took a shower…woke this morning to unbearable itching….I dumped about 2 cups of epsom salt in the hottest bath water I could stand…supposedly the salt draws out the proteins that the chiggers leave behind…. it worked very well!! Pleasantly surprised!!!! I guess this would work similar to the tenderizer….hope this helps…by far a cheap way to alleviate this hellish itch!!!

    I came on this site to try to find a treatment for chigger bites. My skin’s reaction to chigger bites is over the top, and the itching can last for weeks. I have a prescription for triamcinolone and sometimes it relieves the itch (but only for a short time), but many times it doesn’t. I end up reapplying it several times throughout the day and even throughout the night. I’m anxious to try the peroxide I just read about in the comments. I’m desperate! I will try anything to stop the itch, but I also need to know how to prevent them in the first place!

    To BSG:
    That’s a rip off! For my colonoscopy 2 years ago the prep stuff cost about 5 dollars over the counter–miralax and I forget what else. Oh, the juice to mix it with was a couple of dollars extra. No wonder health care costs are skyrocketing!!!

    Just put peroxide on some bites as a test thirty minutes ago. Only bites still itching are ones I didn’t treat w peroxide. Thanks Mary Ann. Wont be long until it is 100 degrees on a daily basis here which will kill them off. Until then, hope this continues to work.

    I read where peroxide will relieve chigger itching immediately. I rinse with it after gardening in the summer and fall.

    I recently was preparing for a Colonoscopy and was required to purchase MoviPrep. I am outraged at the cost of this product. Sixty Five dollars for 222 grams of chemicals.
    I am a senior, however, other people have to purchase this, too. What if you did not have the resources?
    Citrate of Magnesia, that I bought many years ago, was a few dollars. I understand that this product and like products were taken off the market because they caused kidney failure. However, the NEW stuff should not cost so much.

    Anyone have any HOMEMADE REMEDIES that work & are not so expensive?

    Another remedy is mixing meat tenderizer and vinegar into a paste and applying that. It was the only thing that reduced the redness and itching when I had a bad set of chigger bites, and it helped when my son was small and was stung by a jellyfish at the beach.
    I can vouch that the OTC cortisone cream is not strong enough!

    several days after a tick bite, I went to my regular dermatologist visit (for sun damaged skin check-up). I asked her about the length of time a tick bite itched and showed her the new and a several weeks old bit that still itched. I was getting a refill for a strong cortisone creme that does work for me.
    She gave me the refill prescription but remarked that I could try taking OTC anti-histamine pills. I take them occasionally for pollen or dust induced sneezing so I had a supply. I took two pills and, remarkably (to me), the tick bite itching quickly stopped completely on the new and old bites.
    I doubt I will need to use the prescription strength cortisone again. Certainly worth a try. (caution, do not take while driving or operating heavy machinery :o) )

    I’ve found that cinnamon oil (which is also hot) will stop itching from mosquito bites, etc. Most cortisone cream has propylene glycol in it and I cannot use that, it causes more problems than it cures wherever it’s used.
    I’ve also found that very hot water (bearable) will relieve itching–it doesn’t seem to make sense to me, but it works. I have a shower with the hand held shower head and I can just aim the flow at the area for a couple minutes and the itch is gone.

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^